Institution [Un]Building: Decentralising Government and the Case of Rwanda
The challenge of institution building in African countries remains a major threat to the establishment of peace and justice, and the entrenchment of sustainable social and economic development. This may be attributed largely to the dynamic and complex social landscape of most African countries. While single borders bring political definition to post-independent countries, such countries often struggle to find a single national identity that transcends numerous tribal, ethnic or historic identities. The role of central government in creating an effective structure of governance is crucial in the steps towards postconflict nation-building. However, national institution building is not necessarily the right answer, especially in contexts difficult to govern, such as vast geographic areas or complex social and ethnic realities. It is in this sense that this paper – and the initial states of this research – seeks to find an alternative to ‘institution building’ as a way forward in good governance practices, suggesting rather a decentralised and localised approach. The case study that will be brought to be bear as an example of this is Rwanda and a recent governance mechanism – Imihigo – as an approach that has helped create a new national identity while instilling a culture of service delivery and accountability amongst its public servants and political leadership. What this paper will seek to argue – in looking at the approach by Rwanda in decentralising its government – is that institution building is not necessarily the way forward in Africa’s ‘good governance’ discourse. Instead, this paper – and the broader borders of what my research is seeking to explore and understand – seeks to present a reformed approach to good governance in Africa, especially contexts that have been divided along complex lines such as ethnicity, geography, national identity, or the competition for natural resources. Though it will be beyond the scope of this research paper specifically, intended environments that this research is hoped to be applicable – and will therefore involve further research around the applicability of such – include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Burundi and Sudan.
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