From 2016, Rwanda started implementing the second phase of the national decentralization policy within the 30 districts of the country, each headed by an executive committee including the mayor and two deputies, and in Kigali, the District Executive Administrator (DEA).
In a country where a leader is held accountable for what did not go as planned, mayors serve as shock absorbers, quite like in a football team where the coach takes primary responsibility for failure.
This could be the main reason behind regular resignations and the high turnover, where the mayor is often the first to go whenever a case of poor performance of the district is concerned.
Over eighty district mayors have served in that capacity since 2006, each serving a term of five years, renewable only once.
The former officials are currently serving the country in other capacities. Some went back into employment, taking on other jobs, in some instances, working with the people they used to serve, while others are running different businesses. A good number of them have also been promoted to higher positions, but as fate would have it, some former mayors have since passed on.
One of those that passed on is Aimé Bosenibamwe, who was the first mayor of Burera district, in the Northern Province in 2006.
From then on, he went on to serve in different positions before death ended what was becoming an illustrious career. During his time in office, Bosenibamwe was known for his no-nonsense character and determination to get things done.
In March 2009, Bosenibamwe was appointed Governor of the Northern Province, replacing Boniface Rucagu.
Bosenibamwe was later on appointed the Director General of the National Rehabilitation Service (NRS), a position he occupied until May 2020, when he died.
In the Mayor’s office, Bosenibamwe was replaced by Samuel Sembagare in 2009, a man who during his time in office was known for his sense of humour. It is said that those in his circles nicknamed him “Semba Semba”.
Florence Uwambajemariya took over from Sembagare in 2016 but in 2019, the Prime Minister’s communique appointed her as Executive Secretary-Western Province, thus elevating her to a higher position.
Uwambajemariya was replaced by Marie Chantal Uwanyirigira who served until December 2021.
In August 2023, Uwanyirigira was dismissed in a Prime Minister’s communique. This followed a case in which leaders were caught to be part of activities in the Northern Province that could sabotage national unity.
The current mayor of Burera is Soline Mukamana.
Gakenke: The Mayor who made an impossible promise
Epaphrodite Mugemangango was the first mayor of￼_￼_ Gakenke district under the revised decentralisation policy in 2006. However, in April 2008, he was arrested on allegations of Genocide ideology, charges he would later be found not guilty of committing.
Since then, he was hired by Ruhengeri Catholic Diocese and he fizzled out of the limelight. He was replaced by Pierre Damien Hakizayezu who also served until 2011, before joining the Joint Action Forum-Burera district.
Deogratias Nzamwita took over from his predecessor in 2011, and served two terms, until 2021 when he joined the private sector and also to pursue further studies.
People will recall the audacious promise that Nzamwita made to President Paul Kagame in 2016, when Gakenke district was hit by natural disasters, which claimed scores.
The Head of State asked Nzamwita about the preventive measures his district was deploying to avoid future calamities and he made a promise, even though it was impossible.
“Your Excellency, I assure you that there won’t be any more deaths as a result of natural disasters,” He vowed.
After the vow, nature had its way over Nzamwita’s word and more losses happened, but his statement only told the level of accountability mayors are expected to perform at. There is no room for error, even, natural occurrences are not an excuse.
Time was called on Nzamwita’s time in office and Jean Marie Vianney Nizeyimana took over the helm at Gakenke district in 2021. He went on to serve on of the shortest stints in office in the history of mayors.
He served from November 2021 to August 2023 when he was dismissed by a communique from the Prime Minister’s office. Upon being relieved of his duties, he withdrew back into private business in Kigali.
The district is currently under the leadership of Vestine Mukandayisenga.
Musanze: From a Mayor to a Minister
Musanze could be among the districts with a highest number of mayors over the last 17 years.
Pierre Célèstin Karabayinga was the first mayor in 2006 and after a couple of years he resigned from his position in 2008 following reported misunderstandings with his staff.
In this saga, some arrests were made and later when the storm settled Karabayinga returned to Nairobi-Kenya where he hailed from.
Winifirida Mpembyemungu took over from Karabayinga and served between 2008 and 2016 before heading to Parliament in 2017. She is a Member of Parliament in the Lower Chamber of Deputies since 2017, representing the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi).
In February 2016, Jean Claude Musabyimana took over from Mpembyemungu before being raised to the position of Governor in October 2016.
Musabyimana was later the same year promoted to the position of Permanent Secretary in Ministry of Agriculture. His meteoric rise continued when he was appointed Minister of Local Government on December 10,2022 replacing Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi.
Musabyimana’s rise from mayor to minister has been cited by some as a testimony to how the governance system appraises people and rewards those who merit it. In Rwanda, surviving being a mayor is seen as a skill of its own.
On December 14,2016 Jean Damascene Habyarimana took over from Musabyimana, but he resigned on September 3,2019. He is now a trader in Rubavu district.
Jeannine Nuwumuremyi took over the reins in Musanze on September 27, 2019, but lost the seat to Janvier Ramuli in the December 2021 mayoral elections. The later was dismissed in August 8,2023 by Prime Minister’s communique.
The district is currently under the leadership of Claudien Nsengimana.
Gicumbi: Two Mayors Go unnoticed
Bonane Nyangezi was the first mayor of the Northern Province district in 2006. He served until June 4, 2012 when he resigned over personal reasons.
After this, Mvuyekure Alexandre who was vice mayor for economic affairs took over, only to resign two weeks later, August 9,2012.
Afterwards, Mudaheranwa Juvenal was elected mayor, but he was dismissed by the district council with the whole executive committee on May 25, 2018.
Two mayors came in briefly and those include Sewase Jean Claude who served barely for three days before being replaced by Kamili Athanase, from RBA.
Ndayambaje Felix would be elected to lead the district on December 6,2019 for two years before returning to his job of a university lecturer.
The latest to lead in the quality of mayor was Emmanuel Nzabonimpa who served as elected mayor from November 2019 to August 2023. He is currently the Executive Secretary for Northern Province.
Rulindo: Where Mayors complete their Term in Office
Mayor Justus Kangwagye was first to lead Rulindo, and he was credited for transforming the district during his tenure, which ended in 2016, after successfully completing his two terms. From Rulindo, he became a civil servant, working with Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), but he recently retired from public service.
In March 2016, Kayiranga Emmanuel took over from him and he served until 2021.
He is now pursuing a master’s program at Georgetown University, USA.
The Mayor Who Put Nyagatare on top but ended up in jail
In 2006, Nyagatare district council elected Mayor Robert Kashemeza who served until September 2009. However, in March 2010, he was sentenced to 10 years in jail due to mismanagement of public fund.
On November 20,2011, Kashemeza was released on a presidential pardon and later on, he got a job to serve as a CEO of a security company.
He was replaced by Fred Sabiti Atuhe who ruled over the district for seven years until 2016. He could not proceed because he had served one full term and another one which was left by his predecessor.
He is currently working with Rwanda Governance Board(RGB), in charge of district partners for the Eastern Province.
After Atuhe, the district was taken over by George Mupenzi who would serve for two years. He resigned in 2018 owing to personal reason. He is now running his own business in the private sector.
David Claudien Mushabe took over the reins at the district until 2021. He is also in the private sector.
The district is now under the leadership of Stephen Gasana.
Jean Marie Vianney Murego became the first mayor for Gatsibo district. In 2010, he was sentenced to three years and eleven months in jail after he was found guilty of embezzlement.
In November 2011, he was released on presidential pardon owing to good conduct in jail. He later on travelled for a masters’ program in South Korea, then came back home. He is now serving a private company.
Ambroise Ruboneza followed, and served for two years before resigning over own reasons on Boxing Day-December 26,2014. However, this followed findings that the district was not meeting its targets. Gatsibo had emerged last in the performance contracts-imihigo.
Ruboneza is currently a civil servant in the Ministry of Disaster Management-MINEMA.
The incumbent Richard Gasana took over and completed this term before being re-elected in 2016.
Kayonza: From Mayor to Pastor
Damas Muhororo, currently a renowned farmer led Kayonza district from 2006 before handing over to John Mugabo in 2011. Mugabo was the Head of Human Resource at The New Times Publication at the time of his election. Now a born-again Christian, Mugabo is currently working with Rwanda Development Organisation (RDO) and also serves as a Pastor in his local church.
Jean Claude Murenzi took over in 2016 and was replaced by the incumbent Jean Bosco Nyemazi in 2021.
Ngoma: When a mayor paid the price for failing to handle an emergency
François Niyotwagira became the first mayor of the Eastern Province in 2006. He resigned in 2012 following shortfalls in managing issues related to land to resettle Rwandans evicted from Tanzania, in Rurenge sector.
On May 31, 2012, Aphrodis Nambaje took over and served until 2021. He is currently a university lecturer teaching African languages and Literature at University of Technology and Arts of Byumba (UTAB).
The current Mayor of Ngoma district is Nathalie Niyonagira.
Kirehe: When a Minister Fired a Mayor who gagged staff
The first mayor of Kirehe district since the second decentralization phase was Patrick Nkunzumwami, who served for a period from 2006 to June 2008.
He resigned over allegations of misconduct and Benson Muhikira, who was vice mayor for economic affairs, took over in acting position.
Two months later, Protais Murayire was elected mayor of the Eastern Province district but his second term was cut short in 2014 when the Minister of Local Government visited the district and held a meeting with the staff.
It was alleged at the time that during the meeting, the mayor warned the district staff against speaking about the problems the district was facing. The information leaked and the mayor was relieved of his duties.
Currently, Murayire is board chair of Izuba Radio and TV from Ngoma District.
After Murayire, the district council elected Gerald Muzungu as the new mayor on December 23,2014. He concluded his term in office in 2021 when the incumbent Bruno Rangira took over. Muzungu joined the private sector.
Bugesera: When a Mayor and two Vice Mayors called it quits
Gaspard Musonera emerges the first Mayor for Bugesera. He served from 2006 to 2011 and handed over to Louis Rwagaju who served for the next five years before handing over to Emmanuel Nsanzumuhire in 2016.
The latter however resigned with his entire executive committee on May 28, 2018. The incumbent Richard Mutabazi, who was one of the council members took over as acting mayor.
He was later on elected by the district council. Currently, Rwagaju is the CEO of Mysol, formerly known as Mobisol.
Rwamagana: Paid the price following interference
Valens Ntezirembo was the first mayor of the Eastern Province district from 2006. He served until 2010 when he resigned and was arrested over accusations of interfering with tender procedures.
He was replaced by Nehemie Uwimana who also resigned in 2014 and was replaced by Rajab Mbonyumuvunyi who served until 2021.
Running Rubavu district, a tough calling
Rubavu district is one of the country’s pivotal districts, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Ramadhan Barengayabo was the first to take up the reins as mayor of Rubavu district in 2006.
He is remembered for rehabilitating roads in Rubavu, among some of the achievements during his tenure.
In 2008, Barengayabo was replaced by Pierre Celestin Twagirayezu who worked hard to restore cleanliness in the district which touches on the shores of Lake Kivu.
He resigned in 2010 and was replaced by Hassan Bahame who completed the first term and run for the second one.
In 2015, Bahame resigned over corruption allegations and was replaced by Jeremie Sinamenye -a former headmaster of Kanama Catholique School.
After completing Bahame’s term, Sinamenye was elected for his own five-year term, but he was dismissed one year on allegations of sabotaging the campaign of a presidential candidate in Rubavu.
He was then replaced by Gilbert Habyarimana who stayed the course through 2022. The incumbent is said to have decided not to seek re-election in 2022 on health grounds.
Habyarimana ruled during a difficult period, including managing the Nyiragongo eruption and COVID-19 aftermath.
In came Ildephonse Kambogo from Rwanda Development Board(RDB) who took over as mayor of the border district in 2022 and served barely one year before he was dismissed in May 2023 over mismanaging the aftermath of the natural disaster that befell the Western Province, including Rubavu district.
Prosper Mulindwa is the current mayor of Rubavu district.
Karongi: A former Mayor, now in charge of ‘Better Future’
Bernard Kayumba was the first mayor in 2006. Kayumba was considered one of the most effective mayors at the time. However, he would resign citing personal reasons in 2015, falling short of concluding his second term in office over personal reasons.
Kayumba, who was in his nineth year as a mayor, would later be arrested barely after resignation, along with two of his colleagues on allegations of counterfeiting reports. Ten days later, he secured his bail and went on to fight the allegations in court and was later cleared.
He is currently a civil servant in charge of Ejo Heza saving program under the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB), covering the Western and Northern Provinces.
His successor was François Ndayisaba but he also tendered in his resignation letter, together with his two deputies, on September 2, 2019, similarly citing personal reasons.
He was replaced by Vestine Mukarutesi who would equally be dismissed in October 2023 over failure to execute district council decisions.
Valentine Mukase is the current district mayor.
The hot seat of Rutsiro
The Western Province district of Rutsiro is one of the hot seats for mayors, given the huge expectations places upon mayors to transform what used to be one of the most rural districts of the country.
Jean Ndimubahire was the first mayor in 2006. After serving one term, he was replaced by Gaspard Byukusenge who managed to build the first hotel ever in the district. Unfortunately, after his term in office, he was arrested in March 2016 over alleged embezzlement.
Emerance Ayinkamiye took over from Byukusenge in 2016 and maintained the position up to 2021 when she was replaced by Triphose Murekatete.
On August 28,2023 a communiqué signed by the Prime Minister dissolved the Rutsiro district Council over reported poor coordination and failure to communicate between members. The officials also faced accusations of bribery, favouritism, among other allegations, actions which were said to undermine the district development.
DativeKayitesi is the current mayor of Rutsiro district.
Rusizi: Resigned over ‘Personal Reasons’
Resigning over personal reasons is the most common reason by mayors but for many, the reasons for mayors to resign are much more than personal. For some, failure to deliver is considered a personal responsibility and failure.
In Rusizi district,Jean Pierre Turatsinze was the pioneering mayor in 2006 but he would resign in 2009 with the whole committee, citing personal reasons. He was replaced by Fabien Sindayiheba who served until the end of the term in 2011 before joining the National Consultative Forum of Political Organizations.
He was replaced by Oscar Nzeyimana who also resigned in 2014. He was followed by Frederic Harerimana who took over on February 20, 2015 only to resign three years later, on May 13, 2018, to affirm the high turnover of mayors the district has experienced
Ephrem Kayumba took over in June 2018 and run through 2021 and handed over to the incumbent Dr Anicet Kibiriga.
Nyamasheke: A shocking resignation
Vincent Muragwa laid the foundation of the second phase of decentralisation in Nyamasheke since 2006, but he later resigned in 2009 to reportedly go to study. Muragwa’s resignation caught many off-guard as it had not been anticipated. He was replaced by Jean Baptiste Habyarimana.
The latter led the district up to 2015 before he was replaced by Aimé Fabien Kamali who would also step down later after a vote of no confidence on September 4, 2019 due to reported leadership mistakes.
Kamali was replaced in the hotseat by Appolonie Mukamasabo who was also dismissed last year after she reportedly fell short of delivering on expectations and she was replaced by Narcisse Mupenzi.
Nyabihu: Recalling Jean Baptiste Nsengiyumva
Charles Ngirabatware led Nyabihu from 2006 through 2008. He was replaced by Jean Damascene Ndagijimana, then Jean Baptiste Nsengiyumva who would pass on in 2011. Nsengiyumva was reported dead by his house help who reported the incident. He had previously checked into hospital.
Addoulatif Twahirwa took over in June 2011 and served one term until 2016. He was replaced by Theoneste Uwanzwenuwe who resigned over personal reasons in 2018.
Antoinette Mukandayisenga is the current mayor of Nyabihu.Cyprien Nsengimana
Ngororero district was led by Cyprien Nsengimana from 2006 but he would be dismissed in 2009 and replaced by Mechtilde Mukakiberwa on acting position.
He was later on replaced by Gedeon Ruboneza who served until 2016. The latter was replaced by Godefroid Ndayambaje who served until 2021.
Aimable Twagiramutara was the first mayor from 2006 through 2010 when he was dismissed following misunderstandings with his executive committee. He is currently a staff of Rwanda Red Cross.
Between 2010-2011 François Uhagaze led the district to elections, and handed over power to the mayor-elect Eugène Kayiranga Muzuka, who carried on up to 2018. He is now a private investor. He paved way for the Incumbent Ange Sebutege, who took over in 2018.
Gisagara: A case of stable leadership
Léandre Karekezi led the Southern Province district from 2006 up to 2016. After serving two terms, he led the Rwanda Federation of Volleyball and currently he is an importer.
He was replaced by the incumbent Jérôme Rutaburingoga. Over the years, Gisagara proved to be the only district with minimal turnover.
In Nyamagabe, Alphonse Munyantwali gave his best in five years, 2006-2011 before becoming the governor for the Southern Province and Western Province respectively, until 2021. Munyantwali rise in ranks proved that he was trusted to deliver.
In August 2023, he became the President of Rwanda Football Federation (FERWAFA).
Philbert Mugisha followed in his footsteps for the following term, but like many others, he did not have a happy ending in the hot seat. He is now in the private sector.
He was replaced by Bonaventure Uwamahoro who served between 2017-2021, and now a consultant. The district is currently under the leadership of Hildebrand Niyomwungeri
Nyaruguru: A Lady first
Olive Uwamariya was at the helm of Nyaruguru for two years, from 2006 and 2008, before heading to Kigali where she runs a shop. She is probably the only woman who started as district mayor at the begening of the second phase of decentralization.
Felix Sibomana took over from her between 2009-2011 before handing over to François Habitegeko(2011-2021).
Before end of his second term, Habitegeko was appointed Governor of Western Province. He was dismissed from the position last year.
François Munyankindi became the Mayor of Nyanza district mayor between 2006-2008 when he called it quits.
Abdallah Murenzi took over to lead the district between 2008-2015. He later on led a youth volunteer forum, before heading to the Rwanda Cycling Federation (FERWACY) between 2019-August 2023 when he resigned from the post amid a purge at the federation
He was replaced by the incumbent Erasme Ntazinda.
Kamonyi: Straight from District to Province
From the onset Kamonyi was led by Jean Paul Munyandamutsa between 2006 and 2009 and was replaced by Jacques Rutsinga between (2009-2016).
Rutsinga is currently the coordinator of Ejo Heza for City of Kigali and Southern Province.
Aimable Udahemuka took over for one year before handing over to Kayitesi Alice(2017-2021).
Kayitesi was appointed governor of Southern Province and her place as mayor was taken over by Thadee Tuyizere who also handed over the instruments of power to the the incumbent Dr. Nahayo Sylvere in 2012.
In Ruhango district, the first mayor was François Byabarumwanzi who run the district’s highest office from 2006 through 2008 when he was elected Member of Parliament. He is now in retirement although still a university lecturer.
Célèstin Twagirukumiza took over from 2008 to 2011. He is now a lecturer at Catholic Institute of Kabgayi.
His successor François Xavier Mbabazi started work from 2011 to 2018 before resigning with the entire executive committee citing personal reasons. He is currently the Executive Secretary of Ingabo Syndicate.
The incumbent Valens Habarurema took over from him since 2018.
Muhanga: A Mayor turned Pastor
Samuel Ngirinshuti was the first mayor of Muhanga and he served until 2008 when he resigned and was replaced by Yvonne Mutakwasuku.
The latter ran the district from 2017 and embraced the private sector and the civil society, but she is also one of the senior leaders in a local church where she is a Pastor.
Mayor Béâtrice Uwamaliya took over in 2018 and ran the district for a short period of time until 2019. She is now a civil servant in the Western Province.
The incumbent Jacqueline Kayitare took over since 2019.
Nyarugenge: From running a city to a charity organisation
In Nyarugenge, the district where the Central Business District (CBD) is located, Jean Marie Vianney Mubiligi was the first mayor, but he served for a couple of months and resigned on August 15, 2006.
Origene Rutayisire took over since October 2006 until his resignation in 2009. Afterwards, he was hired by USAID sponsored Higa Ubeho project.
Theophila Nyirahonora took over on January 12, 2010 through 2011 when she resigned. Nyirahonora is a senior official at Caritas Rwanda, a charity organisation.
Solange Mukasonga took over from Nyirahonora between 2011 and 2016. She is currently a civil servant at RSSB.
From 2016, Nyarugenge is under the leadership of Nzaramba Kayisiime, who serves as District Coordinator.
Between 2006-2008, Kicukiro district was led William Ntidendereza who then joined the National Itorero programme as vice president in 2009-2012.
In 2012-2018, he became the executive secretary of National Itorero Programme before joining Rwanda parliament as senator in 2019.
He was still serving as senator on September 3,2023 when he died.
Ntidendereza was replaced by Paul Jules Ndamage between 2008-2016. In 2017 he was hired by the University of Kigali where he is in charge of Administration.
Dr. Jeanne Nyirahabimana followed in 2016-2019 before being promoted to the position of Executive Secretary, Eastern Province, where she is still serving to date.
Solange Umutesi took over since 2020 but was dismissed in March 2023.
Gasabo: From Nyinawagaga to Rwamurangwa
Between 2006-2009, Claudine Nyinawagaga ruled over Gasabo district. She thereafter worked in different areas, including the civil society before returning to local government as Director General Local Government Development Agency.
Nyinawagaga was replaced by Willy Ndizeye from January 2010 to December 2014 when he resigned.
From 2014, Stephen Rwamurangwa took over and served until 2020 when he became the coordinator of SPIU/IFAD-Rwanda, but was arrested in April 2023 over an issue of poor construction of a housing estate in Gasabo.
He was released in August 2023. Under the new law, districts of Kigali city are led by District Executive Admnistrators(DEA).
Gasabo DEA who took over from Rwamurangwa is Pauline Umwari.
Compiled in Kinyarwanda by Servelien Mutuyimana
With contribution of:
Joyeuse Marie Claire
Sebasaza Gasana Emmanuel