20 November 2012

Africa: Tanzanian Justice to Head Mediation Body

London — THE former Chief Justice of Tanzania, Mr Justice Barnabas Samatta, has been appointed Co-Chairman of EEE Mediation Ltd, a pioneering dispute avoidance and resolution facility for the African resources sectors.

EEE Mediation Ltd is a pan-African initiative comprising a number of leading judges, lawyers, trade unionists, financiers, environmentalists, and business and community leaders.

It was established specifically to address the urgent need for more effective ways of addressing an anticipated surge in disputes involving the continent's oil, minerals, land, water and environment before they escalate into serious political conflicts.

Courtenay Griffiths QC, the London-based Co-Chairman of EEE Mediation Ltd, said: "We are delighted that Chief Justice Samatta has agreed to head up our representation in Africa. "It is a great honour that such a distinguished and internationally respected figure should lend his immense authority to our efforts to establish more effective ways of avoiding and resolving disputes over the use of the region's resources," said Griffiths.

In accepting the appointment, Chief Justice Samatta highlighted the need for a more considered approach to civil justice in Africa. "The resources sectors could be the engine of development and prosperity across Africa, but they can also generate extreme tensions, at potentially vast human, economic and environmental cost.

Worryingly, there are very few effective and genuinely accessible ways of dealing with such tensions," said Chief Justice Samatta. "The courts play a vital role as the final arbiters of disputes. But for most Africans, recourse to the courts is simply not an option: litigation is expensive, slow and cumbersome. It is usually also not a very sensible way of dealing with disagreements over the use of resources.

It seldom resolves the underlying dispute; it does not encourage people to use resources more efficiently; and its adversarial nature can create even greater discord," he explained. Around the world, mediation is being embraced as a better way of resolving a great variety of disputes.

Although Africa has a long tradition of mediated dispute resolution, these traditional methods are ill-suited to major disputes between government, investors, communities, workers and others. "Western methods are just as unsuitable, as they take no account of local realities -- particularly the often vast disparity in the parties' status, resources, power and education, the potential for cross-cultural misunderstandings, and the need to engage affected third parties," said Griffiths.

EEE Mediation has consulted extensively on how the various approaches might best be adapted to address the challenges of the regional resources sectors, and has developed an internationally credible, Afro-centric model of commercial mediation. Mediation and dispute resolution are only part of what the company does.

It also offers a variety of dispute avoidance services, including consultancy and training. Humphrey Harrison, Managing Director of EEE Mediation Ltd, commented: "Africa is at risk of being overwhelmed by resource-related disputes, many of which might readily be avoided.

"Chief Justice Samatta's guidance in this regard will be invaluable. He has an unusually keen appreciation of the dynamics of disputes in different parts of Africa, and of the challenges involved in forging consensus between groups with divergent interests and values.

"Chief Justice Samatta is also one of Africa's foremost advocates of the importance of universal access to justice and its relevance to more responsible environmental management. He is especially mindful of the the concerns, frustrations and ambitions of ordinary Africans -- men and women, young people in particular -- and of the need to ensure that they are involved in decisions as to how local resources are used," said Harrison.

"These attributes, coupled with his towering reputation for integrity and fair mindedness, mark him out as one of the most important figures in the quest to establish more effective ways of avoiding and resolving disputes over the continent's resources," he added. "I am delighted to be involved in helping to develop and promote more appropriate ways of dealing with the continent's resource disputes," said Chief Justice Samatta.

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