The role of elites in community development: the case of Umuganda in Rwanda

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University of Dar es Salaam
The role played by African elites within the dynamics of community development programmes through manual labour is very central in social transformation. For, throughout history such programmes have contributed greatly to the provision of such social amenities as infrastructure, afforestation, soil conservation and construction. Yet, the success of such activities would largely seem to have depended on the proper and full participation of the leading minorities (elites). But, while these programmes in modern Africa are mostly a product of colonial administrations they are historically a function of African cultures, as in traditional African societies, manual mutual-help activities had been a major form of peoples' lives. Indeed inspite of distortions and segregation in their practice during colonialism today these activities have mainly retained their African image by incorporating the traditional features of voluntariness. In the case of Rwanda, the status interests attitude function and role of elites have been a crucial factor to the success and/or failure in the implementation of umuganda mutual activities whose economic, social and political objectives aim at raising the people's standard of living. Nonetheless score of the factors retarding the implementation of umuganda are the heavy burden placed on District Commissioners and Sectoral Councilors; the separation of elite and masses' umuganda; the non application of modern technology in umuganda labour; the current world recession coupled with Rwanda's dismal economic performance and general resistance of the elite. Within this context the study recommends among other things on the need for joint leadership and participatory management; improvement of information system; introduction of ideological classes, use of modern technology and encouragement of further research on the ways and means of improving integrated self-help activities in our modern African states.
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Social classes, Historography, Community development, Politics and Government, Rwanda, Umuganda
Nsengimana, E. (1988) The role of elites in community development: the case of Umuganda in Rwanda, Masters dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam. Available at (