Abunzi: Rwandan made instrument to easily access justice
In promoting universal access to justice, the Government of Rwanda has recognised, among others, the importance of promoting dispute resolution at the community level. Thus in 2006 the Mediation Committees or ABUNZI were created with task to mediate on some categories of disputes that may arise among people living in same community. According to the Organic law n° 02/2010 of 09/06/2010 on Organisation, Jurisdiction, Competence and Functioning of The Mediation Committee (repealing Organic law n° 31/2006 of 14/08/2006), Mediation Committee is an organ meant for providing a framework for mandatory mediation prior to filing cases in ordinary courts hearing at first instance. Like Gacaca, Abunzi was inspired by Rwandan traditional dispute resolution systems, particularly in the form of family meetings (inama y’umuryango). The Abunzi system is designed to decentralise justice, making it affordable and accessible.
Abunzi: to mediate in community disputes
According to the Organic law n° 02/2010 of 09/06/2010 especially in its article 2, two types of Mediation Committees exist: a Mediation Committee whose jurisdiction is at the cell level and Appeal Mediation Committee whose jurisdiction is the Sector level. The Mediation Committee at the Cell and Sector are comprised of twelve (12) residents of the Cell and the Sector respectively, who are persons of integrity and are well known for their mediation skills.
Disputes resolved by these Mediation committees are those that can involve people living in a same community or in a same family and of a modest value of three million Rwandan francs maximum, with some of one to three million Rwandan francs maximum.
Disputes are twofold: Civil cases and Criminal cases. Among the civil cases, mediators resolve cases such as: disputes related to land and other immovable assets; cattle and other movable assets; breach of contractual obligations in case the subject do not involve central government, insurance and commercial contractual obligations, family cases other than those related to civil status; successions, etc. In all the above cases, the matter at issue should not exceed three million Rwandan francs, except for the cattle and other movable assets where issue whose value should not exceed one million francs.
In criminal cases, mediators have the competence to hear notably cases related to removing or displacing land and plot boundaries; any kind of destruction or damage to crops; insults; defamation, except in cases where it is done by the media; stealing crops or standing crops; larceny; concealment of goods stolen during larceny; thefts or extortion committed between members of same family (between spouses or by descendants to the detriment of their ascendants for example); killing or wounding without intent domestic or wild animals belonging to another person, etc. In all the above cases (larceny, thefts, concealments of stolen goods, etc), the matter at issue should not exceed three million Rwandan francs.
Abunzi: Rwandan citizens highly satisfiedwith service
According to the 2010 Citizen Report Cards (CRC) survey conducted by RGAC in all districts and with 3,600 sample size, the Mediation committees came as the first appreciated dispute resolution instrument in comparison with other mechanisms putted in place to allow the easy access to justice. In fact, when asked their level of satisfaction of the service delivery in the justice sector, 81.6 % respondents declared that they were satisfied with the service delivery of the Mediation Committees in resolving their disputes, for 63.4 % of for Ordinary courts, 48.1% for the Prosecution and 18.4% for the Access Justice Bureaus.
For more information on Abunzi please visit: www.minijust.gov.rw and www.minaloc.gov.rw