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5 Facts About Martha Koome – Kenya’s First Female Chief Justice

Who is the new CJ?
Source: Capital News

Justice Martha Koome will become Kenya’s first female Chief Justice if her nomination is approved. Between April 10 and April 23 of this year, Kenya’s judicial service carried out interviews for the nation’s next Chief Justice. Justice Koome went through a rigorous selection process where she beat out 9 other candidates for the nomination. Here are five facts about the incoming CJ.

  1. Her appointment could be historic moment for Kenya

Until recently, women have been excluded from higher-ranking courts in Kenya. The first female judge joined the High Court in 1993. Historically, female judges have been concentrated in magistrate courts, excluding them from high-profile, precedent-setting cases. Some political analysts believe that diversity is key to a fair judiciary:

“There is a proliferation of studies that show that having women judges really matters. These studies are framed on two justifications: first on grounds of legitimacy. On this count, judiciaries must democratically represent and mirror the population characteristics in terms of gender, race, class, among others ” wrote Martha Gayoye, a teaching fellow at the University of Warwick, in a piece for The Conversation.

  1. She is an expert in family law

Justice Koome has a strong affinity for families and children. In 1995, she was appointed to the African Committee on the Rights and welfare of children with the African Union. She also led a review of Kenya’s Children’s Act as the Chairperson of the National Council on the Administration of Justice special task force on children matters.

  1. She believes that leadership is gender neutral

 “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”, she said in an April 14th interview when asked what challenges she would face if chosen Kenya’s first female Chief Justice.

  1. She has 33 years of experience in law

The incoming Chief justice has a long career in law. She graduated with an LL.B. from the University of Nairobi in 1986. After completing her law degree she enrolled in the Kenya School of Law and went on to work as a legal associate at Mathenge and Muchemi Advocates until 1993. Koome then opened her own law firm and became the managing partner in 2003. She also served as a council member of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) in 1993-1996 and received an LL.M in Public International Law from the University of London in 2010.

  1. She’s from Meru, Kenya

Martha Koome was born in 1960 to a polygamist family in Meru, Kenya.

“I am a villager in the truest sense. My parents were peasant farmers and we were 18 children from two mothers. So, for all of us, especially girls – it was a struggle to overcome the odds”, said Koome.

…what are your thoughts on the new CJ?

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