Ashaiman, a densely populated commercial town near Tema in the Greater Accra region is perceived as a place for only the fittest.
The bustling nature of the town allows only the fittest to survive its fast pace characterised by commerce and social vices akin to an unplanned commercial township.
The nature of Ashaiman naturally makes it a hotbed for disputes between individuals, groups and communities, often aggravating into violent conflicts.
Maintaining peace in such an environment can only be described as a herculean task for the authorities.
In the midst of the difficulty in promoting peace in Ashaiman, three Appropriate Dispute Resolution (ADR) Centres have taken a chunk of that task by helping to settle disputes through mediation.
An increasing number of disputes that would have otherwise resulted in conflicts have been settled amicably by the three community ADR centres stationed at strategic locations in the Ashaiman municipality.
The Ashaiman Central ADR Centre, Inter-Community Mediation Centre and Zenu Liberty ADR Centre, have cumulatively settled thousands of disputes over the last few years as they continue to gain popularity among the people.
Due to the general low-income level of the inhabitants of Ashaiman, people seek the services of these ADR centres as a platform for justice.
Disputes related to tenancy, debt recovery, child maintenance, pregnancy rejection, marital, family property and land top the lists of cases handled by the three centres.
In spite of daunting challenges, the centres continue to deliver on their mandate by facilitating the resolution of conflicts.
An assessment of the operations of the centres, undertaken by ADR Daily, shows that all the three centres have similar challenges.
They are housed in temporary wooden structures that do not provide a congenial environment for mediation. They do not have enough space for meetings with parties and mediation sessions. Also, they are all located in noisy zones.
For instance, the Ashaiman Central ADR Centre, headed by Mr Gabriel Atsu, is located near the Ashaiman Main bus terminal, while the Zenu Liberty ADR Centre, headed by Mr Isaac Yaw Mensah, is located opposite the Zenu market.
Most of their services are offered for free due to the inability of the parties, mostly poor and low income earners, to pay fees.
That has led to the inability of the Centres to generate funds to redevelop their office infrastructures.
The little income generated from fees is used to settle bills and buy stationery for the office, often leaving nothing for the mediators.
In spite of the challenges, the Centres remain dedicated to the cause of ADR as they continue to offer services to community members.
The Ashaiman ADR Centre is a court-connected ADR facility that boasts of three mediators. In 2017, it successfully settled 1,200 disputes out of 1,297 cases it received.
The Inter-Community Mediation Centre, led by Mr Alfred Gudonoo, has five mediators. In 2017 they received 997 cases and successfully resolved 980 of the cases.
The Zenu Liberty ADR has only one mediator. It settled 290 disputes out of 299 cases it received in 2017.
Due to their quality performance, the Centres are highly regarded by the police stations and the Police’s Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit at Ashaiman which often refer non-criminal cases to the centres for amicable settlement.
The assessment shows that the ADR centres in Ashaiman need urgent help to continue to survive to be able to provide quality services to the community.
As community based facilities, they need assistance to overcome the challenges of poor infrastructure, rising overhead cost and low payment of fees.
Currently, it is the commitment of the ageing mediators that is keeping the centres operational.
But as the workload and bills increase, without a commensurate increase in revenue, it is unclear how long the centre can continue to struggle to survive.
Their collapse can only mean two things- a surge in domestic and communal violence in Ashaiman, and a hike in cases at the courts.
By: Fred Gadese-Mensah/adrdaily.com