Martha Koome has been selected by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) as the new Chief Justice of Kenya taking from the tumultuous tenure of David Maraga. She is the first woman to be selected for the role and is set to be the third CJ of Kenya under the new Constitution dispensation. She is vocal in the fight against corruption which has earned her recognition both locally and internationally.
The Court of Appeal judge was up against some of the best judges and veteran lawyers in the country including Fred Ngatia, prof Patricia Mbote, Philip Murgor, Justice Marete Njagi, Alice Yano and Justice William Ouko. In 2016, she was unsuccessfully in her quest to be the deputy chief justice.
In 2020, she was named the UN Kenya person of the year runners up. This is due to her determination to fight for the rights of the vulnerable in the society, specifically children.
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She was born in 1960 in Kithiu village in Meru county to a poor family.
“I grew up in rural areas in Meru in a village so I am a villager to the truest sense. My parents were peasant farmers and we were 18 children from two mothers….,” she told The Star.
Upon completing high school, she was admitted to the University of Nairobi for a Bachelor of Law Degree due to her exemplary grades. She had never even thought of becoming a lawyer because growing up in the village there was no one to inspire her.
In 1986, she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Law and then proceeded to Kenya School of Law where she attained a postgraduate diploma in law in 1987, the same year she was admitted to the bar.
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In 2010, she graduated with a Master of Laws in Public International law from the University of London.
She started practicing law at Mathenge and Muchemi advocates where she worked for a number of years.
1n 1993, she opened her own law firm where she served as managing director until 2003. The same year, she was also elected as part of the council of the Law society of Kenya (LSK). She got this role at a time when democracy in the country was almost non-existent. During her tenure at LSK, she took special interest in Constitution and legal reforms. She was part of the reform movement that helped review the Constitution at the Bomas of Kenya. Together with others, she helped give birth to the 2010 Constitution.
In 2003, she was appointed a judge at the high court by former president Mwai Kibaki.
During her tenure at the judiciary, she served in different stations, such as Nakuru. While at the station, she led the Nakuru Law Court in starting a Court User Committee which is now a structure acknowledged in the admission of justice. In 2011, she joined the court of appeal.
Since becoming a judge, she was able to achieve a number of things including:
- Ensured litigants in far-flung areas of Kakuma and Lookichar got justice as she operated mobile court stations to make it easier for witnesses from far distances
- Reaching out to lawyers who give justice to juveniles which has led to the establishment of national legal aid
- Restoring the bar bench relationship in Kitale when she was posted there.
- Coming up with a tool to simplify the process of filing cases while working at the family division of the high court.
On 27th April 2021, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) announced that she had emerged the best candidate to become Kenya’s next Chief Justice out of the 10 people who applied for the position. This announcement was made by the JSC chairperson Olive Mugenda Tuesday evening. She is just one step away to becoming Kenya’s 16th chief justice.
Koome is married to Koome Kiragu and the two have three children.
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