Judiciary hosts International Alternative Dispute Resolution confab

May 22, 2024, 11:48 AM | Article By: Sheriff JANKO

The Judiciary of The Gambia on Friday played host to an international conference on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), a groundbreaking event that attracted renowned judges and legal professionals from Rwanda, Zambia, and the United States of America at a ceremony held at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Center, Bijilo.

The confab held under the theme; “Enhancing Access to Justice Through Mediation”, came as officials believe the effective use of mediation and other forms of ADR for the timely and cost-effective settlement of cases filed in our courts is at the heart of the Judiciary’s Strategic Plan 2021-2025, as embodied in Goal 4 of the Plan which is to improve efficiency of Court processes and Service Delivery and Goal 7, among a host of others.

Welcoming the gathering, Justice Zainab Jawara Alami of the High Court responsible for Court Connected,reminded that they are gathered to explore the transformative potentials of ADR in resolving disputes amicably in courts and to celebrate advancement made in this vital field of judiciary of The Gambia.

The ADR, she went on, encompasses a range of process including mediation, arbitration, negotiation, reconciliation and serves as an alternative traditional litigation.

She observed that these methods not only provide efficient,cost effective and confidential resolutions to disputes, but also preserves relationship and promotes collaborative problem solving.

“In an increasing complex and interconnected world, the importance of ADR cannot be overstated. Whether in business, family, community or international relations, the ability to resolve dispute amicably and fairly is paramount. ADR offers tools that can de-escalate conflicts and foster understanding, helping parties to meet mutually satisfactory agreement and most importantly, reduce the backlogs of cases and streamline court process in our courts.

Giving a background information of the initiative, Hon. O.M.M. Njie, chairperson of the Court Connected ADR System Implementation, recalled that the committee was wisely suggested and constituted in 2021 by the Chief Justice of The Gambia Hassan B Jallow.

He said that the purpose was for implementing all the recommendations on Court Connected ADR emanating from the first ADR conference held in 2021.

To that end, he thanked all members past and present for their invaluable contributions to the work of the committee.

He said they now have group of trained mediators numbering about 18; most of whom are legal practitioners, adding that a number of High Court Judges have also been trained at Edward Mediation Academy in US on the principle of mediation, which he said, will no doubt help them in their pivotal role in assessing and referring cases of ADR.

Eric R. Mehler, Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) of U.S. Embassy Banjul, who all lauded the initiative, described the gathering as a pivotal moment of convergence of legal minds, practitioners and experts, all committed to advancing justice, promoting stability and fostering efficient dispute resolution mechanisms. 

The US diplomat spoke of US government’s stance in supporting the Gambia government and Civil Society Organisations to advance democracy, governance and stability.

He recalled that in 2021, the US launched Promoting Rights and Justice (POJ) in The Gambia, an initiative that seeks to strengthen justice sector institutions and enhance access to justice.

Also speaking, Kumba Jawo, executive secretary at the ADR representing Attorney General and Minster of Justice, commended the judiciary for reviving the Connected Court ADR, saying Alternative Dispute Resolution should be used to lessen the drudgery of cases at the courts.

She observed that courts are weighed down by cases that could rather be resolved through ADR means, adding that only matters of serious nature should be sent to Court and that those of civil nature dealt with through ADR mechanisms.

To that end, she called on the public to always consider using the ADR mechanism with the court as the last resort, after all other possible means have been exhausted.

For his part, Hassan Jallow, the Chief Justice of The Gambia, recalled that it was in 2021 that the idea of reviving the then dormant court connected Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system gained momentum and a one-day conference was held to comprehensively discuss the issue of ADR in our courts and map out a strategy on how to move forward in re-introducing the system in order to better enhance our processes and improve access for all stakeholders.

He reminded that following that conference, he constituted the Court Connected ADR Committee, chaired by Hon. Justice Omar M.M. Njie JSC, assisted by Hon. Justice Zainab Jawara Alami of the High Court together with other members drawn mainly from the Private Bar, to work with the Office of Chief Justice to ensure that all necessary measures are taken for the successful adoption and implementation of ADR as part and parcel of our justice delivery mechanism.

“With the tremendous support of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative: Promoting Rights and Justice in The Gambia, the Judiciary now has in place appropriate Rules of Court and well-trained Mediators drawn mainly from the private Bar, to better harness the benefits of ADR in our court system.”

Chief Justice Jallow added that also, using ‘our very limited financial resources’, the Judiciary is now providing adequately equipped premises to Mediators for dealing with cases referred for mediation by Judges as required by the High Court ADR Rules 2023.

“The main purpose of reviving the Court Connected ADR system is to decongest the courts by significantly reducing the number of cases Judges have to deal with at trial level, thus freeing up precious judicial resources, and giving judicial officers more time to handle really contentious matters and those of greater public importance.”