‘Over 97% disputes filed to mediators were solved’

People listen to community mediators commonly known as Abunzi during their meeting to solve some of their problems in Musanze. Sam Ngendahimana.

Statistics from the Ministry of Justice indicate that 97.8 per cent of the over 48,000 claims taken to community mediators commonly known as Abunzi, were solved in the 2018-19 financial year, a slight improvement from the previous year’s 97.3 per cent.

Land-related disputes remain the most dominant of all disputes filed to mediators, according to statistics.

The revelation was made by the Ministry on Thursday ahead of dedicated week-long activities aimed at celebrating the role mediators in supporting the justice sector and good governance during the forthcoming Abunzi Week.

This year’s Abunzi Week will run from November 25-30 will be marked under the theme; ‘Sustain amicable disputes settlement mechanism and build the Rwanda we want’.

Addressing the media during a news conference, Justice Minister and Attorney General Johnston Busingye said the annually-observed week is organised to celebrate the role and impact played by mediators through conflict management among the members of the community.

 “Over the years, Abunzi have been playing a big role in not only solving people’s disputes but also create harmony among communities and we are proud of their contribution so far. We celebrate what has been achieved thanks to Abunzi without whom there would a big burden of cases in courts,” said Busingye

“Of course there is still a backlog of cases in courts but imagine what would happen if all disputes were taken straight to courts? That’s why we should recognize their efforts and contributions,” he added.

The Abunzi Week will at the national level be launched on November 26 in Kayonza District, Eastern Province.

Through the week, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Local Government have lined up a number of activities aimed at promoting the role of mediators in conflict resolution and good governance.

The activities range from encouraging citizens to avoid disputes or approach mediators to find the solution as soon as disagreements arise and encouraging mediators to hold regular meetings with members of the community and make sure disputes are solved before they can escalate.

A justice caravan will also be organised through performing theatres that carry messages encouraging communities to embrace Abunzi’s approach in managing disputes arising between them.

The MAJ (Access to Justice Offices) representatives will also join the communities through the week and solve existing disputes among citizens through community forums.

Busingye said, “The Abunzi week will therefore be an opportunity to not only celebrate the role of mediators in peacefully solving citizens’ disputes but also help the general public understand the benefits and advantages of taking their disputes to Abunzi, looking for Abunzi in case a dispute arises,” he said.

There are about 18,000 mediators across the country. They solve a number of disputes related to land, financial or property-related disputes with a monetary value of less than Rwf 3 million.

According to the 2019 Citizen Report Card by Rwanda Development Board, 74 per cent of citizens are satisfied with the services that Abunzi deliver to them.

Bob Gakire, the Director of Governance and Centralization at the Ministry of Local Government said mediators contribute a lot towards good governance by creating harmonious communities.

“People are taking disputes to mediators they elected for and they trust the way their disputes are solved. Though we want to reduce disputes, citizens are advised to take them to mediators whenever they arise,” Gakire said.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com