What you need to know:
- Five African countries have led the way in letting women hold the highest office in the Judiciary - Chief Justice.
- Since independence, however, Kenya has never had a female in that capacity.
Kenya is in the process of recruiting a new Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court. Since independence, the country has never had a female in that capacity with the highest position being that of Deputy Chief Justice currently held by Lady Justice Philomena Mwilu.
Across Africa, however, five countries - Lesotho, Seychelles, Sudan, Zambia and Ethiopia - have led the way in letting women hold the highest office in the Judiciary.
Nthomeng Justina Majara, Lesotho
In 2014, Majara was appointed the chief justice of Lesotho, making her the first woman to hold the position. In 2018, Maseru government petitioned her removal on grounds of abuse of office. Justice Majara contested arguing that the government found her to be politically unsympathetic. She was suspended and Maseforo Mahase another woman, took her place in acting capacity.
Dr. Mathilda Twomey, Seychelles
Dr Twomey was the first female judge in the history of Seychelles and also the first woman to be appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Seychelles. She served from August 2015 to September 2020 and is noted to have taken on the highest case load of a Supreme Court judge and restored judicial timeliness, efficiency, and transparency in the Southern African Chief Justices Forum.
She is said to have “completed 17 per cent of all of the cases completed in the Supreme Court (Civil and Criminal).” She is also the first female judge in the country, having been sworn-in non-resident judge in 2011.
Irene Mambilima, Zambia
The 68-year-old was appointed in 2015, rising from chairperson of Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), where she served twice between 2005 and 2015.
She has a connection with Kenya having been on election observer missions to Kenya.
A profile on Zambia's Judiciary's website, shows a judicial officer who has steadily rose through the ranks. The Master’s degree graduate of University of London served as Deputy Chief Justice from 2008 to 2015.
She joined the Judiciary as a Commissioner of the High Court in 1985, upon her graduation with an undergraduate in law from University of Zambia.
Later as a Judge of the same Court. She was thereafter deployed Judge-in-Charge of the Lusaka High Court. She later became, Judge-in-Charge of the High Court Commercial List. In 2000, she was appointed to act as Judge of the Supreme Court and was ratified in 2002.
Meaza Ashenafi, Ethiopia
In 2018, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed appointed the 57-year-old Ashenafi to the position, making her the first female federal Chief Justice of the country.
She is a gender equality advocate and has founded Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association to provide pro-bono services to women unable to afford a legal defence. She is also the co-founder of Enat Bank, a financial institution whose focus is on empowering women economically.
Nemat Abdullah Khair, Sudan
As it is, Ms Khair is the newest female chief justice having been appointed in 2019. She is also the first woman to head the judiciary of an Arab country.
In a communication from Transitional Sovereignty Council, which announced her appointment, the 64-year-old is to address "corruption cases and other cases."
Transitional Sovereignty Council is an 11-member body constituting of military leaders and civilians. Sudan is an Arab Muslim country, one of the nations without explicit laws on ending female genital mutilation.