President Uhuru Kenyatta has appointed Justice Martha Koome as the Chief Justice, making her the first woman in Kenya’s history to hold the position, just hours after Parliament approved her nomination.
Justice Koome will now head the Judiciary for a non-renewable 10-year term, succeeding David Maraga who retired in January. Parliament on Wednesday morning approved Ms. Koome, paving the way for her swearing-in.
She becomes Kenya’s third Chief Justice after the passing of the Constitution in 2010 and joins Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu and Justice Njoki Ndung’u at the Supreme Court ending a 10-year wait to comply with the constitutional one-third gender rule.
Justice Koome’s nomination was marred by controversy after the Judicial Service Commission declined to reveal the scores of the ten candidates amid claims by top lawyer Fred Ngatia that he had been rigged out.
Justice Koome has been praised for her passion for children and women’s rights. Martha Koome started as a legal associate in 1988, before forming her own law firm as managing partner in 1993. During her private practice, she became famous for her defense of human rights, representing political detainees during the regime of President Daniel arap Moi. She later joined the High Court in 2003 and served in several stations including Nakuru and Nairobi, before she was elevated to the Court of Appeal in 2011.
Last year, Justice Koome was named United Nations (UN) Kenya Person of the Year 2020 in recognition of her advocacy for the rights of children in conflict.
During her interview she referenced her difficult experience growing up in Meru in rural eastern Kenya in a polygamous family – she was born in 1960, three years before the end of colonial rule. She was among the lawyers involved in the uproar in the 1980s to repeal Section 2A of the constitution which made the country a one-party state.
Members of Parliament urged her to uphold the independence of the Judiciary and remain relentless in the search and implementation of justice. Ms. Koome, 61, has the option of retiring after attaining the age of 65.