Rwanda: Abunzi Tenure Ends, Claims to Be Adjudicated By Local Leaders

Community mediators locally referred to as 'Abunzi' will this Friday, July 31, wind up their operations as their five-year term came to an end, the Ministry of Justice announced.

Before another batch takes over, disputes previously handled by the mediators will be addressed by local leaders, pending the elections for

Effective Saturday, August 1st, 2020, the mediators will no longer receive claims from the public.

Abunzi make up a hybrid of conventional justice system and Rwanda's traditional conflict resolution mechanism.

They are elected by the people at village level to solve disputes that were traditionally adjudicated to courts of law.

In a statement released Thursday, July 30, Justice Minister Johnson Busingye said that new claims which fall under the mediation jurisdiction shall be adjudicated to cell executive secretaries while appeals shall go to the executive secretaries at the sector level.

Usually, the mediators, working as volunteers under renewable five-year tenure, have two levels: the tribunals of first instance at cell level and the appeals committee at the sector level.

Although the date for next elections was not announced, it is likely to be pushed further due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The jurisdiction of the seven-member committees allows Abunzi to handle civil disputes including cases related to land and other immovable assets whose value does not exceed Rwf3 million.

They also settle cases involving movable property or breach of contract whose value does not exceed Rwf1 million.

In addition, they mediate in family disputes, including paternity, matrimonial inheritance and succession issues.

By last year, there were more than 18,000 mediators across the country.

Since their initiation in 2004, data from the Ministry of Justice indicate that Abunzi amicably resolve 74 per cent of all claims received.

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