A total of 33 mayors together with officials from the Somali Ministry of Interior, Federal Affairs and Reconciliation (MoIFAR) on Monday February 14 kicked off a week-long forum in Kigali where different governance issues will be discussed.
The forum will also include various study visits such as the Kigali Genocide Memorial, Nyirangarama trading centre in Rulindo district and various socio-economic development activities with the main purpose of learning from Rwanda’s modus operandi.
Welcoming the delegation, Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi, the Minister of Local government said that learning from each other between Rwanda and Somalia is crucial.
“Rwanda and Somalia share some historical commonalities, and hence learning from each other is vital and understandable to fast track our developmental trend for our sister nations,” he told the Somali delegation.
For us, decentralisation has placed the national development in our own hands, nurtured more leaders and strengthened plenty of government structures, he said.
To Rwandan officials, Gatabazi said that a teacher is at the same time a learner.
“On the Rwandan side, we are going to be teaching as we learn from our colleagues, so when we hold these exchanges, we train them as we also train ourselves,” he expressed.
The main topics set to be covered in the forum include the pressing governance issues such as urbanization, decentralization, displacement, disaster management, and localization of services.
Paul Simkin, the Senior Programmes Manager of Joint Programme on Local Governance (JPLG), a Somali-UN organ in charge of good governance also testified to the rapid growth of Rwanda after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
Simkin who worked in Rwanda before the Genocide was surprised by the considerable development the country has registered in a short period of time.
“I’ve been here before the genocide and as of today, I realize that the key in Rwanda’s development was that the grassroots responded to the needs of the citizens and always held themselves accountable towards the people,” he reiterated.
He also indicated that Somalia’s capital was among the world’s safest cities, but added Kigali has scooped the prize, “You need to regain that title,” he added.
“Somalia should move from drought, famine and Shabab and create a land of happiness for its people,” he said.
The head of the Somali Mayors’ delegation, Said Abdullahi Alasow, the Director General in the Ministry of Interior Federal Affairs and Reconciliation, was optimistic that Somalians will not regret after this summit, as they hope to go back with more innovations, commitment and drive to make a change.
One of the participants of the meeting, Asha Omar Mohamud, the advisor to the governor of Benadir which is one of Somalia’s provinces, tackled the aspect of women empowerment.
“I feel emotional when people talk about women’s empowerment in Rwanda, how 60 percent of parliamentarians are women while in Somalia, women are the main victims of the now and then wars and conflicts in the region,” she said.
The horn of African country’s history is almost similar to Rwanda as it has been characterized by civil wars and conflicts triggered by tribalism ideologies.