Winning Silver at International Mediation Singapore Competition
A team comprising of Catherine Mumo, a fourth-year Bachelor of Arts in International Studies student, and three Strathmore Law School (SLS) students – Maleehah Khandwalla, Pauline Omoto and Leona Asiema – won Silver in both mediation and mediation advocacy at the International Mediation Singapore Competition held in August 2019. This competition sought to bring together the best teams from around the world to celebrate a shared passion for mediation, and also to commemorate the signing of the Singapore Convention on mediation also known as the United Nations (UN) Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation.
Trainers from JMiles & Co and SDRC
The quartet was trained by Jack Owino from the Strathmore Dispute Resolution Centre (SDRC), and Nicola Muriuki, Rubin Mukkam-Owuor and Arooj Sheikh, a team from JMiles & Co, a legal consultancy that provides specialised advice on international arbitration, mediation, fraud investigation and asset chasing, in addition to legal consulting. The team also had support from Jerusha Maruti, Faculty Manager, SLS and Prof. Borja Lopez-Jurado, Acting Dean, SLS.
Their journey to Singapore began when they were invited to take part in the moot competition. “Singapore is a mediation hub where people go to resolve their disputes. They are big on arbitration and mediation. The whole idea behind the moot was to have students from different countries showcasing their abilities in negotiation for dispute resolution. All this was a precursor for the signing of the Singapore convention,” says Jack Owino.
This time round Strathmore had a multidisciplinary team and incorporated one student from a different school apart from Law. Catherine, from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and outgoing Vice President of the 10th Student Council, felt that she had to give the competition her all as her performance would determine if other students from her school joined future moots. “I did my internship at SDRC and one of the tasks I got involved in was to organise for a mediation training. The experience I got made me realise I have a passion for mediation and conflict resolution. I was called in to join the team as they needed a fourth team member. It was scary coming in at first. Would I handle all the law jargon and the pressure? I wondered.”
She joined the team after they had already began the training. “I had a bit of catching up to do but my team members were great: they brought me up to speed and explained the law terminologies that we came across.”
Only African team
The Strathmore team was the only African team that was invited for the moot. “It is interesting to note that Strathmore was the only African team called for the mediation competition. There have been requests to get other African teams involved so as to make it more international. Unfortunately, there are very many international competitions that take place that do not have any African teams present but clearly the judges and other individuals present were very impressed by the quality we brought to the competition,” Jack says.
Maleehah had had prior practise having participated in the John H. Jackson (ELSA) Moot Court Competition where the Strathmore team beat Harvard University. In both my roles as mediator and mediation advocate, I used many of the skills, such as the ability to be calm in a high pressure environment and being articulate, which I learnt in the John H. Jackson Moot Court Competition,” she says.
She reflects on the different experiences she gained from the two moots. “Mediation is more informal and a mediation moot more subjective as everyone has a different technique of mediation, whereas the John H. Jackson moot was cut throat, with set procedures and rules governing trade. The differences stem from the fact that mediation is facilitatory and the mediator is only in charge of the process and not the decision, in contrast to the adjudicatory nature of dispute resolution in the WTO at the Panel and Appellate Body stage where the Panel or Appellate Body are the decision-makers.”
Experience at moot
Being the first time for Catherine, Leona and Pauline to take part in a moot, the experience was unnerving at first.
“In terms of time management I realised how much time we took to prepare for the competition and now that we’re done with it, I realise how much free time I have on my hands,” Leona says.
For Pauline, the experience opened her perspective to other fields of law that she hadn’t thought of pursuing. “It was also good for me in terms of networking as I got to meet so many people from different parts of the world who have different views and perspectives on things. We had a really good team as well and I would like to thank them because I think we got that far because of everyone’s support, hard work and preparation for the event,” she says.
After the competition, the team attended the Singapore Convention signing ceremony. 46 Members of the United Nations signed the Singapore Convention on Mediation. The aim is to have a global framework that will give businesses greater confidence to settle international disputes through mediation rather than taking them to court, which can be obstructively time consuming and expensive.
This article was written by Wambui Gachari.
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