Barely seven months since its opening in March this year, the Community Justice Team (CJT) in Kakata has recorded and mediated over sixty (60) different cases.The CJT uses an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism at a cost-free center established to help citizens reduce the extensive bureaucratic impediments in accessing the formal justice system by mediating their cases.
This project is funded by the governments of Sweden and Ireland through UNDP Rule of Law Justice and Security Program in Partnership with Accountability Lab.The lack of legitimacy, affordability, accessibility and timeliness of the formal justice system in Liberia often prevents any feasible recourse to the law for most citizens.
“The communities and the local authorities- including the joint security and justice actors in Kakata have been very receptive and supportive to our work. We have received more than 60 cases so far. The most common of them are theft, misapplication and sometimes, domestic violence…” said William Vincent, Lead Mediator, Community Justice Team in Kakata.
Established to cater for the over 5,000 residents of the Bassa Community in Kakata, Margibi County, the CTJ is now receiving complaints from neighbouring communities in the City. The Centre has nine mediators, 4 females and 5 males working.
Vincent says the team is also strategizing on carrying out mobile awareness and sensitization in various communities to inform the people about the free mediation service being offered.Extensive bureaucratic red tape coupled with transportation, legal costs and opportunity costs of foregone work make the justice system not only physically but also financially unavailable to many Liberians.
Mediators are carefully selected from within the community representing its demography. They work closely with residents to resolve disputes before they are taken to the police or reach the point of violence.
They also work with local leaders and the Liberia National Police within the area to identify cases that can be referred to the Community Justice Center.
It helps the communities resolve issues in an effective and sustainable manner and builds trust and understanding using the bottom to top approach and contributing to peace and ensuring accountability over time.
The Community Justice Teams (CJTs) are actively working in four densely populated communities in West Point and Logan Town in Montserrado County, Bassa Community in Kakata, Margibi County as well as Demieta / Kokoyah Road in Gbarnga, Bong County.They are trained by Accountability Lab Liberia with support from UNDP.