KENYA. Nairobi: Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday appointed Lady Justice Martha Koome as the first woman Chief Justice and the fifteenth in the country since independence, and the third since the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution.
The 61-year-old mother of three, Lady Justice Koome is a Kenyan advocate and human rights defender, bringing to the office an aggregate of 33 years of experience in the legal profession.
She was appointed by Kenyatta, just a few weeks after she came top, beating nine others who were vetted for the position by the Judiciary Service Commission (JSC), among them Fred Ngatia, who had represented President Kenyatta after the Supreme Court of Kenya annulled his victory in the 2017 general elections.
Mr. Ngatia came second, leading him to question the integrity of the Commission, saying that they had doctored his results.
Justice Koome was admitted to the Bar as an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya in 1986 and in 1988, she started as a legal associate at a law firm until 1993 when she opened her own law firm and became its managing partner until 2003. She was elected as a council member of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) in 1993-1996
Justice Koome is known for her passion for women’s and children’s rights and apart from having served as a chairperson at the Federation for Women Lawyers (FIDA), she was last year appointed United Nations (UN) Kenya Person of the Year 2020 in recognition of her work in advocating for the rights of children in conflict.
Professor Margaret Kobia, the Cabinet Secretary at the Ministry of Gender and Public Service congratulated Koome, terming her appointment as a great milestone in the gender equality index.
“Delighted to learn of the appointment of Lady Justice Martha Koome as Chief Justice by H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta following her nomination approval by the National Assembly. We celebrate this historic achievement which marks a great milestone in the gender equality index”, Prof. Kobia said in a tweet.
Former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was the first woman in Africa to be elected head of state also congratulated Justice Koome in her appointment.
“My warmest congratulations to Lady Justice Martha Koome as she becomes the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of Kenya. Women’s equal representation in legal systems is integral to achieving fair, just, and inclusive societies” President Sirleaf said in a tweet on Wednesday.
However, not everyone was impressed by the appointment of Justice Koome, with many questioning how things were fast turned around, especially after the high court annulled Kenyatta’s bid to pass the BBI document that sought to change the constitution.
One Twitter user, Jerotich Seii tweeted that the speedy appointment of the Chief Justice was so that the BBI proponents could bypass the court of appeal and take their complaint directly to the Supreme Court of Kenya.
“I am reliably informed that the speedy gazetting of Justice Martha Koome is to allow #BBI proponents to use Section 17 of the Supreme Court Act to be granted leave to appeal directly to Supreme Court of Kenya against the #BBIJudgement bypassing the Court Of Appeal. May Koome guard against being used anyhow”, Seii tweeted.
Justice Koome is set to be sworn on on Friday May 21st in Nairobi. However, she has the option of retiring at age 65.