Court of Appeal judge Martha Koome is steps away from making history by becoming Kenya’s first female Chief Justice pending vetting by Parliament. The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has in the past two weeks held extensive interviews in the search for the president of the Supreme Court before announcing Justice Koome as the nominee for the post on Tuesday, April 27. Speaking to a local publication after her nomination was announced, Koome assured that she would uphole the integrity of the office. “You are in safe hands and I thank God you prayed for me,” she was quoted by the Standard.
This was her second attempt to take on the position after an unsuccessful bid to succeed CJ Willy Mutunga in 2016. An important component to help one secure an applicant a post is winning the confidence of the selection panel, something the judge is said to have managed to accomplish in her six-hour grilling session. She is also said to be the most relied upon to mend fences between the Judiciary and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration. In her interview, Koome stated that the issue of the appointment of the 41 judges ought to be addressed stating that she would even engage the president to seek a resolution over the stalemate. “Even if it has been tried before, I am not the one who did so I would try again,” she stated during her interview.Being a Judiciary insider also played to her advantage as she is seen as the most competent person to deal with corruption issues in the Judiciary.
“She also has the muscle to fight corruption and cartels in the Judiciary,” a senior judicial officer was quoted by People Daily. According to insiders, Justice Koome emerged as the front runner among three other top candidates winning by a slim margin. The government may have played a major role in tilting the outcome of the process as JSC vice-chairperson Prof Olive Mugenda chaired the panel, together with Felix Koskey, Patrick Gichohi (Public Service Commission), Macharia Njeru (Law Society of Kenya) and Attorney General Paul Kihara Kariuki. Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President lamented over the outcome of the interviews, claiming that Senior Counsel Fed Ngatia had been given 42 marks by one of the commissioners. Koome’s non-combat style of handling matters was also viewed as a strength in mending the relationship between the government and the Judiciary.
Following her nomination by JSC, Senior Counsel Philip Murgor congratulated the judge on her accomplishment. “I take this opportunity to wholeheartedly congratulate Justice Martha Koome for her nomination by the JSC, and assure her of all my support in her onerous responsibilities,” he stated.
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