Let us put Sierra Leone first

I am in Kigali and it is Umuganda, the last Saturday of the month - a day of mandatory community service when Rwandans work together to help their communities in some way (e.g collectively cleaning a public park in the city or fixing a damaged foot bridge in a rural setting). Business stops, public transportation is limited and there are no cars on the road. I have been in Kigali for three days now and have been deeply moved and inspired by how far Rwanda has come since the dark days of their genocide.

At the core of Rwanda's development agenda is a recognition of the importance of national social cohesion. The most striking evidence of this is the rejection of the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic division - no one is a Tutsi or a Hutu - everyone is a Rwandan. But is goes further than that. Rwanda has a President and a Prime Minister, the President is elected and appoints the Prime Minister but the Prime Minister must not be from the same political party as the President. Zero tolerance of corruption is another significant and effective contributor to building nation social cohesion. Development gains must be for all and not a few and the seriousness with which corruption is tackled is a tangible testament of that. The unwavering drive for national social cohesion is also positively impacted and reinforced by Rwanda's highly decentralised system of government. Rwanda's national development agenda is anchored in its 2020 strategy which is further broken down into 5 year national plans, and these in turn are achieved through the county's annual plan, which is derived from the annual plans of each of its Ministries. Grassroots communities, via their village councils, are able to feed their local development aspirations and priorities into the national planning process and remain engaged in the process throughout the implementation and monitoring of progress. Significantly, performance contracts for the Ministries, Minsters and for all Ministry and District government staff, are clearly and demonstrably linked to the delivery of the national plans with real consequences in the event of non-performance.

The Rwandan delivery approach is very similar to the system that has been developed and adopted by the Delivery Team for the President's Recovery Priorities. It has been gratifying to see how much has been achieved nationwide by introducing clear and concrete targets, granularity of planning, regular performance management, improved coordination and problem-solving and community ownership and involvement. The Recovery Priorities are however limited to just 13 Key Result Area targets in 7 priority sectors and the programme will end on 30th June 2017.

As I leave Rwanda today, I strongly believe that the un-precedented and inclusive growth that Rwanda has achieved, can be replicated in Sierra Leone. For this to happen, we also need to focus on building national social cohesion - Sierra Leone must come first. We must build our future as one nation, not distracted and divided by regional and tribal differences; we must tackle corruption so that every Sierra Leonean benefits from growth and decisions are made in the interest of all; and we must build on systems that promote accountability and deliver on key performance indicators at every level of government. Rwanda has reminded me that one's past need not define one's future. Let us strive for national social cohesion - let us put Sierra Leone first.

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