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Explaining the design of the Rwandan decentralization: elite vulnerability and the territorial repartition of power

Chemouni, Benjamin (2014) Explaining the design of the Rwandan decentralization: elite vulnerability and the territorial repartition of power. Journal of Eastern African Studies, 8 (2). pp. 246-262. ISSN 1753-1055

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Identification Number: 10.1080/17531055.2014.891800


Rwanda has made important progress since the start of the decentralization process in 2000. Local government enjoys an unprecedented range of competences and resources. With the exception of the provincial level, elections are generalized, something novel in the history of the traditionally centralized Rwanda. This, however, conflicts with widespread analysis that decentralization, instead of empowering the local level, has improved control from the centre through top-down policy-making and control of local governments and the population. This article aims to improve our understanding of the paradoxical nature of Rwandan decentralization. To do so, it first analyses the Rwandan decentralization process by disaggregating it into administrative, financial and political dimensions. This demonstrates that, in all three dimensions, decentralization is characterized by the heavy role of the centre, and the promotion of tightly monitored, technocratic and depoliticized local governments. The article then explains such design by focusing on the political elite's perception of its environment. It argues that the vulnerability collectively experienced by the political leadership, rooted in the experience of the genocide, its search for legitimacy, the volatile international environment, and the dependency on international aid, has spurred it to design local institutions in a way that promotes swift implementation of its development agenda and limits local political entrepreneurship and elite capture at local level.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DT Africa
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JS Local government Municipal government
Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2014 13:31
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:09

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