Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced Lady Justice Martha Koome’s appointment as the country’s first female Chief Justice in a special gazette notice published on Wednesday (CJ). The president’s appointment is the culmination of a lengthy recruitment process prompted by the resignation of her immediate predecessor, David Maraga, late last year. In a number of ways, this appointment is historic. For starters, it is the first time a female Chief Justice has been appointed to the bench.
The Supreme Court is now the only top government organ that is legally consistent with the previously elusive gender parity clause, thanks to the nomination.The Chief Justice, who was sworn in on Friday, brings 33 years of experience to the Supreme Court. She has 18 years of experience in the judiciary, including serving as the head of the criminal division of the court of appeals before being appointed to the rank of Chief Justice.
Koome is a well-known human rights activist who focuses on women’s and children’s rights. She has earned several awards and recognition as a result of her efforts, the most recent of which was a runner-up spot in the UN Kenya Person of the Year 2020 awards, where she was honoured for championing the rights of children who are in conflict with the law.The CJ, on the other hand, has received her fair share of criticism, the most notable of which was for the contentious night hearing she presided over in the aftermath of the contested repeat general elections in 2017. Her nomination has gained widespread support from a variety of stakeholders, both locally and globally, who have praised the decision as positive.
The CJ’s first task, it seems, would be to break the two-year impasse between the executive and the judiciary over the latter’s apparent refusal to swear in 41 judges of the High Court and Court of Appeal.