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‘Mediation key to reducing prison congestion’

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First Grade Magistrate in Nkhotakota, Fred Chilowetsa, has urged the public to embrace culture of mediation and avoid taking every case to court if congestion in the country’s prisons is to be reduced.

Chilowetsa said this on Friday when he facilitated mediation training for community volunteers which National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust organised in the district.

Chilowetsa said courts in the country are overwhelmed by cases which can be dealt at village level.

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“The advantage of mediation is that people get justice within a shortest period of time and without spending resources to travel long distances to courts. The workload in the country’s courts is always heavy as people do not give chance to reconciliation when they are at loggerheads. So with these community mediators we have trained, we are hopeful that people will use them to settle their disagreements,” Chilowetsa said.

The magistrate said it was a concern that despite being included in the International Law and Malawi Constitution as part of conflict resolution, mediation is not being promoted in the country.

Nice Nkhotakota District Civic Education Officer, James Mumba, said they came up with the initiative due to lack of easy access to justice experienced by people in hard-to-reach areas.

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“We are trying to promote easy access to justice, more especially by women and children. But for this to be achieved, there has to be structures that should be put in place, hence the training for our volunteers who are spread across the district to become mediators,” Mumba said.

Mumba said they will provide civic education on the roles of the mediators so that traditional leaders and communities understand the concept.

He said it was a concern that people in the district travel long distances to courts and most cases take time to conclude due to shortage of magistrates.

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