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The mere fact of opting for decentralization shall not by itself ensure that the population effectively participates in its development which is the ultimate goal of a good policy of decentralization and good governance . It is important to set up mechanisms reassuring the participation of the population. —Rwanda, Ministry of Local Government and Social Affairs Historically, African countries have experienced fused, personalized, and at best highly centralized governance systems and practices. In precolonial times kings or traditional leaders represented basically all authority. During the colonial and immediate postcolonial periods governance was structured and practiced in a highly centralized manner. During military dictatorships, which in many countries replaced the immediate postcolonial governments, governance was practically personalized. The search for inclusive, involving, and participatory governance has taken the path of decentralization. Political and administrative reforms that have been going on in many countries in Africa, especially since the 1990s, have sought to break with the past through decentralization of powers to lower government levels. Decentralized governance is increasingly being favored by many African countries as the most suitable mode of governance through which poverty Political Decentralization in Africa: Experiences of Uganda, Rwanda, and South Africa john-mary kauzya 5 75 10491-05_Ch05.qxd 5/3/07 2:51 PM Page 75 reduction interventions can be conceived, planned, implemented, monitored, and evaluated.1 Many hope that the process of decentralization will facilitate greater participation of communities in problem analysis, project identification, planning, implementation, and oversight, which in turn will increase ownership and the likelihood of sustainability of such initiatives. In figure 5-1 Stephen N. Ndegwa shows the extent to which different African countries have decentralized their governance. The term decentralization embodies several concepts, including devolution, deconcentration, delegation, and delocalization.2 In many instances a decentralization policy that promises success will most likely include dozens of examples of each of these. This chapter, however, looks at only political decentralization, or devolution, and attempts an assessment of how it has been designed and implemented and how successful it has been in achieving the intended objective of promoting grassroots decisionmaking. The chapter specifies a working understanding of political decentralization (devolution) and attempts to answer questions such as the following: —What are the practical reasons and objectives for devolution? —Through what processes, modalities, and mechanisms was devolution decided and agreed upon and how did such processes facilitate or constrain its implementation and success? —If devolution was intended to promote participation in decisionmaking by local governments, what was introduced into the design? —Based on the objective of promoting participatory decisionmaking in local governments, what are some of the cases that illustrate that devolution so far has worked? The answers to these questions are based on the decentralization experiences of Uganda, Rwanda, and South Africa. Political Decentralization: A Working Understanding Political decentralization can be understood to refer to either or both of the following : transferring the power of selecting political leadership and representatives from central governments to local governments; and transferring the power and authority for making socio-politico-economic decisions from central governments to local governments and communities. Understanding political decentralization only in the first sense would limit the meaning of political to the choice of political leadership through elections. Therefore the promotion of political decentralization in this sense would entail only putting in place structural arrangements that would allow local people to exercise their voting power with limited hindrance or intervention from the central government. Here political decentralization would refer to only electoral decentralization , and participation would be understood only in terms of elections. 76 john-mary kauzya 10491-05_Ch05.qxd 5/3/07 2:51 PM Page 76 political decentralization in africa 77 South Africa Index score Uganda Kenya Ghana Nigeria Rwanda Namibia Senegal Ethiopia Tanzania Zimbabwe Côte d’Ivoire Madagascar Zambia Guinea Mali Eritrea Burkina Faso Malawi Congo, Republic of Mozambique Angola Burundi Benin Congo, DRC Cameroon Central African Rep. Niger Sierra Leone Chad 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 Source: Stephen N. Ndegwa, “Decentralization in Africa: A Stocktaking Survey,” Africa Working Paper Series 40, World Bank, 2002. Figure 5-1. Decentralization in Africa 10491-05_Ch05.qxd 5/3/07 2:51 PM Page 77 On the other hand, promoting political decentralization in the second sense would entail putting in place structural arrangements and practices that would empower and facilitate local governments and communities to influence the making, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of decisions that concern their socio-politico-economic well-being and to demand accountability from...

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