An analysis of Umuganda : the policy and practice of community work in Rwanda.
This thesis analyses the policy and traditional practice of umuganda, which is a Rwandan word for community work. Many authors have looked at umuganda, mainly focusing on the period from 1973 until the 1994 genocide - something which has fostered a lot of negativity regarding the essence and practice of umuganda. Rather than discussing umuganda for a specific period, a wide look at its origins until the present day is more informative. This study contributes to the body of knowledge on the nature and the evolution of umuganda in Rwanda, thereby deepening the discussion about its future prospects. The main purpose of the thesis is to investigate how to enhance the efficiency of the policy and practice of umuganda in fostering development and peace in Rwanda. The study focuses on how the practice of umuganda has been understood and implemented throughout the historical period of Rwanda, namely, the pre-colonial, colonial, post-colonial periods until the genocide and then the post-genocide period. The discussion leads to a more detailed empirical study of how the policy is understood and practised in two geographical settings: one urban, in Kigali City, and the other rural, in Western Province. This thesis identifies the major transformation of the philosophy, organisation and purpose of umuganda throughout the four historical periods. It specifically highlights that despite the decentralisation of political and administration structures, the management of umuganda has remained hierarchical. This has resulted in the government takeover of umuganda while local people distance themselves from its practice. The thesis notes that, even though umuganda practice is regarded as beneficial for public and political interest, little benefit is seen for individuals in their communities. This thesis attempts to shed more light on how umuganda could be in harmony with the principles of participation, development and community development. It argues that, even though cultural practises are sometimes seen as backward, transforming umuganda to be managed by local communities could contribute to either a traditional sense of socio-economic well-being or even to modern development strategies. The thesis investigates the potential for the policy and practice of umuganda to empower the poor in the community, thereby helping national development. The recommendation is that umuganda be regarded as a local community initiative. Its practice should be organised in a way that responds to the immediate need of the people, its initial philosophy. This in turn would help the government to address the causes of poverty, division and other kind of harm to society. With efficient implementation and regulation of umuganda, a substantial part of service delivery to the community could be provided by the people themselves, while the government could intervene only in difficult situations.