Rwanda Launches Policy Boosting ADR Use

Posted By: Christine Nyiranshimiyimana CPR Speaks,

The Rwanda Ministry of Justice has presented to the public a new national conflict resolution policy aiming at handling disputes using alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

According to the Rwanda Ministry of Justice, these mechanisms are not new to Rwandan society. Traditionally, Rwandan citizens resolved conflicts of all kinds in families, in the communities, and sometimes before leaders at different levels of the administration in a manner that safeguards peace, rebuilds relationships, and consolidates social cohesion.

“ADR mechanisms are not new in Rwandan history,” according to the Rwanda Ministry of Justice’s September 2022 Alternative Dispute Resolution Policy.

Traditionally, Rwandans took a problem-solving approach to justice anchored on community participation in a variety of dispute resolution forums. Citizens resolved conflicts of all kinds in families, in the neighborhood, and sometimes before leaders at different levels of the administration, in a manner that safeguards peace, rebuilds relationships, and consolidates social cohesion.

Although Rwandans appear to have a high reliance on litigation and bringing disputes to the courts, overall, they are often dissatisfied with litigation and would prefer the dispute resolution processes in which all parties may participate and have a dialogue to reach a mutual understanding in the form of a resolution.  

Development of this policy is one of the targets of Rwanda’s justice sector reforms since 2012. The purpose of this new ADR Policy is to ensure that people in Rwanda effectively resolve their disputes with mutual understanding and satisfaction, enhance amicable dispute resolution mechanisms, encourage the culture of problem-solving in families, and strengthen cordial settlement of disputes in Rwandan society.

The policy explains different ADR mechanisms and underlines the comprehensive recommendations, which include:

  1. The creation of pre-filing mediation for family, labor, administrative, commercial, and other civil matters;
  2. the mandatory pre-filing mediation for all civil and administrative matters;
  3. The creation of restorative justice options across the criminal justice process;
  4. The creation of a trauma-informed ADR system—"ADR is the most suitable approach for effectively addressing the causes and consequences of historical and cultural trauma and fostering societal healing,” according to the report;
  5. The creation of mediation institutional and legal framework, and
  6. The enhancement capacity in ADR and raising awareness about proposed schemes and available ADR providers.

Apart from setting up the ADR mechanisms, the policy also opens opportunities for individuals and institutions to provide well-regulated and coordinated ADR services. Before this policy, ADR was administered and provided by the Kigali International Arbitration Center, in the nation’s capital, Kigali, which is the only center in the country to offer mediation and arbitration processes on civil cases, especially commercial and labor matters. The center will continue to be a default appointing authority in arbitration under the policy, and will expand its variety of ADR offerings “following the global trend in international commercial dispute resolution for non-adjudicatory processes.”

With this policy, national or international private institutions will be allowed to provide ADR services, especially mediation used by the citizens in civil, commercial, labor, and administrative cases. Reports from the judiciary institutions indicate that the monetary value of cases that were successfully resolved through mediation rather than litigation amounted to more than 11 billion Rwandan francs. Hudson Kuteesa, “Rwanda: Over Rwf11 Billion Saved Through Mediation Mechanisms - Judiciary,” New Times (Nov. 28, 2022) (available here).  

The Rwanda ADR Policy acknowledges that ADR mechanisms are known as rapid, confidential, and flexible processes compared to litigation. Having more institutions that provide ADR services will allow citizens to have better access to justice.

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The author, a CPR Spring 2023 Intern, is a Humphrey Fellow at the American University Washington College of Law. In her home country, Rwanda, she works at National Land Authority as the Registrar of land titles, where she focuses on all land issues of the capital city, Kigali. During the Humphrey fellowship, her area of interest pertains to ADR mechanisms to help her country overcome the challenges associated with land disputes, as well as implement her knowledge in resolving land disputes using such mechanisms.