By James Karuhanga
The lack of ample recreational options for City of Kigali residents as well as visitors is on the list of things the new Mayor, Marie-Chantal Rwakazina, wants to give serious attention and sort out during her term in office.
Rwakazina first made this clear during campaigns after being nominated as a mayoral candidate before votes were cast, and again emphasized it in her inaugural remarks immediately after being sworn in as Mayor, on Friday.
Rwakazina said the City of Kigali must be a city that attracts tourists but even its residents must be able to “enjoy and feel at home.”
She said: “I am not really saying anything new but I believe visitors to Kigali and residents alike need to find touristic attractions within the city without searching farther.
“We must also have many places for recreation. Recreation comes in many forms; there are sports and games, music, theatre and others. All these are among the things that city residents and visitors enjoy rather than just coming to do business.
I will implement the Master Plan as far as recreational parts of the city are concerned in partnership and collaboration with all stakeholders involved: Ministries especially MINISPOC, then REMA, Districts, artists and sports associations.”
She further said that economic growth and development is key in the newly established seven-year national strategy for transformation and in the performance contract of the City of Kigali.
From 2000 to 2008, the 45-year old mother of two, served as an economics lecturer at the then National University of Rwanda (NUR) – now part of the University of Rwanda – before moving on to work with the Rwanda Association of Local Government Authorities (RALGA), where she partly served as deputy secretary general.
When she was elected Mayor, Rwakazina had been working as a Coordination Analyst in the Office of the Resident Coordinator at UNDP office in Rwanda, since June 2013.
But promoting tourism and recreation in the city is not all she is determinedly setting out to do as there is much involving the implementation of the city’s master plan, good governance, and economic growth and development for the city residents and visitors, among others.
All the things she has set her mind to, she explained, will not be entirely new creations of her own.
“They are, I think, in the annual performance contracts of every grassroots local government entity. And in the pillar of economic growth, I will focus on implementation of the city’s master plan. I am sure every city councilor present here knows that this item is particularly very important.
“But again, this master plan must appeal to citizens of different economic capacities residing in the city of Kigali. This is something I feel I will bring as my contribution; to ensure that we are careful such that people with dissimilar financial means are able to live in the city and be happy to be there.”
Another element Rwakazina said she will not forget is support to cooperatives in the city; especially those belonging to women and the youth, who both make the majority in population statistics. “We shall support them, not necessarily in monetary terms, but in capacity building and advice.”
Much has been achieved in keeping Kigali clean, she added, adding that more efforts will be put in sustaining the progress in hygiene and also covering gaps wherever they may be.
Before the election of a Mayor actually started on Friday, Rwakazina was first, as expected, sworn in as Councilor representing Nduba Sector of Gasabo District. By-elections for the previously vacant post in the Sector were held on May 19.
As a Councilor who comes from Nduba sector, she said, she will pay particular attention to sewage disposal, a matter that particularly bothers residents in the area.
“When I had discussions with residents of Nduba, they cautioned me. They said I should show them a concrete plan on this matter, and a plan that must be implemented. They told me that they hope I will visit them more often and brief them about the matter of waste management. I know it is a heavy task I gave myself but I have decided to make my contribution”.
Good governance is another angle she spoke about. From her previous experience working with RALGA, she said, she understands that regular dialogue with people is crucial in learning about problems as well as jointly identifying solutions.
“Being very close to the people is something I feel I will totally dedicate time as Mayor. The other thing is the manner in which one collaborates and works with other leaders. All the things I have mentioned must be achieved but together with the leaders of all the three districts that make Kigali. We must ensure coordination and harmony in what we do.
“But I won’t forget that most of the work will be done by the other staffers. I don’t separate the leaders from the staffers. When I talk about a team, I know there is a team of leaders but we work with these other employees.”
Resource mobilization and partnership, she said, is another area she will give due attention.
The city, she said, needs to enhance relations with other cities as well as urban planning research organizations and this always has links to resource mobilization efforts.
Soon after being sworn in as new city Mayor, she again emphasized her plans.
More emphatically, she noted, her governance style will involve listening to others who have more experience in grassroots leadership and she will collaborate with all other levels of leaders in local government, including the mother ministry of local government.
Rwakazina also noted that she will particularly mind city employees as they are the ones who do most of the work.