What Maina is the proudest of, is the role that he played in developing the mediation in Kenya. Through the number of trainees, the Suluhu Mediation Center was able to train, those who are already practicing. Also the contribution to the manual and curriculum, guidelines on mentorship, various forums that he was able to participate in, and engagements he made both national and within the region.
Maina is a mediator based in Nairobi, Kenya, founder and CEO of Suluhu Mediation Center – an organization offering dispute resolution services to corporate clients and individuals. He spent most of his professional life in logistics, and while supervising big teams, with many people came many issues – Maina always found himself in a place where he had to solve issues between employees, the company, their superiors, and stakeholders. These experiences developed a passion to help resolve disputes. As Maina says, “the satisfaction, the comfort after the people were able to resolve issues, really got me inspired to pursue mediation.” That is the reason he decided to pursue mediation training in 2016, around the same time when the government of Kenya announced a mediation program to bring mediation to the courts. Before that, Maina worked in Zambia and Malawi, involved in mediating between employers and employees, even before pursuing formal training. That helped him to develop a passion to help people. “During that project 2016-17 in Kenya, there was a huge need for training, so many people wanted to become mediators,” Maina says “but a few places were there, the training was out of reach for most people. I thought about bridging that gap.” With support from the Mediation Institute of Australia, he and Suluhu Mediation Center ventured into training. Since then they trained a number of people who are now practicing both in court and privately.
Creating a community of mediators
“In Kenya for one to become a mediator, it is required to complete 40 hours of professional training. Anyone can be a mediator, what you need is the passion to do so” Maina says. There is a requirement to have a degree to practice in courts, but privately it is allowed to practice as long as the training is completed. One of the things that Suluhu Mediation Center provides is a variety of types of training. For example, there is in-person training, which is taking place in the training center, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, also online training was introduced. There are also self-paced programs where one can access the platform, get through the modules, and complete the practical parts online. Every participant is able to do this on their own pace. Another type is live virtual training, taking place at the center but available to observe online. The Center also organizes weekly sessions, called moot sessions where new trainees can meet with experienced mediators. The purpose is to gather and participate in discussions on many topics they find interesting, they can participate in moot mediation, receive an assessment and through it continuously sharpen their skills with the assistance of a community of mediators. On top of that, the center provides help for mediators who have not been practicing for a period of time. They can receive help with bridging the gaps in their skills and familiarize themselves with any changes that they might need to catch up with.
Through social media, Maina has been actively following Mediators Beyond Borders International, and members who are actively involved in mediation. Thanks to it, he can interact with mediators across the globe, and ensure that his and the Suluhu Center’s plans, and services meet international standards.
Evolution of mediation in Kenya
As Maina says, mediation services are relatively new in Kenya, and this is the biggest obstacle because not many people are aware of it. Several legislations are progressively being put in place, but their evolution is an obstacle for new mediators. In private mediation, the number of matters is very low. The judiciary has been very supportive of mediation, even private, it is a seamless process of registering settlement agreements made out of court, which was an impediment. “Initially people could have their matter resolved through mediation, but there was no way of having it registered in court. Now the process is in place, so we are moving on.”
Maina also points out the lack of centralized standards – most of the places providing mediation training would have a local curriculum or manual, and all of them would use their own resources. He himself is a part of the committee or rather a panel that worked on local curriculum and professional development guidelines under the support of international organizations and the judiciary. Those documents addressing challenges are already in place waiting for the rollout and hopefully will allow changing the situation.
“The development of mediation within the region has been a bit slow, but we are also reaching out to partners outside the region, looking for ways where we can move together, develop the practice, and come up with the standards. We all care about peace and conflict resolution. We are still growing too so we are happy to learn. There is still so much to learn” he summarizes.
Article by Maciej Witek, MBBI Writer