May 28, 2023
Kenyans have been encouraged to embrace Alternative Dispute Resolution as litigation is not always the recommended route to resolve cases. Kerugoya High Court judge Richard Mwongo said the constitution mandates the Judiciary to exhaustively explore and promote other mechanisms of resolving disputes such as negotiation, reconciliation, adjudication, arbitration and mediation. Speaking on Friday, the judge said 95 per cent of the disputes in Kenya are resolved outside courts, a situation that has greatly contributed to the reduction of backlog to less than 500,000 cases across the Kenyan courts. He for example cited that in Kerugoya courts, the magistrate court has 135 cases while the High Court has 186 cases. Mwongo encouraged Kenyans not to shy away from seeking the services of mediators on land and succession matters, disagreements and petty cases as they are professionally trained to arbitrate them. He added that religious organisations like churches and mosques, customary method through the use of village elders and local administrators and mediation through the community, are some of the platforms the community can seek for justice. "The constitution dictates the Judiciary to look into alternative ways of resolving cases and I want to encourage Kenyans to engage one another and embrace that method because court methods are not always the methods to use,” he said. Mwongo said upon resolving disputes through alternative disputes mechanisms, the court does not only recognise the judgments delivered by the arbitrators but adopts them as well. In equal measures, the judge urged the office of the Director Of Public Prosecutions to at its level apply the plea-bargain and diversion methods in some cases. He for example cited a murder charge which can be reduced to manslaughter in situations where the suspects upon mitigation admits to committing the offence unintentionally. He also recommended such methods in instances where two relatives are charged with criminal offences yet are the breadwinners of their families. The judge spoke in Kutus town during a sensitisation forum on Alternative Dispute Resolution which was organised by the Gichugu law courts. Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Jane Maari said the application of the Plea-bargain and diversion methods in some cases do not mean that justice has been 'bought' or compromised since such services are undertaken for free. Maari further lauded the use of alternative methods of resolving cases saying they are convenient as they help in decongesting prisons and also reduce court backlog thus saving more time for the courts. Ngigi Gichoya,the LSK Chair for Kirinyaga county, said the legal fraternity supports the call and as such noted that they too will be encouraging the public who seek for their services to also go for such methods. "Through the use of alternative disputes methods, we will be helping the court and our clients because such methods are cost-effective, time saving, confidential and preserve good relationships between parties,” he said. Gichugu law courts principal magistrate Leah Kabaria echoed similar sentiments saying such measures are some of the reforms being undertaken in the Judiciary and alternative ways of getting solutions and justice.
Source: The Star