Kilifi on Thursday became the latest county to host the judiciary-initiated Court Annexed Mediation system.
The Court Annexed Mediation Taskforce, during a ceremony attended by Kilifi Governor Amason Jeffa Kingi among other leaders, opened an office within the Malindi law courts in which mediation will take place.
Chairman of the taskforce Justice Fred Ochieng said the annexed mediated process had already kicked off in Nairobi, Mombasa, Uasin Gishu, Garissa, Meru, Nyeri, Machakos, Kakamega, Nakuru and Kisii.
Mr. Justice Ochieng said court annexed mediation had been a great success since its inception on pilot basis in 2016, noting that more than 50 percent of cases referred to mediation by the high court had been successfully resolved.
Court annexed mediation is a mediation process conducted under the umbrella of the court, he said adding that cases filed in the high court would be screened to assess whether or not they should undergo mediation.
Mr. Justice Ochieng explained that once cases are filed in court, they are screened by Deputy Registrars and if they are found fit for mediation, they are referred to judiciary-accredited mediators.
The litigants are then notified to appear before a mediator whose costs are borne by the judiciary. Disputants can also be assigned lawyers at no fee.
“Unlike judges, the mediators do not decide the cases but instead facilitate disputants to arrive at their own solutions,” he said adding that the mediation process is confidential and the mediators’ roles are to encourage the parties to agree on a settlement.
He said when the parties agree, the resolution is written and forwarded to the court for adoption before the case is closed. Once this happens, there is no room for appeal, he added.
However, when the parties fail to agree, the mediator reports to the court and the case resumes through the normal process.
During the Malindi launch, a number of judicial officers and court users lauded the court annexed mediation process saying it would drastically reduce the case backlog in the judiciary.
Malindi Presiding Judge Reuben Nyakundi said mediation would help parties own the court process, noting that the Constitution of Kenya 2010 states that alternative dispute resolution is part of the Kenyan dispute resolution mechanism.
Environmental and Land Court Judge in charge of Kilifi, Lamu and Tana River Counties, Mr. Justice James Olola said there were more than 2,000 land and environmental cases in the three counties, most of which he hoped would be handled through mediation.
Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi said he would partner with the Judiciary to make Court Annexed Mediation a reality in the county.
“I have already instructed the County Attorney to kick-start the process of establishing a mediation centre in Kilifi,” he said.
By Emmanuel Masha