From 14th to 18th February 2022, a delegation of Mayors and senior government officials from the Federal Republic of Somalia conducted a study visit in Rwanda and held their Mayors’ Forum meeting. Hosted by the Rwanda Association of Local Government Authorities (RALGA), the forum was organized by the Somali Ministry of Interior, Federal Affairs and Reconciliation (MoIFAR) with support from UN-Habitat and the UN Joint Program for Local Governance (JPLG).

Themed “Developing effective Local Government and sustainable services in Somalia”, the Mayors’ Forum provided a platform for participants to reflect on the governance structures of the Federal Republic of Somalia and pressing governance and development issues such as urbanization, decentralization, displacement, disaster management and localization of services.

The Director General in the Ministry of Interior, Federal Affairs and Reconciliation, Mr Said Abdullahi Alasow, led the delegation. In his opening statement, he said that they decided to host their Mayors' Forum in Rwanda because it is a country with success stories in terms of local governance, decentralization and reconciliation. He added that, it would be a relevant case study for Somalia.

Said Abdullahi Alasow delivering his speech at the opening ceremony

“Rwanda is a good case study that can inspire Somalia in the areas of reconciliation, peacebuilding, Local economic development and decentralized service delivery among other areas”, he said.

Welcoming delegates from Somalia, the Secretary General of RALGA, Mr Ngendahimana Ladislas thanked Somali Mayors for choosing Rwanda to host their Forum and he expressed gratitude to UNHABITAT for trusting RALGA as a partner in the organization of this Forum. Ngendahimana Ladislas reiterated the commitment of RALGA to support strengthening Local Government in Somalia while promoting South-South Cooperation.

Ngendahimana Ladislas, Secretary General of RALGA delivering welcoming remarks

“RALGA is open to South-South cooperation, experience and knowledge sharing and stands ready to contribute in any way possible to strengthen the local governance in Somalia”, he said. 

Rwanda’s Minister of Local Government, Honorable Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi who officiated the opening ceremony of the forum, expressed gratitude of the Government of Rwanda to the Federal Republic of Somalia for choosing Rwanda to host the forum. He stressed that Rwanda and Somalia share many historical commonalities that they can share experiences and learn from each other.

Rwanda's Local Government Minister JMV Gatabazi delivering key note speech at the opening ceremony

“I urge our brothers and sisters from Somalia to remain united and resilient as they build their nation. These are the weapons that have led Rwanda through its reconstruction journey”, he noted.

During the forum, Somali Mayors and other officials received presentations from different Government institutions covering various subjects such; (1) Rwanda’s reconstruction journey, achievement and vision; (2) overview of Rwanda’s Local governance; (3) Community engagement and Social Work (Umuganda); (4) the governance and functioning of the City of Kigali, (5) Fiscal Decentralization, Resources Distribution and Public Private Partnerships,  (6) the role of sector Ministries in Local Governance and delivery of social services as well as(7) unity and reconciliation in Rwanda.

Participants held special sessions to learn about the Rwanda Association of Local Government Authorities (RALGA) and its functioning with focus on its mandate of capacity building, advocacy and representation. Both sides committed to keep sharing experiences and to explore ways to formalize their partnerships and collaboration.

To learn more about Rwanda’s socioeconomic progress, policies and programs, Somali delegates visited different places in the country including Karama Integrated Development Program Model Village in the City of Kigali where 240 families relocated from high-risk zones were settled. They also visited Bishenyi solid waste treatment plant in Kamonyi District in the Southern Province. This facility operates under a public private partnership framework to make various  products like manure & construction materials from recycled waste.

Somali delegates visited Kigali Genocide Memorial Site to honor the victims of the 1994 Genocide Against Tutsis and learn about Rwanda's recovery and reconstruction

Delegates pose for a picture at Kigali Car-Free Zone as they toured the City of Kigali

Somali delegates at Karama Integrated Development Model Village.

The Somali delegates also witnessed service delivery at grassroots level when they visited Gahanga Sector in Kicukiro District to see how citizens acquire online services through Irembo platform.

Mr. Ngendahimana, the Secretary General of RALGA while bidding farewell to Somali delegates, he stressed that such visits are important because they are not only about strengthening cooperation between local governments, but also contribute to building and branding Africa as a continent.

“We have learnt a lot from hosting our colleagues from Somalia. The image of the Somali people we hosted is different from the image that has been for long portrayed by the media about Somalia. We have hosted friendly, polite, responsible and socializing people contrary to what media has been spreading about Somalia. Rwanda is happy to have hosted you as Leaders in Somalia, and you are always welcome. You have a home in Rwanda, and RALGA is from now onward, your second home. It is therefore important for Africans to share experience and learn from one another in order to build our continent”, underlined Ngendahimana.

During the wrap up session which was conducted in Nyamata, Bugesera District, participants shared the lessons learnt and they set their own challenge. Basing on the experience of Rwanda, they developed an action plan, and they committed to replicate the lessons learnt during their study visit in Rwanda.

The Director General in MOIFAR, Mr Said Abdullahi Alasow commended Rwanda and RALGA for good hospitality and for accepting to share their experience with Somali officials and Mayors. He invited RALGA to visit Mayors in Somalia in order to strengthen their partnerships. The invitation was accepted.

At the closing, Somali delegates sang and danced special songs they had composed as a sign of appreciation to their Rwandan hosts. The intercultural aspect was highlighted as one of the commonalities between the two countries.

Since 2008, the UN Joint Program for local governance has been supporting the implementation of several local government reforms in Somalia, including the formation of the Association of Local Government Authorities in Somaliland (ALGASL) and the Association of Local Government Association in Puntland (ALGAPL). This program, in close collaboration with relevant Somalia authorities, is facilitating the creation of the Somali Mayors’ Forum to consolidate its interventions in the Federal Republic of Somalia.