Local mediation committees, commonly known as Abunzi have done a tremendous job to reduce cases reaching courts, Justice Minister Johnston Busingye said.
Minister Busingye made the remarks while meeting officials from his ministry’s development partners on Wednesday in Kigali.
The meeting was convened to chart the way forward on building the capacity of the mediators among other things.
Statistics from the ministry indicate that between July last year and May this year, the mediation committees received 40,118 cases out of which 32,474 cases were successfully settled while 6,123 cases proceeded to the classical courts.
The minister called on development partners to harmonise their training manuals if they are to successfully build the capacity of the mediators.
“While there is need for continuous training and capacity building for Abunzi, development partners do not have harmonised training methods and programmes, mediation techniques need to be updated, harmonised and relevant to the rationale – empowering citizens,” said Busingye.
The rationale of mediation committees is to empower citizens to resolve conflicts without always resorting to courts.
Busingye pointed out that the Abunzi have contributed to reduction of poverty through saving time, money and enhancing peaceful coexistence as well as empowering citizens to detect, reject, resist and resolve injustice peacefully in a timely and cheap manner.
He cited lack of a centralised reporting system, information sharing mechanism and data facilities to store mediation records among the challenges facing the committees.
The Executive Director of Legal Aid Forum Rwanda (LAF), Andrews Kananga asked the ministry to look into allegations of corruption among mediators.
During the same meeting, Francois Mugabo, a UNICEF Rwanda official said that part of the plan to empower mediators is to equip them with knowledge to handle several cases.
“We have drawn an access for children justice policy which would allow UNICEF to facilitate ways of how children access proper justice,” said Mugabo.
Ann Kairaba, who heads the Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable Development, which has worked with the Abunzi since 2008, said the mediators have played a significant role in resolving land wrangles.
“With more focus on building their capacity, they will make wonders. Today communities have started developing confidence in them,” she said.
Mediation committee is an organ meant to provide a framework for mandatory mediation prior to filing a case in court. It is based at cell and sector level. There are currently 2148 mediation committees at cell level, 416 mediation committees at sector level. In total there are 30768 mediators across the country who regularly handle different cases at local level.