Justice Koome Takes Charge: Will the patches in the Judiciary get fixed?
Friday, 21st May 2021 is a day that’s going to stay in the hearts of many Kenyan women for the longest time. Generation after generations, history will be tied with vows of courage, bravery, determination and the zeal to pursue untouchable heights, of an iron lady from Kithiu village, Meru County, Chief Justice Martha Karambu Koome.
Holding the highest legal office in Kenya and being the President of the third Arm of government – Judiciary, CJ Koome will be revered as a ‘true womanpower’ that Kenya has been missing for over 57 years of independence. Congratulating Koome upon her swearing-in, President Uhuru Kenyatta said he was honoured that the ascension of the first female head of the Judiciary occurred during his tenure.
With every wind of change, there is relief. With every ascension to power of women in our community, it is our belief in equal right and equal opportunities for all in the nation of Kenya.
“I am singularly honoured to be the first President to swear in the first female Chief Justice. Justice Ouko, both of you [with CJ Martha Koome] have grown in the Judiciary system, there’s nothing I can teach you [about the rule of law]. All I ask from you is for justice to be done and we won’t have a problem with you,” said President Kenyatta.
The President who has shown a lot of trust in Koome, gave her the task of playing within the constitution by making sure the sanity of the judiciary system goes back to it’s initial prestigious position. The CJ showed a lot of humility and trust that the new mantle wouldn’t bear much heaviness on her.
After taking the oath of office, Justice Koome vowed to uphold the Constitution of Kenya, in an event witnessed by Attorney General Kihara Kariuki, Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu and the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi, among others.
She came first in a highly contested recruitment process done by the judicial service commission (JSC). In a message to the President late last month, JSC showed their satisfaction in Justice Koome after carrying out a rigorous exercise that was criticized later by many. Justice Koome has become the latest phenomenon in town as seen by the many congratulatory messages being poured on her on social media by Kenyans and fellow women in leadership position across the continent.
Led by the former president of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who congratulated Justice Koome for reaching the top most ladder despite being a woman.
“My warmest congratulations to Lady Justice Martha Koome as she becomes the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of Kenya. Women’s equal representation in legal systems is integral to achieving fair, just, and inclusive societies,” wrote the former head of state.
In Kenya, Martha Karua showed trust and confidence the new CJ by assuring her that the desire of upholding the rule of law by many Kenyans are on her table, and she has so much to deliver after making history by being appointed as the first woman in the biggest office.
She wrote, “Congrats to CJ Martha Koome upon her appointment and oath of office. Much is expected of her and I wish her well and pray that Gods grace be upon her to serve with dedication & to remain steadfast to her oath of office. Chief Justice Martha Koome has made history as the first female Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya, this being the first time a woman heads one arm of government. A very significant stride on the journey to meritocracy & equality especially for the women of Kenya.”
A remarkable number of Kenyans also stormed all social media platforms just to show their love on the new CJ. This positivity among Kenyans come with enough hope that the judiciary will now take shape and some of the loop holes that were being seen can be fixed as first as possible.
The relationship between the Executive and Judiciary although independent of each other, the business community and a thriving society has had the expectation of mutual support and cross checking of each other. Upon this appointment, Kenyans, East Africans and indeed the world is holding their breath for the best in the coming days.
Her predecessor Chief Justice David Maraga who retired early this year also sent his well wishes message to Justice Koome and wished her, as SHE embarks on serving the Nation.
“Chief Justice Martha Koome, as you begin your tour of duty, I wish you all the best as you serve Kenyans in this important capacity,” said Maraga.
It should be remembered it’s during his tenure that the current government was on the brink of being rendered obsolete. In a number of instances, Maraga would be seen having a clash with the executive arm of government for going against the law and performing an insubordination of court procedures with ignorance.
In 2020, former Chief Justice David Maraga decried what he termed as the “calculated devaluation of the Judiciary and its officers.” He criticized the Executive for its stance on the appointment of judges, the numerous court orders yet to be complied with and accused the State of trying to show supremacy over the Judiciary.
“They are trying to control the Judiciary. They want to make us puppets. Some CSs are saying I will go before the year ends, kumbe hii Kenya ina wenyewe. I don’t serve under the mercy of anybody,” said Maraga.
During the tenure of Justice David Maraga, the Judiciary repeatedly decried low budgetary allocations by the Treasury which forced it to abandon some of its projects. But, it wasn’t lost to observation that bad blood between and the Executive had a role in the enmity, what with the President having had declared that “we shall revisit” after the Supreme Court annulled his victory in the 2017 elections.
The appointment comes in only a week after the high court declared the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) null and void. Led by Justice George Odunga, the five bench court declared that the President violated Chapter six of the constitution on Leadership and Integrity, for attempting to change the Constitution through the unconstitutional process of the BBI.
While the President and former prime minister plan on appealing on the matter, the course of Justice Koome is prime to meet a huge number of heavy hurdles yet tougher than her predecessor. However, in a mirrored reflection, her deputy lady justice Philomena Mwilu has been part of criticism and has quite experienced the heavy storms with former CJ Maraga.
It’s quite a bargaining period for all women in the country. As we consider her as our New Chief Justice, with our confetti of love messages, it’s yet another time to allow her to settle for the tough course ahead of 2022 general elections.
Compiled in Mombasa, Kenya.