Some of the core values of a post conflict governance model, are participation; collaboration, and ultimately empowerment of citizens. None of these is a one-size fits all, but rather a careful blend or an imposed formula which will provide better results.
Never Again Rwanda’s intervention has been tailored around a participatory approach, where through dialogue we are able to reach a consensus where everybody’s views are respected. It is one way to own what we do but also to see that in building our future, we leave none behind.
I refer to the statement by President Paul Kagame, speaking at the European Parliament in 1998, “If we are talking about participatory democracy we must ensure that the entire population is not only involved in the articulation of, and belief in, [democratic] principles, but is also capable of periodically refining the institutions that are meant to safeguard those principles”.
As I reflect on NAR’s intervention in pursuit of participatory governance in Rwanda, I feel a strong sense of happiness and desire to do more to support citizen’s understanding of their rights and to help them define their own destiny.
Our work informs us on what should be done at every level, we learn as we assist in shaping Rwanda’s future in partnership with others, both government and other partners as well.
At this moment, we feel as if we have awakened the need to challenge our thinking on how to promote a participatory trend which helps the healing journey, our scope of work has widened, which arises out of the citizens’ demand for more answers from their leaders, but also because a realization of one’s rights is a beginning towards the cycle of accountability.
Niyonshuti Josephine, 44, a member of Bwishyura Karongi Citizens’ Forum says, ‘’I am now a link between the population and the leaders – especially when it comes to vulnerable people, and while linking these two we don’t issue commands but we use the “convince to change” speech. In Gasuta cell, they sometimes call me for counsel. NAR shook me up and gave me many different responsibilities, which I never thought I would carry out. Now whenever someone speaks about his or her problem, I just want to help even if he or she cannot approach me’’. It is also important to understand that beyond the change in attitude of the members, they also act as a voice of the citizens’.
Niyitanga Darius, the newly appointed Executive Secretary of Fumbwe sector says, “I am happy to be with the citizens’ opinion leaders in the Fumbwe sector (Citizen Forum). Although I am recently appointed to the office, I have the recommendations of the Citizen Forum advocacy sub-committee, brought to my office. I always examine them, and refer to them for further information before undertaking the sector’s meeting plans. I appreciate your work and your willingness to discuss and advocate for emerging issues in the community. As the E.S of the sector I promise to give quick feedback to every request of the citizen forum discussion recommendations”.
With such interventions, we believe that citizens’ empowerment should be viewed as a mode of governance that surrenders full powers to citizens’, and where central involvement in decision-making is reduced if not inexistent.
Mukamudenge Alphonsine from Bugesera Citizen Forum said ‘’This group has made me change, because now I talk with people and advise them with confidence, to the extent that citizens’ are calling me a leader due to the way they succeed whenever they use my advice. I helped six people get out of their difficulties, I feel more confident because the leaders today listen to me and heed my advice’’.
The writer is a Governance and Rights Program Coordinator with Never Again Rwanda and can be reached on email firstname.lastname@example.org