Rwanda: Over 15,000 Mediators Receive Bicycles

Yavan Nsengimana, a resident of Karambi Cell, Muhazi Sector in Rwamagana District, is a member of mediation committee, commonly known as Abunzi, often praised for settling community disputes quickly.

He often traverses Muhazi sector, most times on foot, in order to settle disputes -- mainly land wrangles -- among the locals.

This is a tiring voluntuary job for Nsengimana, who is supposed to ensure that a case he presides over is resolved in one day.

Nsengimana is one of 17,941 mediators who are buoyant after receiving bicycles from the Ministry of Justice.

With land wrangles comprising majority of the cases that mediators deal with, which sometimes requires them to trek long distances for field visits, there was need for flexible transport.

"The bicycles will help us to reach any place on time, and the cases will not be postponed to another day," Nsengimana said.

A dispute is supposed to be resolved in one day, he says, but sometimes some evidence is missing during hearings, and hence delaying the mediation process.

"When we invite the two sides for mediation, we task them to provide evidence, witnesses as well as supporting documents. When we find out that we need more evidence, that's when we are compelled to postpone the hearing."

He added that when the hearing is postponed because of the fact that the mediators have to travel long distances to gather more evidence, "that's when you realise that bicycles are needed."

The mediation committee in Nsengimana's cell meets with residents every Tuesday morning, the same day citizens' forums (Inteko z'Abaturage) are scheduled in the afternoon in all cells across the country.

"Because evidence is not always readily available and we have to attend the Inteko z'Abaturage in the afternoon, we postpone the Abunzi meeting and yet we cannot embark on another case before settling the one we have at hand," he discussed.

Darius Ngabonzima, another mediator in Cyinyana Cell, Gishari Sector, said that; "Besides moving in and around our cells, sometimes we are invited to attend trainings at the sector and one has to pay a taxi-motorcycle to reach there, which is expensive"

Martine Urujeni, the Head of Department of Access to Justice in the Ministry of Justice, told the media that, "Now that the mediators have bicycles will reach certain places quickly, effortlessly, without wasting time or energy."

In the first phase 2,912 mediators from 416 sectors across the country were given bicycles.

The latest disbursement is catering for mediators at the cell level. The country has 2,147 cells and one mediation committee is comprised of seven mediators.

Urujeni disclosed that government plans to facilitate the Abunzi with phones, and adding them to a caller user group, which allows people in the same group for 'free' unlimited calls and SMS.

Since 2004, Abunzi have proven to be effective in resolving community disputes. Every year, mediation committees receive over 100,000 complaints of which 95 per cent are settled and the rest referred to courts, according to Ministry of Justice.

Elected by residents, Abunzi mediate between both civil and criminal cases.

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