The caseload at Meru law courts and its environs is expected to decrease following the launch of court-annexed mediation by the Judiciary.
Speaking during the launch, Mediation Accreditation Committee Chair Justice George Odunga said mediation was the most important way to solve disputes and added it is also biblical where everyone has ever engaged in it either as a mediator or a party.
“The Kenyan constitution demands that we promote mediation as an obligation placed on the judiciary,” said Justice Odunga adding that it is also a command from the people to the judiciary.
“Under article 159, mediation is not only required to be promoted but also the constitution requires us to ensure that justice is accessible to all Kenyans, and one of the ways to ensure accessibility is through taking justice to the people themselves before they can come for it in court,” he said.
Odunga said the process will be carried out by mediators accredited by the judiciary who will have to renew their licenses yearly after a satisfying previous year’s performance.
He said with mediation, parties have their own solutions and understand them better.
“The decisions we give in court are sometimes difficult to understand and implement but through mediation, an implementable decision can be arrived at,” Justice Odunga said.
He called on the County Commissioner together with his officers to ensure the new process was popularised in rural areas where many people live.
“We do not want a situation where we are saying we have a mediation process in Meru yet we still compel people to come to Meru town,” he said.
Odunga said the real process should be conducted at the grassroots and the product of the process be brought to court for adoption.
He expressed gratitude that the advocates have embraced the system, considering they are sometimes major roadblocks to the process with fears that the process will take away their earnings.
Justice Odunga allayed misgivings about mediators leaning on one side adding that it does not exist in mediation because the solution will be a mutual agreement between the parties.
“If a party declines to sign the agreement, then that is the end of the process,” he said.
Though the process was still under the supervision of the court, Justice Odunga added, there will be no interference save for instances where they will be required to facilitate a smooth conclusion of the process.
“There is no appeal to mediation cases. Once the parties agree and it is consent, that is the end of the matter,” Justice Odunga noted.
Meru High Court presiding Judge Justice Edward Murithi said the day was important considering that the judiciary had opened its processes to an avenue where people will participate in decision-making.
He said the process was a division of the court and has the same powers as those of the normal courts.
“If there is any place where mediation is useful, then it will be in Meru where there are many disputes raging from boundaries and land ownership,” Justice Murithi said.
Meru County Commissioner Fred Ndunga said his office was committed to creating a conducive environment to ensure mediation processes in the county thrived.
“We have a very well-established network at the grassroots and the group most likely to benefit from the exercise is my team which has been doing a lot of mediation albeit crudely,” said Mr Ndunga.
“There is no single day that passes without a murder or an assault case in the county and there is a feeling that getting justice through the normal litigious way is difficult and so they take the law into their own hands,” he said.
He said the process will also play a key role in solving the border disputes between the county and the neighbouring Isiolo and Tharaka Nithi Counties.
Registrar of the High Court Judith Omange said their aim was to have several doors for court users including having their matters heard in court, by way of mediation, alternative justice mechanism, and arbitration among others all of which are meant to expedite the cases in the courts.
By Dickson Mwiti