Kenya is poised to have its first woman Chief Justice in the history of the country.
The Court of Appeal Judge Martha Koome emerged as the best candidate out of ten applicants for the position.
Her selection was announced by Kenya’s Judicial Service Commission on Tuesday, April 27.
Her name has been forwarded to President Uhuru Kenyatta for approval, before being submitted to the parliament for vetting.
The selection process was very tedious and was aired live on several Kenyan local channels.
During her interview, held on April 14, Koome was asked to imagine the challenges she would face if chosen Kenya’s first female Chief Justice, and illustrate how she would manage them.
In response, she said: “I believe the challenges are similar whether a male or female CJ. It will be historic for the Commission to nominate a woman for the Office of [the] Chief Justice. Leadership is gender-neutral. It doesn’t require a man or woman. It is skills that will deal with the challenges we face. You need managerial skills because you will be overseeing various things. As a lady, I appreciate that everybody brings something to the table.”
-Who is Justice Martha Koome-
She was born in 1960 in Meru county.
She is well known in the civil society movement and was first appointed a High Court judge in 2003.
In her past career, she has fiercely defended the rights of women and children.
Koome has a Master of Laws in Public International Law from the University of London (2010), a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Nairobi (1986) and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Law from the Kenya School of Law.
Former Chief Justice
The position became vacant when the tenure of the former Chief Justice, David Maraga, came to an end in January.
Maraga’s tenure was marked by the nullification of the 2017 Kenyan presidential election.
It was the first presidential election to be annulled in Kenya’s history and in Africa.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court agreed with the petitioner – veteran opposition activist Rail Odinga – that the election had been manipulated in favor of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
"A declaration is hereby issued that the presidential election held on Aug. 8 was not conducted in accordance to the constitution and applicable law, rendering the results invalid, null and void," Maraga’s ruling read in part.
The verdict set him on a rocky road with Kenyatta, whose victory he quashed.
The President criticized the judiciary as full of ‘hypocrites’ and accused Maraga of ‘subverting the will of Kenyans’.
In 2019, Maraga blasted the government for ‘mistreating and disrespecting’ the judiciary after the Executive ordered cuts to the judiciary’s budget.