By David Lumu
Acting Chief Justice Steven Kavuma has said that people should only resort to courts of law when all other avenues of dispute resolution have been exhausted.
The public, he said, should focus on how to help disputants to resolve their disputes without resorting to court litigation in every situation because “the court so far can handle less than 5% of all cases requiring mediation.”
Speaking at the launch of the Uganda Mediation Chambers Ltd (UMC), a private non-profit mediation firm, Kavuma said that he expects UMC to tackle the challenges of access to justice by the majority of the citizens who cannot afford court litigation.
“The focus of any justice system is to enable the people to access justice that is fair, affordable and expeditious,” he said.
Kavuma also said that mediation would solve “heavy backlog of cases” because it has enhanced case disposal by about 26% in the Commercial Division of the High Court.
Article 126 of the Constitution provides for alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in litigation.
John Ochepa Arutu, the chief executive officer of UMC said that Uganda has “very few lawyers” equipped with mediation litigation skills.
“Between May 2010 and July 2013, 477 cases were referred to me for mediation. I was able to mediate and complete 349. My vision is to see over 75% of all cases that would ordinarily go to court be diverted to mediation and arbitration,” he said.
Arutu retired in January after 32 years of service in the judiciary. He was the Registrar Court of Appeal.
Kavuma urged family matters, especially marriage disputes to employ mediation as a tool of resolving their issues rather than seeking court litigation that opens their dirty linen to the public.
Commenting on the grey areas in the judiciary, especially the thorny issue of not having a substantive Chief Justice, Kavuma said that “challenges are part of life.”
“The moment you wake up one morning and there is not challenge to resolve then you know that your days on this planet are numbered. Life is a process of resolving challenges. When challenges come, the biggest value we can get is to learn from them,” he said.
Egessa Odoki, a city lawyer told New Vision that the concept of mediation is not well received by lawyers because it not as beneficial financially as court litigation.