JSC nominates Martha Koome as Kenya's next Chief Justice

JSC nominates Justice Martha Koome as next Chief Justice

What you need to know:

  • During her interview, Justice Koome said she will be banking on her experience as an insider of the Judiciary to transform courts.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has unanimously nominated Justice Martha Koome Karambu for the position of Chief Justice and forwarded her name to President Uhuru Kenyatta for appointment.

Ms Koome was among 10 candidates interviewed by the JSC over the last two weeks.

The other candidates were Justice Said Juma Chitembwe, Prof Patricia Mbote, Justice Marete Njagi, Philip Murgor, Justice Nduma Nderi, Fred Ngatia, Justice William Ouko, Dr Wekesa Moni and Alice Yano.

"Our duty was to select the best candidate and that's what we have done," Prof Olive Mugenda, who chaired the interviews, said on why the JSC will not release the scores for each candidate.

Prof Mugenda also announced that interviews for a Supreme Court judge to succeed Jackton Ojwang, who retired, will resume on May 3. She said all the candidates will be notified immediately of the dates when they will face the panel.

AG Kariuki grills Justice Martha Koome for position of Chief Justice

First woman

If appointed by the President, Justice Koome will become the first female Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya

During her interview, Justice Koome said she will be banking on her experience as an insider of the Judiciary to transform courts.

Justice Koome, who appeared before the JSC as the third candidate to face the interviewing panel, said her wealth of experience – locally, regionally and internationally – would come in handy in solving the teething problems facing the courts.

The Court of Appeal Judge, who boasts of over 18 years’ experience in the Judiciary, said that her priorities, should she get the job of Chief Justice, would be to reduce the backlog of cases by facilitating the appointment of additional judges and magistrates, help operationalise the Judiciary Fund to promote its independence, promote the use of technology as well as to build additional courts.

The women eyeing the Chief Justice seat

What she told panel

Here is a summary of what Justice Koome on several key issues during her interview:

On sexual offences and gender issues: The law supports patriarchal structures. The legal structure is dominated by patriarchy. Laws are made in Parliament and the dominant gender of Parliament is male. But we have come a long way, especially with the 2010 Constitution which outlawed discrimination. We need to nurture our youth. In cases where there was no violence, like the Romeo and Juliet cases where the age differences were not huge, a slap on the wrist for the suspects is sufficient. You shouldn’t be hit with a sledge hammer yet you’re only 19 and the crime isn’t violent.

Dilemma of 41 judges pending appointment: This one must be resolved through negotiations. One major problem I see is with perception of independence and interdependence. The Judiciary and Executive are interdependent. This is not a beauty contest of who is serving Kenyans better.

On corruption in the Judiciary and public perception: I can only speak for myself. The perception out there is that we are corrupt. If there are people moving out there bribing judges and magistrates, then we have structures that can deal with that. [We must] establish a communications department in the Judiciary that communicates judicial decisions to the public. We have to look at the current department and their ability to interpret judicial decisions.

On court orders that have seen the Executive accuse judges of judicial activism: Compliance with court orders is critical to the rule of law. What I see as a way out is for the National Commission on Administration of Justice (Ombudsman) to have an office to deal with compliance of court orders.

On technology to enhance justice delivery: I would get strong procurement processes and monitor value for money. My vision would be to continue with the transformation already happening.