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90 Attend dispute resolution seminar

BY: Samuel K. Obour

Ninety people comprising lawyers, members of the legal aid board and other individuals in the Brong Ahafo Region are attending a five-day training programme on arbitration in alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

The aim of the session, which is the third to be held in the region, is to equip the participants with the fundamental knowledge and skills required in arbitrating disputes that may occur at their work places, churches, groups, families and communities, among other societal settings.

It is being organised jointly by the Sunyani Catholic Diocese, the Catholic University College of Ghana (CUCG), Fiapre, Giving to Ghana Foundation and the Fordham Law School, United States of America (USA), at the Marian Conflict Resolution Centre (MCRC) at the CUCG.

They will discuss basic definitions in arbitration, contrast differences with negotiation, mediation and arbitration, review of Ghana arbitration laws and development of arbitration in Ghana and contrast with arbitration in America today, among other subject areas

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sunyani, Most Rev. Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi, noted that many of the misunderstandings between and among majority of the people were best resolved by mediation and ADR.

Currently, he stated that, ‘‘Our country is holding its breath, awaiting the ruling of the Supreme Court on the election petition. After watching the adversarial nature of resolving this political problem, many of us wish there were alternative method of handling the misunderstanding to make both parties winners instead of one being declared the loser.’’

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Again, Most Rev. Gyamfi said many were afraid of the outcome of whatever the Justices would decide and so some personalities had already resorted to other methods more in line with ADR and mediation to prepare the minds of the populace and the party followers to accept the ruling of the Justices.

Sounding very humorous, the leader of the Sunyani Catholic Church expressed the hope that, ‘‘I have not said anything that will make the courts hold me in contempt. If I have said something contemptible, I plead with you lawyers to intercede and plead that I want the courts to have mercy on me and allow my contempt case to be settled by ADR or mediation techniques. I am afraid of the courts.’’

In a speech read for him, the Brong Ahafo Regional Minister, Mr Paul Evans Aidoo, admitted that there were challenges with the practice of ADR in the country and said in the Brong Ahafo Region, one of the challenges facing the Regional House of Chiefs was when parties agreed to the terms of the ADR and one of them later went to court to contest the case rendering the use of ADR to settle the matter a fruitless effort.

He also observed that the second challenge was when parties agreed to participate in the process but fail to honour the invitations to attend, hence, frustrating the effort of the arbiters, and added that, ‘‘Undeniably, ADR is one of the best methods in conflict resolution matters, particularly in civil cases.’’

The Supervising High Court Judge in Sunyani, Mr Justice Ato Assan, expressed the hope that ADR would grow and expand to become a household word in Ghana and added, “who knows, even election petition might in future be resolved through the less contentious mechanism of ADR”.