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Lady Justice
Martha Koome
Chief Justice of Kenya
Assumed office
21 May 2021
Appointed byUhuru Kenyatta
Preceded byDavid Maraga
Judge, Court of Appeal
In office
January 2012 – 19 May 2021
Chairperson, Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association.
In office
January 2012 – January 2016
Personal details
Born
Martha Karambu

1960 (age 61–62)
Meru County, Kenya
NationalityKenyan
Spouse(s)Koome Kiragu
Children3
Alma mater

Martha Karambu Koome is a Kenyan advocate, currently serving as the Chief Justice of Kenya, and is the first woman to occupy the post.[1][2][3]

Early life and education

Koome was born in 1960 in Kithiu village, Meru County. She holds an LL.B. from the University of Nairobi and an LL.M in Public International Law from the University of London. After graduating from University of Nairobi in 1986, Koome enrolled at Kenya School of Law the following year. She completed her Master’s degree (LL.M) in Public International Law at the University of London in 2010.[4]

Career

Koome began her legal career as a legal associate at Mathenge and Muchemi Advocates, and later started a law firm, working as a managing partner until 2003. She was elected as a council member of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) in 1993-1996.[5]

During her tenure at the Law Society of Kenya, she took a leading role in constitutional and legal reforms and was part of the constitutional review process as a delegate at the Bomas of Kenya where she partially chaired the thematic area on the Bill of Rights. Koome also served as the inaugural treasurer in the East Africa Law Society between 1994-1996. She has also served as Chairperson of FIDA, one of the leading human rights organisations in the country.

Koome has distinguished herself as a defender of Human and Gender Rights. She was one of the lawyers who actively participated in the clamour for the repeal of section 2A of the Constitution and for the independence of the judiciary. She is an acclaimed expert in family law and she takes a keen interest in the welfare of children. She was a runner up in the 2020 United Nations person of the year.[6] In 1995 she was appointed by the African Union meeting of heads of states as a Commissioner to the African Committee on the Rights and welfare of children. She has also served as the Chairperson of the National Council on the Administration of Justice special taskforce on children matters where she helped steer the review of the Children’s Act.

Koome was appointed Judge of the Court of Appeal in January 2012. Prior to her appointment to the Court of Appeal, she served as Puisne Judge for over eight years.

In the same year, she was appointed as Court of Appeal Judge, she was elected the Chairperson of the Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association. In 2016 she was among 13 female candidates shortlisted by the Judicial Service Commission for the Deputy Chief Justice position,[7] which would later be occupied by Justice Philomena Mwilu.

Koome was among 13 candidates who applied for appointment to replace David Maraga when he retired in January 2021.[8] She was shortlisted for the position, and attended her public interview on April 14, 2021.

When the JSC invited memoranda on her suitability for nomination, the President of the Law Society of Kenya submitted a complaint[9] accusing her of being an unfair arbiter, by ruling some specific court cases based on nepotism, favouritism and improper motive by ruling in favour of the executive arm of the Kenyan government for improper motive and sometimes based on ethnicity.[9][10][11][12] Later, she instructed her lawyers to issue a demand to the LSK President to retract the law society's allegations against her within 7 days, threatening to sue him over defamation arising from the complaints he submitted to the JSC.[13] In May 2021, president of the LSK, Nelson Havi told off Koome and demanded she be transparent and accountable for her actions in the mentioned memoranda, by vowing not to apologize for the evidence-backed memoranda.[14]

Koome's suitability was also challenged by Khelef Khalifa who questioned the manner in which she took part in a Court of Appeal sitting that reversed a judgment of the High Court that had declared that all Returning Officers who had been retained by the IEBC to manage the repeat presidential election on 26 October 2017 had been unlawfully appointed.[15][16] Once arguments in the case were concluded, the High Court scheduled the judgment for delivery on October 25, 2017, the eve of the repeat presidential election. On the eve of this judgment, the Government declared October 25 a public holiday, meaning Courts would not be operational and Judges would not be in a position to render any judgments. Chief Justice David Maraga issued special authority to the Judicial Review Division of the High Court in Nairobi to sit during the public holiday so that the Judges could dispense with the scheduled judgment. No such authority was given for the Court of Appeal whose registries remained closed. Once the High Court delivered the judgment holding that the Returning Officers were in office illegally, the IEBC somehow managed to file an appeal at the Court of Appeal which was closed due to the public holiday, and Koome appeared alongside two other Judges of the Court of Appeal to handle the matter. All three Judges were not serving in the Court of Appeal in Nairobi at the time, and the Chief Justice had not given authority for the Court to sit on a public holiday. The three Judges had ostensibly been called to sit by the then President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Paul Kihara Kariuki.[17] The Judges stayed the High Court Judgment, thereby giving the IEBC the green light to run the repeat presidential poll the following day.

When questioned about her role in this case during the interviews, she indicated that she had to comply with the directives of the President of the Court of Appeal who summoned her to sit and that the sitting was important because it saved the country from a constitutional crisis,[18] alluding to the apparent lack of a provision in Kenya's laws for the extension of the term of the President where a repeat presidential election is not held within 60 days as demanded by the Constitution.

At the conclusion of the interviews, the JSC announced her nomination for the position, setting her up to be the 1st female, 15th Chief Justice and the third Chief Justice after the 2010 constitution.[19]

Her name was subsequently transmitted to the President who sent it to Parliament[20] for vetting and approval before her formal appointment. The Justice & Legal Affairs Committee of the National Assembly conducted her vetting hearing on May 13[21] and recommended that the full house should approve her nomination.[22] The report of the Committee was tabled before the full house on May 19 for discussion. The full house voted to approve her nomination on May 19, 2021[23] paving the way for her appointment as the Chief Justice.

Within hours of Parliament's approval vote, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed her on May 19, 2021, as the Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya.[24] She took her Oath of Office at State House, Nairobi, on May 21, 2021.

She assumed office on Monday, May 24, 2021 in an Assumption of Office ceremony at the Supreme Court Building during which Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu handed over the instruments of power to the new Chief Justice.

Personal life

Koome is married to Koome Kiragu and has three children.[25]

References

  1. ^ Okoth, Brian. "JSC picks Court of Appeal Judge Martha Koome for Chief Justice position". The Standard. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  2. ^ April 27 2021, Tuesday. "JSC nominates Martha Koome as Kenya's next Chief Justice". Business Daily. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  3. ^ "BREAKING NEWS - Kenya's First Female Chief Justice on the Brink, Lady Justice Martha Koome". The Kenya Forum. 27 April 2021. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  4. ^ "PROFILE: Meet Martha Koome who is set to be Kenya's first female Chief Justice". Citizentv.co.ke. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  5. ^ Wanja, Claire (14 April 2021). "Lady Justice Martha Koome faces JSC panel for CJ post". KBC | Kenya's Watching. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  6. ^ https://www.the-star.co.ke/authors/jillo-kadida. "CJ hopeful Koome: How peasant daughter from Meru rose to become Appeal Judge". The Star. Retrieved 27 April 2021. ((cite web)): External link in |last= (help)
  7. ^ "JSC Shortlists 13 Women For Deputy Chief Justice Position". The Kenya Forum. 14 July 2016. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  8. ^ "Martha Koome, Philip Murgor among 13 applicants for CJ post". Citizentv.co.ke. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  9. ^ a b Mboga, Jael (3 May 2021). "LSK questions JSC's decision to settle on Justice Martha Koome for Chief Justice job". The Standard (Kenya).
  10. ^ Cheruiyot, Kevin (30 April 2021). "CJ nominee Martha Koome threatens to sue Havi for defamation". The Star (Kenya).
  11. ^ Mboga, Jael (30 April 2021). "CJ nominee Martha Koome puts Nelson Havi on the spot". Citizentv.co.ke.
  12. ^ Menya, Walter (21 February 2021). "LSK wrangles hand State headstart in selection of Chief Justice". Daily Nation.
  13. ^ News, Standard Digital, KTN. "Martha Koome threatens to sue LSK President Nelson Havi | INSIDE POLITICS WITH BEN KITILI". KTN News. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  14. ^ Goin, Chemutai (4 May 2021). "LSK boss Nelson Havi tells off CJ nominee Martha Koome over apology demand". Citizentv.co.ke.
  15. ^ "Why activist wants MPs to reject Martha Koome nomination as CJ". Nation. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  16. ^ "Why activist wants MPs to reject Martha Koome nomination as CJ | Nation". nation.africa. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  17. ^ Cornel, Ernest (7 April 2021). "Koome participated in judicial conspiracy, not fit to be CJ—Khalifa". MUHURI. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  18. ^ Muthoni, Kamau. "Koome: Judges saved Kenya from a crisis in 2017 elections". The Standard. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  19. ^ Okoth, Brian. "JSC picks Court of Appeal Judge Martha Koome for Chief Justice position". The Standard. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  20. ^ "President Kenyatta submits Martha Koome's name to Parliament for vetting". Citizentv.co.ke. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  21. ^ PLC, Standard Group. "Parliament to vet Martha Koome on May 13TH as she threatens to sue LSK's Nelson Havi for defamation". The Nairobian. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  22. ^ "JLAC approves nomination of Martha Koome for appointment as Chief Justice". Citizentv.co.ke. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  23. ^ "Parliament approves nomination of Koome as Chief Justice". The Star. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  24. ^ Njeru, Betty. "President Uhuru appoints Martha Koome as new Chief Justice". The Standard. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  25. ^ Vidija, Patrick. "Meet Chief Justice Martha Koome's husband and children". The Standard. Retrieved 22 May 2021.