Rwandan judiciary wants to popularise mediation as a mechanism for resolving commercial disputes in the country, the Chief Justice Sam Rugege said.
“We have been trying mediation in the last five years, but litigants and lawyers have in many cases underutilised it probably because judges, lawyers and registrars did not have adequate skills in modern mediation,” Prof Rugege said.
He was launching training in commercial mediation for 30 people, including judges from commercial courts, lawyers from Rwanda Bar Association, corporate companies, banks, insurance companies, and Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA), on Monday.
The five-day training in the Kigali is part of efforts to strengthen incorporation of mediation in resolving disputes in the judicial system.
While opening the training, Rugege explained that parties seeking mediation in the country have not been forthcoming especially financial institutions and other corporate organisations.
He said the judiciary would expedite cases requiring mediation compared to litigation as an incentive.
Emmanuel Kamere, the president of the Commercial High Court, said mediation helps create mutual understanding among warring parties which can boost the business environment.
“Our clients are business entities who certainly need each other outside the court for business affairs and mediation is the first way to keep them together after a dispute,” he said.
According to Harrison Mutabazi, the judicial spokesperson, mediation is intended to reduce pressure on courts and replace the court culture of “winner and loser” with finding ‘common ground’.
Bruce Edwards, a facilitator at the training, said Rwanda would find it easy to develop mediation in courts because “the country has a rich mediation tradition.”
“The fact that Rwandans lifted themselves from the atrocities of the 1994 genocide, they can easily mediate commercial cases compared to other countries where I’ve been,” he said.
Under the mediation process, contending parties are asked if they prefer mediation to court litigation and when they accept, a judge listens to them as a mediator.
In case the mediation doesn’t work out, contending parties proceed to courts of law but a different judge will hear their case in court.
Article 355 of the Civil Code Procedure 2012 allows judges in commercial courts to decide whether to mediate between a case before them where they deem appropriate, but this option is rarely used.
The training will proceed until Friday, March 16 and at the end of the training, the trainees will support in screening cases to determine which ones can be mediated and organising mediation sessions by judges.
By July, a coaching on practice will be conducted to help respond to concerns they will have encountered.