Kigali International Arbitration Centre (KIAC) has stimulated Rwanda's steady rise to becoming a regional hub for arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms. The Secretary General, Mrs. Bernadette UWICYEZA described 2012 as "a successful year, which not only saw the starting of the Centre in February with the recruitment of the KIAC executive but also its impressive launch on May 31st 2012 by the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister, Dr. Pierre Damien HABUMUREMYI."
She added that "since the Official Launching, KIAC has become a centre of reference where professionals involved in arbitration, members of the Business Community at local and international level seek professional advice and information on arbitration. Within only six months of operation, KIAC has registered many milestones and there are many opportunities which the centre is exploring."
PSF CEO Hannington Namara and Kigali International Arbitration Centre Secretary General Bernadette Uwicyeza announce the launch of the Kigali International Arbitration Centre. (photo Bruno Birakwate)
She outlined the key achievements as:
Mobilization of skilled Professionals
• In order to fulfill the high level of expectations of the business community in Rwanda and beyond, KIAC has established an arbitration-friendly environment and framework with first rate arbitration rules, world-wide panel of experienced, credible and independent arbitrators at local and international level. The costs are also affordable compared to other international arbitration Centres.
Advocating for a Pro-arbitration Law
• In order to fulfill one of its mandate of advising Government in matters related to arbitration and other ADR; KIAC submitted to the Ministry of Justice a provisional draft Bill amending the 2008 law governing arbitration in Commercial matters . The purpose of the review is to make it much pro arbitration by reducing court intervention. The Ministry of Justice has finalized the translation and the discussion with key stakeholders will be organized soon before submission to the Cabinet for approval.
Commitment to Capacity Building
• In November and December 2012, KIAC contracted the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) in London to conduct three sessions of trainings and certification of 94 professionals to enlarge the network of professionals in ADR. Within two years of operation, KIAC targets to have trained and certified at least 250 nationals to the level of associate, members and Fellow of CIArb. Training of professionals is the best way to develop a culture of arbitration. Certification being an added advantage.
Awareness Campaigns conducted
• An intensive awareness campaign to ensure that arbitration and KIAC's services are generally understood by Rwandans was conducted. These involved countrywide Road Shows that were organized in partnership with Private Sector Federation (PSF), Organizing arbitration programs for Judges, and a series of awareness and sensitization programs in local and international media. KIAC was also able to successfully showcase its services at the 2012 East African Law Society Annual conference and General Meetings.
• The major challenge is that the concept of Arbitration is fairly new and the existing contracts do not have arbitration clauses which refer disputes to KIAC making it difficult for KIAC to facilitate their implementation. The Centre is raising awareness among stakeholders on the need to include KIAC model clauses in their contracts.
• The centre has met some resistance to Institutional arbitration by some lawyers who view KIAC as a competitor. These have been using ad hoc arbitration operating in an informal and non regulated way. However, KIAC is conducting sensitization campaigns and training them on the benefits of conducting arbitration under KIAC Rules.
Targets for 2013
Looking forward to 2013, the Secretary General said KIAC Management is optimistic and has raised the bar to even greater heights. It comes with even more ambitious but achievable targets, notably;
• An aggressive awareness campaign on arbitration and advantages of using KIAC arbitration clauses is ongoing.
• KIAC will continue to conduct Stakeholders outreach activities targeting at least eight professionals and users associations under the Private Sector Federation
• More training sessions for certification in arbitration and mediation by recognized accredited Institutes are planned for March, May and June 2013.
• A new pro arbitration law voted
• A policy that enhances National capacity to promote Rwanda and KIAC as a an international Venue for Arbitration
KIAC has the unquestionable potential to become a regional centre of choice for arbitration and this is attributed to factors like Rwanda's a vibrant economy, politically stability, good governance and independent judiciary. The Secretary General is grateful to the strong partnership the Centre enjoys with the Government, Private Sector, the Judiciary, donors like Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF) and other government institutions that give confidence to all investors to come to Rwanda.