Judiciary Blames Lawyers For Slow Progress of Mediation

The Judiciary has attributed the slow progress of the mediation process to lawyers who prioritize full litigation over settling disputes out of court.

Principal Judge Dr. Flavian Zeija expressed concern that many lawyers view mediation as unprofitable, leading them to discourage their clients from pursuing it.

Speaking at a symposium for Judges and Registrars about mediation, Dr. Zeija emphasized that lawyering and mediation are not conflicting concepts but rather complementary approaches to dispute resolution.

Dr. Zeija highlighted the need for lawyers to assess what their clients are willing to compromise on and what they are not, in order to strike a balance between their interests and the goal of resolving disputes amicably. Both judicial officers and lawyers play a crucial role in encouraging mediation and building faith in the system.

Head of Mediation Justice Harriet G Magala also addressed the symposium, stating that lawyers can still earn from embracing mediation. 

She acknowledged that the amendment of the Civil Procedure Rules, which removed mandatory mediation, could be a contributing factor to the decline in people opting for mediation. Chief Registrar Sarah Langa Siu expressed disappointment at the low number of cases settled through mediation.

She emphasized the need to conclude the backlog of over 46,000 cases and suggested utilizing retired Judges’ resources for presiding over mediation disputes. Justice Stephen Mubiru, the head of the Commercial Court, highlighted the need for more efforts to revive mediation at policy and training levels.

He called for clear guidelines and rule revisions to align mediation with the interests, culture, values, and ways of life of Ugandans, rather than borrowing rules from outside sources.

Mubiru believed that customization and a better understanding of mediation would prevent litigants from perceiving it as a delay tactic. Mediation is part of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which encourages traditional methods of settling disputes outside of court.

The Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Nobert Mao, revealed that the government is in the advanced stages of introducing a policy to regulate alternative dispute resolution, saying that the policy will soon be presented to the Cabinet for discussion and approval.

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