Tanzanians applaud Kenya’s first female Chief Justice

A cross section of Tanzania’s human rights defenders and gender activists have acclaimed Kenya for setting the precedent by having the first female Chief Justice.

Judge Martha Koome (61) was yesterday announced by Kenya’s Judicial Services Commission (JSC) as the best candidate out of ten applicants vying for the post, after she outsmarted other candidates.

After her announcement by JSC, her name was forwarded to President Uhuru Kenyatta for approval, before being submitted to the parliament for further vetting.

The move was received well in Tanzania as a cross section of renowned gender activists praised Kenyans for the “wise selection” of the soon-to-be Chief Justice.

“This shows the fights for gender justice and gender equality have begun to bear some fruits and the truth is, it becomes possible when there are women who have raised to that level and they are not given the post as a favor, but based on merit. It is important to have a transparent process and let women and men compete on merits. With a gender sensitive society, we shall see more of these,” said Dr. Hellen Kijo-Bisimba, one of Tanzania’s top gender activists.

Tanzania’s former MP, Susan Lyimo, received the news with high expectations that the new CJ Martha will make Kenya a land of equal rights to everyone and that she will do very well to ensure justice in Kenya is paramount.

“Because of the fact that seeing is believing, the people of Kenya have seen how women performed over the past years, then they have decided to take them as role models. I remember how Martha Karua, Charity Ngilu and other women worked so hard in their positions. This alone made many Kenyans believe in women,” she added.

Former permanent secretary and MP Ruth Mollel said: “Superb, it is about time. We are breaking the glass ceiling slowly but surely. I am thrilled.”

Tryruckia Mfinanga, another Tanzania human rights defender and gender activist, praised the move by saying the selection of Judge Martha for the post shows that Africans have started valuing brains, experience and ability, instead of picking males for almost all high positions.

“Women are key to the new breed of lawyers who would offer East Africa the opportunity for strong human rights, democracy and truth; its high time to choose leader by observing their integrity and patriotism which, most of the time are found in women than their counterparts, the men,” she added.

A former Tanzania’s intelligence officer exiled in Scotland, Evarist Chahali wrote on his Twitter account: “How Kenya got the new Chief Justice should serve as a highly useful lesson to my beloved Tanzania.”

Media leader and activist Rosemary Mwakitwange was a bit unconventional, saying it was great for Kenya to have learnt from Tanzania.

She said it was Tanzania that had set the precedent by having the first female House Speaker, Anna Makinda, and then first female president, Samia Suluhu Hassan. Kenya has followed suit, she said.

But she emphasised that because of what was already happening, the East African Region was experiencing the “wind of change.”

“We showed the way. What is happening in Kenya, and with the calibre of the CJ Kenya is about to have, it signifies a big change in the whole of East Africa, given a seriously shrinking civic space that our counties have been experiencing lately. This one is a step ahead.”

Lawyer Matojo Cossata came in with a point of view of the “Judiciary and Kenyan politics,” saying: “Bad news to William Arap Ruto, Tangatanga Fraternity, and Wheelbarrow Movement and Hustlers Nation.

“With Martha Koome nominated as Chief Justice, it goes without saying that Gema Nation effectively controls all three Pillars of the Government of Kenya with Judiciary controlled by Meru in the name of Koome, National Assembly by Embu in the name of Muturi and Executive by Kiambu in the name of Kenyatta.

Muranga is expected to deputise the next President of Kenya as Deputy President through Peter Keneth.

“So, it is bad news to William Ruto and Tangatanga Fraternity as at the end of the day “Kikuyu always face Mount Kenya” as they faced Mount Kenya through County Assemblies as they approved BBI in massive numbers.”

The expected new Kenya’s CJ, was first appointed a high court judge in 2003. She is well-known in the civil society movement and has been a fierce defender of human rights, especially women and children’s rights.

Koome holds a Master of Laws in Public International Law from the University of London (2010), a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Nairobi (1986) and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Law from the Kenya School of Law.

SAUTI KUBWA followed a live interview through KTN on April 14, for the CJ post. Koome was asked to imagine the challenges she would face if chosen Kenya’s first female Chief Justice, and illustrate how she would manage them.

In response, she said: “I believe the challenges are similar, whether it is a male or female CJ. It will be historic for the Commission to nominate a woman for the Office of [the] Chief Justice. Leadership is gender-neutral. It doesn’t require a man or woman. It is skills that will deal with the challenges we face. You need managerial skills because you will be overseeing various things.”

With Martha becoming CJ, she joins a list of other female professionals currently running Kenya’s legal fraternity.

These are the other top bosses and their positions: acting CJ (Philomena Mwilu), acting President Court of Appeal (Wanjiru Karanja), Principal Judge, High Court (Lydia Achode ), Principal Judge, ELRC, (Maureen Onyango), Judiciary Chief Registrar (Anne Amadi); Registrar, High Court (Judy Omange), Registrar Supreme Court (Esther Nyaiyaki), and Registrar JSC (Frida Mokaya).