Facilitators UNDP Rwanda under the Governance Support Program recruited fully accredited BRIDGE facilitators Mr. Shalva Tskhakaya from Georgia and Mr. Madhu Prasad Regmi from Nepal to conduct a 10-days workshop on Introduction to Electoral Administration and Strategic and Financial Planning modules for the high level officials of National Elections Commission of Rwanda.
Mr. Jean de Dieu Rutatika and Ms. Vestine Mujawamariya, both fully accredited BRIDGE facilitators and both working with NEC also served as the co-facilitators. Contributions made by other NEC and UNDP officials also remarkable in successfully holding the two-week long program.
Preparatory works were being started earlier in advance by both international facilitators in collaboration with UNDP and NEC officials via email and other social networks. Tentative agenda for the entire two weeks was already prepared and sent to the concerned officials for considerations. The training handout as well as visibility materials were prepared and send accordingly.
Both the international facilitators, Mr. Tskhakaya and Mr. Regmi, arrived in Kigali on Friday, May 10. Immediately after landing in Kigali, they had consultations with NEC officials, including the Executive Secretary Mr. Charles Munyaneza and local co-facilitators. In the evening, they visited UNDP office and held consultations with the IPG Programme Associate Ms. Felista Kimanuka.
Saturday and Sunday facilitators, along with the co-facilitators, were busy in making preparations for the upcoming training. As a result of the frantic effort, the job was assigned to all facilitators and co-facilitators, activities were distributed and methodology agreed upon; all the training materials were prepared and printed. Early planning and securing commitments from co-facilitators could provide more comfort and easiness to the entire training program. In general, both co-facilitators seem highly motivated and want to continue to practice BRIDGE so this factor is also crucial in sustaining BRIDGE activities in Rwanda.
Selection of Participants
There were altogether 16 participants offering a wide range of diversity both at the horizontal as well as vertical levels of election administration of Rwanda. The participants ranged from the Chairperson and Commissioners of NEC to the high and mid-level management staff of the Commission. Similarly, it covered representatives from an EMB to the development partners, such as UNDP. It not only provided the opportunity to share ideas and experiences from each other, but also to build institutional relationship more reinforced. In short, the selection of the participants was very good. All of them were highly motivated and had some relevant experience. There was a positive gender representation of 11 women/5 men, which added to the diversity of opinions and ideas. BRIDGE created an atmosphere of trust and equality that helped participants overcome any hierarchical inhibitions. Some participants had a long experience on administration and management of elections, while others were very new on electoral matters; which possessed a great challenge for the facilitators to accommodate varying needs and wishes of such diverse groups.
BRIDGE workshop was held at Gorillas Hotel in Gisenyi of the Rubavi district, some 140 km. west of Kigali. The hotel is located on the bank of lake Kivu, offering beautiful landscape of the countryside. Since BRIDGE training program demands a lot of group and simulation exercises, the training hall was sufficiently large. The accommodation was good – the rooms were naturally air conditioned and other amenities were in proper condition. The selection of the venue in Rubavu district also appeared fine as it was far away from Kigali which would help facilitators and participants to remain focused on the program only.
The support team was instrumental to the success of the program. Having support staff, with a laptop/printer available, was really helpful not only to the facilitators but also to the participants who appreciated the help they got in preparing their respective presentations.
Interpretation by the facilitators was essential in improving communication between the participants and international facilitators. The Co-facilitators excellently provided such service in a praiseworthy manner and thus linguistic barrier proved not to be an issue in the conduct of the course.
Opening of the Program
The program began sharply at 9:00 in the morning. At the beginning Executive Secretary of the National Electoral Commission Mr. Charles Munyaneza welcomed all participants and facilitators and expressed hope that the ten days program would be helpful in the capacity building of NEC commissioners and officials.
UNDP Country Director Mr. Auke Lootsma expressed his happiness to be a partner in NEC’s capacity development initiatives and pledged to provide continuous support in strengthening democracy and elections in Rwanda.
Delivering his opening remarks, Chairperson of National Electoral Commission Mr. Kalisa Mbanda noted that such capacity development initiatives would help NEC to hold 2013 Legislative and 2017 presidential elections and other electoral events in a free and fair manner. He was also of the view that since all NEC commissioners were new, such thing would help make them aware of the basic principles of free and fair elections.
International Facilitator Mr. Shalva Tskhakaya appreciated the NEC’s commitment towards BRIDGE and willingness to improve electoral processes through capacity building.
Evaluations and closing
At the beginning of each day, recap of the previous day and a brief highlight on the matters to be discussed on that day were carried out. At the end of each day, a brief review on the matters discussed on the day was also held. Participants were also asked to fill the separate evaluation forms (see annex) and provide feedback on what they learnt, what they want to learn more and on which area they got confused. A number of ice-breakers and energizers were also introduced at appropriate intervals.
At the end of the program, a final evaluation of the program was made by the participants (Evaluation sheet annexed). Both Major challenges of a) language communication between the facilitators and participants and b) keeping both group of participants (new commissioners and experienced staff members) engaged and interested in the entire workshop was successfully overcome. Initial obstacles of communication between facilitators vis-à-vis several participant with lack of English language was successfully dealt with through the local co-facilitators intense translations and involvement. And according to the oral feedbacks and written evaluations, every participant kept learning throughout the workshop.
Finally, certificates of completion were awarded to each participant. At the closing ceremony, Chairperson of NEC Mr. Mbanda expressed satisfaction over the successful completion of the program and expressed hope that the knowledge and skills obtained through this workshop would help enhance the quality of performance of the members and other staff of NEC.
Overall, workshop achieved most of its objectives. New members of the College of Commissioners obtained valuable knowledge on the election processes, very specific recommendations to improve election process in Rwanda were delivered to NEC by the International Facilitators and acknowledged by the participants as useful. Detailed candidate nomination and election plan were elaborated during the training which will ease the election operation for the NEC. The workshop had a very positive team building effect removing some hierarchical boundaries between the participants and fostering better communication and understanding between the various departments of the NEC and Collage of Commissioners. Further implementation of BRIDGE workshops for the various level staff members of NEC Rwanda is highly recommended.