A highlight of our visit was the opportunity to observe a mediation administered by theAshaiman ADR Centre in Accra. The mediation was held in a small cinder block room located in a schoolyard--imagine! Three mediators, two men and a woman, described the history of their mediation center and their processes. After a series of questions, I realized that it all sounded very familiar.
Shortly afterwards, a couple entered the room and was seated in the first row facing the stage. The two male mediators then left, explaining that since the female mediator was fluent in Ewe, she would conduct the mediation and translate into English for us from time to time. Amazingly, very little translation was needed. The body language and emotional speech told us the story. The couple, who had a 12-year traditional marriage, had separated because the woman wanted a proper legal marriage, after two children together. The man had kept promising but not delivering. The mediator first listened to the woman, then the man, and asked them probing questions. The man said he was going to marry her--but first he had to discuss it with his parents. At the conclusion of the session, the mediator helped them set a date for a return session and said she was quite certain that they would return at the appointed date.
The door to the mediation room was open the entire time, with the noises of the schoolyard, traffic and birds filtering in. Afterwards, the mediator debriefed with us. As we exited the room into the schoolyard, the media was there waiting for us. We were on TV that night and in the newspaper the next day.
Then we were off to Court--quite a change of scene. The old British whitewashed multistorey buildings were set in a beautiul park. We were invited to witness two settlement conferences on commercial matters. Each one dealt with narrowing the issues of the dispute and setting a new date. The female judge invited us into her Chambers for a Q & A with two women judges and a female court administrator.
We have toured Kumasi and had an opportunity to speak with the Queen Mothers, who hold traditional courts for dispute resolution. Now we are in the midst of the three-day conference, which is considering “ADR and Peace Studies in Africa – fifteen years later; Lesson and Future Directions.” Earlier meetings were held in 2008 in Addis Ababa and in 1998 in Accra.
For now, Akwaaba
Ellen Taylor, Associate Director
California Lawyers for the Arts