By Treezer Michelle Atieno
The backlog of cases in Kenya’s courts has been a longstanding issue, hampering the swift delivery of justice and causing significant congestion. However, in recent times, a beacon of hope has emerged in the form of alternative conflict resolution methods. These innovative approaches offer a way to reduce the burden on the formal court system and expedite the resolution of disputes.
One of the hallmarks of alternative conflict resolution methods is their efficiency. Unlike traditional court proceedings that often drag on due to delays and adjournments, alternative methods streamline the process. Trained mediators and arbitrators facilitate discussions between the parties, guiding them toward mutually acceptable solutions. This not only saves time but also eases the strain on the court system.
The range of cases that can be handled through alternative conflict resolution is diverse. From land disputes, contract disagreements, and family matters like divorce and child custody disputes to complex commercial conflicts, these methods are versatile. By diverting these cases from the courts, valuable judicial resources can be redirected to matters that genuinely require formal adjudication.
Examining real-life examples underscores the effectiveness of these alternative methods. Take land disputes, for instance, which have plagued Kenya due to unclear ownership records and competing claims. Resolving these disputes through the traditional court process can take years, exacerbating tensions among the parties. In contrast, mediation has enabled disputing parties to reach amicable agreements in a shorter time. Mediators create an environment for open dialogue, helping parties understand each other’s perspectives and find common ground. This not only reduces congestion in courts but also leads to more harmonious resolutions of land disputes.
Similarly, the use of arbitration in commercial disputes has been instrumental. Kenya’s growing commercial activities have led to a rise in business-related conflicts. Arbitration offers a confidential and efficient alternative to litigation, enabling parties to resolve disputes without the formal court process. In recent years, several high-profile commercial cases have been successfully resolved through arbitration, preserving valuable court time and resources.
The success of alternative conflict resolution methods can be attributed to several key factors. These methods emphasize a collaborative approach to dispute resolution, encouraging parties to work together to find mutually beneficial solutions. This contrasts with the adversarial nature of traditional court proceedings and fosters a more cooperative environment.
Moreover, alternative methods grant parties greater control over the outcome of their disputes. Unlike court judgments imposed by judges, mediated or arbitrated settlements result from mutual agreement. This empowers parties to actively participate in shaping the resolution, increasing their satisfaction with the outcome.
Cost-effectiveness is another advantage of alternative conflict resolution methods. Formal court processes can be financially burdensome for individuals and businesses, with legal fees and associated costs mounting quickly. Mediation and arbitration provide a more affordable option, typically involving lower fees and less time commitment.
Alternative conflict resolution methods are making significant strides in reducing congestion in Kenyan courts. By diverting cases away from the formal court system and promoting mediation, arbitration, and other non-adversarial processes, these methods efficiently allocate judicial resources. Whether it’s land disputes or complex commercial conflicts, the collaborative ethos, increased control over outcomes, and cost-effectiveness of alternative methods contribute to their success in easing congestion in Kenyan courts.