African countries on Wednesday began a two-day meeting in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi to promote the use of mediation conducted under the courts’ umbrella to solve legal disputes.
The Inter-Continental Mediation Summit brought together more than 100 participants of judicial officers and mediators from across Africa to share and exchange ideas and deliberate on how to promote the use and uptake of mediation as the first option in dispute resolution.
In her opening remarks, Martha Koome, the chief justice and president of the Supreme Court of Kenya, said court-annexed mediation is part of a multi-door approach to justice because it is a more creative way through which Africa can enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of its systems of justice.
“Mediation does not diminish the importance of courts or litigation because, for many disputes, there are more amicable, more efficient, more context-sensitive, and more holistic avenues of resolution than traditional litigation,” Koome said.
She revealed that court intervention in child custody, maintenance, and other family disputes should be a last resort, with mediation being the first port of call for such disputes.
Harriet Magala, the judge of the High Court in Uganda, said African courts should make strides in institutionalizing mediation as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism to promote a culture of mediation in the continent.
Magala noted that court-annexed mediation is ideal, especially for cases involving family and commercial disputes.
She added that there is a positive impact of mediation in terms of facilitating expeditious resolution of disputes, restoring relationships between disputing parties, and improving the continent’s business environment.
Elachi Agada, the president of the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators of Nigeria, said Africa can leverage mediation to ensure that the legal systems are accessible, efficient, and equitable for all.
Agada urged Africa to focus on the resolution of commercial, land, and employment disputes through mediation, as these can have far-reaching consequences on the social, economic, and inclusive development of the continent.