In the spring of 1999, Rwanda held its first-ever popular elections of local government officials. A grassroots leadership base, numbering 160,000 nationwide, thereby came into power: a major step toward government decentralization and another important step along the road toward diversity and democracy in a country shattered by ethnic genocide just five years before.
For more than a decade prior to 1994, Africare had assisted the people of Rwanda in basic development areas such as food production and natural resource management.
In the wake of the violence of 1994, Africare focused first on emergency relief to the injured and the displaced, then on helping communities to rebuild.
In 1997, Africare joined the people and government of Rwanda in a large-scale initiative to instill a “civic culture”: the first governance project in that country and, until at least 2001, the largest. Spanning five prefectures, the project helped local governmental bodies become more accountable and more responsive to the needs of the people. It also promoted community self-development activities. Following the 1999 local elections, Africare helped train newly installed officials. In the spring of 2001, Rwanda held a second round of local elections ― at the district level. Africare provided training and election monitoring for the 2001 elections as well.