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First Woman to Head Kenya’s Judiciary

Justice Martha Koome may soon become the first woman head the judiciary in the country if parliament and the executive approved the wishes of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

This comes after the panel that interviewing ten shortlisted applicants for the office of the Chief justice of the republic of Kenya settled for the 61 year old Judge of the appeal court.

JSC Vice Chairperson Prof Olive Mugenda, who chaired the interview sessions announced that Justice Koome emerged the best candidate after nine others aspiring to succeed retired Chief justice David Maraga

 

Her name will be forwarded to President Uhuru Kenyatta for consideration and approval before facing the parliamentary vetting committee.

In a brief statement Prof Mugenda said the JSC interview panel had unanimously agreed that Koome whose career in the legal profession spans for over 33 years was best suited to take over as the third Chief Justice under the new constitution.

Justice Koome during the interviews by the JSC.

 

“After lengthy deliberations and careful consideration of the performance of various candidates the JSC has unanimously recommended the appointment of  Koome Martha Karabu as the Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya and has submitted her name to the President for appointment,” read the statement in part.

 

If appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta, Koome will be the first female Chief Justice in the country.

 

Koome has 33 years of experience in legal practice under her belt and a significant portion of those years has been in public service as a defender of human rights.

 

For this, she has earned international accolades for tremendous contribution to jurisprudence in the expansion of the rule of law and defense of the vulnerable.

 

She is an acclaimed expert in family law and she takes a keen interest in children which earned her a recent recognition by the United Nations where she was named the UN person of the year run-up in 2020.

 

Mugenda declined to disclose how other candidates did in the interviews, saying the JSC’s job was to get a Chief justice and that’s what was done.

 

Earlier, the Court of Appeal stayed the orders issued by the High Court barring the recruitment of the Chief Justice with Justice Patrick Kiage on Tuesday saying it is in the public interest that they have decided to stay the order.

 

Interviews scheduled for this week for the Supreme Court judge can proceed though they will be behind by two days.

 

“The orders granted by the high court last week barring the continuation of the recruitment and appointment of the chief justice and is hereby stayed pending the hearing of this intended appeal,” the court ruled.

 

The three-judge bench stayed the orders saying that the High Court did not deal with the issue of jurisdiction before they issued the orders.

 

JSC has since rescheduled the interviews for the judge of the Supreme Court to start on May 3, 2021.

 

The other top candidates who interviewed for the same position of Chief Justice included Philip Murgor, Lawyer Fredrick Ngatia, Justice William Ouko, Prof. Moni Wekesa among others.

 

The Judiciary is now firmly run by women – acting CJ (Philomena Mwilu); Vice Chair JSC (Olive Mugenda); acting President Court of Appeal (Wanjiru Karanja); Principal Judge, High Court (Lydia Achode); Principal Judge, ELRC, (Maureen Onyango); Judiciary Chief Registrar (Anne Amadi); Registrar, High Court (Judy Omange); Registrar Supreme Court (Esther Nyaiyaki); Registrar JSC (Frida Mokaya).

 

By Alice Gworo

 

 

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