Rwanda has been governed by a strict hierarchy since precolonial times. Before colonization, the King (Mwami) exercised control through a system of provinces, districts, hills, and neighborhoods. The current constitution divides Rwanda into provinces (intara), districts (uturere), cities, municipalities, towns, sectors (imirenge), cells (utugari), and villages (imidugudu); the larger divisions, and their borders, are established by Parliament.
The five provinces act as intermediaries between the national government and their constituent districts to ensure that national policies are implemented at the district level. The “Rwanda Decentralization Strategic Framework” developed by the Ministry of Local Government assigns to provinces the responsibility for “coordinating governance issues in the Province, as well as monitoring and evaluation”. Each province is headed by a governor, appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. The districts are responsible for coordinating public service delivery and economic development.
They are divided into sectors, which are responsible for the delivery of public services as mandated by the districts. Districts and sectors have directly elected councils and are run by an executive committee selected by that council. The cells and villages are the smallest political units, providing a link between the people and the sectors. All adult resident citizens are members of their local cell council, from which an executive committee is elected. The city of Kigali is a provincial-level authority, which coordinates urban planning within the city.
The present borders were drawn in 2006 with the aim of decentralizing power and removing associations with the old system and the genocide. The previous structure of twelve provinces associated with the largest cities was replaced with five provinces based primarily on geography. These are Northern Province, Southern Province, Eastern Province, Western Province, and the Municipality of Kigali in the centre.