Mediation has played a critical role in post-genocide Rwanda and is integral to Rwanda’s rewrite of its national narrative, from revenge to reconciliation. After the formation of Rwanda’s current constitution in 2003, a national system of mediation committees was instituted to supplement the court system by handling the majority of less serious civil and criminal matters. By amendment to the civil code in 2012, judges were permitted to mediate commercial matters, and registrars were allowed to recommend mediation and mediate in other civil matters.
The impact of the 2012 amendments was disappointing and in some sense surprising, given the traditional and modern day use of mediation throughout the country. The legal system had little culture or practice of negotiated settlements, and litigation through layers of appeals became the rule, not the exception.
2018 has witnessed a major shift towards the mediation of litigated matters. Another amendment of the civil code has allowed judges and registrars to mediate in all cases. With the ongoing training of judges, in-house counsel and litigators, litigated cases are now being successfully mediated by judges in the commercial court, while judges in the other civil courts are eager to begin.
Many Rwandans, whether members of the public or members of the legal system, believe that mediation is one of the treasures of their culture, and they are determined to create their own unique Rwandan mediation brand to promote the professionalization of mediation in their country. They want to continue to lead Rwanda as a 21st century example of an alternative to violence and model for economic development in Africa.
By Harrison Mutabazi and Bernadette Uwicyeza, Senior Fellows-Rwanda, Weinstein International Foundation