News

Making it easier to resolve commercial disputes in Rwanda

July 29, 2015

Signed by William Asiko

Amiable Malaala, senior State Attorney responsible for the Civil Litigation Division at the Rwanda Ministry of Justice, has become an accredited Member of the UK Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (MCIArb) thanks to training funded by ICF

Ready access to commercial justice is crucial for any enterprise as it enables them to resolve commercial disputes quickly and efficiently. It also gives business owners the confidence to engage in commercial activities as they are assured of quick resolutions should any disputes arise.

Rwanda is instilling this confidence through the Kigali International Arbitration Centre (KIAC), an institution that provides business with alternative mechanisms for dispute resolutions, such as mediation, arbitration and adjudication. KIAC’s services are designed to complement the services of the Rwanda Judiciary and to help reduce its work load.

Supported by the Investment Climate Facility for Africa, the Private Sector Federation in Rwanda, and the Government of Rwanda, KIAC offers mediation, arbitration and adjudication services and also trains professionals.

Within two years of its operationalization, KIAC has received 24 arbitration and three mediation cases, which is quite an achievement in such a short period of time. Of the 24 arbitration cases, five involved international parties from Kenya, Italy, South Africa, Pakistan and USA. The Government of Rwanda has been a huge beneficiary of KIAC’s services, with more than half of the arbitration cases received by KIAC involving a Government of Rwanda entity.

Over 226 Rwandans from the private and public sectors have been trained and accredited to become Associate Members of the UK Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (ACIArb), the first level in arbitration certification. An additional 28 have achieved the second level and are certified Members of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (MCIArb).
Small as these numbers might seem, this is an incredible achievement as the 226 certified Associate Members catapulted Rwanda into third place in Africa in terms of the country with the most number of accredited arbitrators in 2014, according to data from the UK Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. Nigeria had the most accredited arbitrators at 966, followed by Kenya with 486.

The Membership training is heavily subsidized by KIAC through funding from ICF. An individual wishing to take this training in the UK would incur an average cost of about US$ 6,000 for the training fees, transport and accommodation. By bringing the trainers to Rwanda, KIAC has made it possible for a big number of people to access the training in Kigali in a relatively short period of time.

Amiable Malaala, a senior State Attorney responsible for the Civil Litigation Division at the Ministry of Justice, is one of the people who received this subsidized training. “This was an incredible contribution by ICF,” he said. “I had tried to do the training individually with CIArb in London and I found the cost too high. But I wanted it so bad.” Thanks to KIAC’s training program, he is now an accredited CIArb Member. “The training was very enriching even for a senior lawyer like me who has been practicing for eight years.” He has handled two arbitration cases already, and is currently the Government’s counsel in a big international arbitration case involving the Government of Rwanda and an international party.

In addition to Rwandans, KIAC has also trained five Ugandans, three Kenyans, two Burundians and one person each from the United States, Switzerland and South Sudan. “I’m impressed by the fact that foreigners pay to come to Rwanda to attend the arbitration training. It shows not only the importance of the training but the cost effectiveness of it,” said Thierry Ngoga, KIAC’s Registrar.

More significantly, the trainings offered by KIAC are helping to change the understanding and improve the practical knowledge of commercial dispute resolution in Rwanda. “In the past, many people used to confuse litigation, arbitration and mediation, and would sign contracts without a clear understanding of what the different clauses meant,” said Dick Rwamuhinda, Kobil Rwanda’s Operations Manager. “With KIAC’s trainings all that is changing. Even those who have taken the course but have not managed to pass the accreditation exams, now have at least a basic understanding of how it works.”
According to Mr. Rwamuhinda, the increased knowledge is helping businesses to operate in a smarter way. Not only can they use mediation in commercial disputes but they also apply the principles in employee labour relations in order to reach amicable solutions. It is also helping them to improve their planning and avoid disputes as they can now discern more clearly when a situation is leading to a dispute. “Today, all Kobil Rwanda contracts have a mediation and arbitration clause,” he said.

With greater awareness and an increasing pool of practitioners, more and more businesses in Rwanda, as well as Government entities, are including mediation and arbitration clauses in their contracts. “Lawyers from the Ministry of Justice and other Government institutions have been trained and are applying the knowledge to contracts and legal advice,” said Mr. Malaala. He is optimistic that the widening of dispute resolution choices will improve investor confidence and make Rwanda more attractive to investors.

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