Kilifi Governor Amason Jeffa Kingi has urged Kenyans to embrace mediation in dispute resolution to foster peace and harmony among them.
He lauded the Judiciary for introducing Court Annexed Mediation, saying the system would help reduce the case load being handled by judicial officers in Kenya.
Mr. Kingi said since many cases would be referred for mediation, the judicial officers would be left to handle criminal cases and civil cases that cannot be handled through mediation in accordance with the laws of Kenya.
The governor said this at the Malindi Stadium during the launch of the Court Annexed Mediation system for Kilifi County by the Chairman of the Annexed Court Mediation Taskforce Mr. Justice Fred Ochieng.
He said he fully supported the initiative and announced that he had instructed the County Attorney to kick-start the process of establishing a mediation centre in the county to provide space for mediators to handle the numerous court cases, especially those involving land.
“I have instructed the County Attorney to start the process of establishing a mediation centre in Kilifi County,” he said adding that his team would meet with judicial offices at the Malindi law courts to start the process within the next one week.
The governor said mediation would help resolve the numerous land cases in the county and the Coast region in general, something that he said would bring peace and harmony between land owners and squatters.
“The biggest problem in the Coast Region, not just Kilifi County, is land. The numerous court cases involving land are issues that can be easily handled through mediation, but many of them have dragged in the courts for too long,” he said.
He noted that for one to win a land court case in the conventional justice system, one had to hire a good lawyer; but since most of the people were poor, they had lost many cases to rich persons who would not have won the cases without hiring very expensive lawyers.
“Without a good lawyer, you will lose a case even if you have all the evidence to make you win. The current justice system does not favour the poor, but with mediation, this will no longer be so as the annexed mediation process will give an opportunity for both the rich and the poor to get justice since it will be free of charge,” governor Kingi noted.
The governor noted that mediation had been present in Kenya long before independence, but Kenyans chose to follow the colonial justice system and abandoned their traditional dispute resolution mechanisms.
“We have discovered that the missionary and colonial dispute resolution mechanism enslaved us, but now we are going back to what our forefathers used to do in resolving disputes as Africans,” he said.
He at the same time said many people fear going to court due to the intimidating environment in the courts, noting that going to court has many huddles which many Kenyans were not aware of as they did not know the civil procedure code.
Mr. Kingi cited the Waitiki land in the Kwale County, which he said would have been resolved amicably long time ago had there been mediation.
The governor said his administration would refer the more than 250 cases it has with the business community to mediation.
Chairman of the Court Annexed Mediation Taskforce, Justice Ochieng, said the system was already in place in ten counties among them Nairobi, Kisumu, Kilifi, Nyeri, Uasin Gishu, and Garissa.
He said cases that would be referred to mediation would be those being handled by judges and magistrate in which parties would apply for mediation.
“The court will also look at the files, and if it is satisfied that the matter can be resolved through mediation, it will advise the parties to pursue that line,” he said adding that cases going through Annexed Court Mediation would be free of charge.
Mr. Kingi earlier opened the mediation office at the Malindi law courts before leading a procession to the Malindi Stadium where the official launch was held.
A resident known as Abubakar however disrupted the function as it was about to end when he said all he wanted was justice and not mediation. He presented court papers he claimed the Judiciary and the State Law Office had claimed had gone missing.
“We do not want mediation, we want justice as he brandished the court papers. Security officers had to whisk him away from the scene but not before he handed over the papers to an officer from the Attorney General’s office and the presiding judge, Mr. Justice Nyakundi.
By Emmanuel Masha