Keep business out of courts

Judges might view arbitration as competition, but it’s certainly not. It actually compliments a country’s justice system that is friendly to doing business.
 Emma Nsekanabo
Emma Nsekanabo

Judges might view arbitration as competition, but it’s certainly not. It actually compliments a country’s justice system that is friendly to doing business.

It was towards the end of last year that I stumbled on a charted course in arbitration hosted in Rubavu, formerly Gisenyi. 

The newly established Kigali International Arbitration Centre (KIAC), under auspices of the Rwanda Private Sector Federation, presented this opportunity to both lawyers and non-lawyers at unbelievably low cost.

As ignorant – admittedly – as I was, I thought it did not make sense for any person without legal training to undertake a chartered course in arbitration. I eventually decided to enroll for the two-day course though I was not really convinced.  But I did it for three reasons: 1) about 320 USD was too cheap for an international chartered course, 2) undertaking and being examined for an international certificate was amazing to me and 3) I wanted to learn something new.

Prior to the sessions, my confidence levels were hanging south. But after the introductory segment my confidence levels shot towards north because there was a significant number of non-lawyers in the room. These included engineers, accountants, marketeers and many other professionals. The presence of non-lawyers was not the only milestone in ascertaining whether or not arbitration is something that they could study and practice. As a matter of fact, arbitration is not like rocket science. 

Arbitration and litigation may have a function in common – which is settling disputes –but they are noticeably distinguishable in numerous ways. Arbitration, unlike litigation, is a tool for settling (predominantly), commercial disputes.

I quite apprehend that adoption of arbitration in contract enforcements will play a cardinal role in the ongoing process to build a top-notch environment seemly for doing business in a county like Rwanda, whose life hinges on making itself a self-reliant nation through many innovative ways possible.  

Many businesses in the world today are increasingly realising how friendly arbitration is to businesses’ functionality in respect with settling commercial disputes as opposed to the conventional courts. This is one of the things that some of the foreign investors whom we are attracting to invest in Rwanda will consider looking at when ensuring protection for their businesses.

I might irritate a judge from the traditional courts but the truth is businesses would view arbitration is a friendlier system. This is because both parties are made to be active participants in the process as well as collaborative in seeking a solution to the dispute unlike litigation in courts

Arbitration is less adversarial as opposed to litigation whose outcome is mostly not in favour of partnership or relationship continuity. In most cases, arbitration preserves long-term business relationship.

Since I am into public relations professionally, I can see how arbitration is a better means of settling disputes to avoid image tarnishing in public domain or media.

It is often said that, “if you don’t want to keep your secret, go to courts.” Courts are such a public domain where everyone, including scribes, would walk in and walk away with a story that might be publicly aired or published. With arbitration, all parties are bound to confidentiality. Even the award is kept confidential.

So, as a business, need you think twice about which dispute resolution mechanism you should choose?

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