Kenya set to appoint first female Chief Justice
Kenyan judge Martha Koome is on track to be the first female chief justice in a country where the role is particularly sensitive.
Koome has defended dissidents and helped to write women’s rights into the country’s constitution
A child of subsistence farmers, she was chosen by a judicial panel over the lawyer who argued President Uhuru Kenyatta’s case in a 2017 battle with the Supreme Court that she will now head.
Kenyatta endorsed her and his legislative majority means she is set to be confirmed by the end of this month.
Koome, who has 33 years of legal experience – cut her teeth representing political detainees such as former Prime Minister Raila Odinga when he protested against repression under the late President Daniel Arap Moi in the 1980s and 90s.
“She played a key role in the fight for the second liberation from the authoritarian regime of President Moi,” a lawyer and former legislator, Priscilla Nyokabi, said.
One of 18 children in a polygamous family, Koome co-founded and chaired the Federation of Women Lawyers, which campaigns for women’s rights and offers poor women free legal services and contributed to a landmark 2010 constitution.
The bill of rights outlawed discrimination against women, allowed children to derive citizenship from their mothers for the first time and limited discriminatory customary laws on women’s property rights.
Now 61, Koome, who is married with three children, will be the first female head of any Kenyan branch of government. She often discusses her Christian faith and airs views at odds with the deep conservatism of much of the church and society.
Edited by Olajumoke Adeleke