The trio: Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court, Deputy Chief Justice and Chief Registrar are all women, a positive development that thrusts the country into global gender limelight
NAIROBI, Kenya: Justice Martha Koome recently took oath of office as the Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya and President of the Supreme Court, succeeding former Chief Justice David Maraga who officially retired early this year.
The Judicial Service Commission had forwarded her name to President Uhuru Kenyatta after weeks of rigorous televised interviews where she competed and won, flooring some of the country’s best legal brains.
Chief Justice Koome is now deputised by Philemona Mwilu, who has maintained her post after serving under former CJ Maraga and Anne Amadi, who has served as Chief Registrar since 2014.
The trio, are now the new face of Kenya’s judiciary.
Here is the new CJ’s full speech on being sworn in office:
SPEECH BY JUSTICE MARTHA KOOME ON BEING SWORN
IN OFFICE AS THE 16TH CHIEF JUSTICE OF KENYA AND
THIRD PRESIDENT OF THE SUPREME COURT OF KENYA
Your Excellency, the President of the Republic of Kenya and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces;
The Hon Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya; The Right Hon Former Prime Minister, Hon Raila Odinga;
Her ladyship Hon. Philomena Mbete Mwilu, the Deputy Chief Justice of the Judiciary, all my colleague Judges of the Supreme Court and other courts and the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary;
Hon Cabinet Secretaries present, Governors, MPs and distinguished guests, who include my dear family, present to witness this historic event as I take the oath of office as the Chief Justice of this great Republic.
I STAND HERE with great humility and gratitude to the Almighty God; to the people of Kenya, who exercised their sovereign power through the JSC that nominated me; to the people’s representatives at the National Assembly who approved my nomination; and to your Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces for graciously witnessing my solemn oath of office today.
THIS IS ALSO A MOMENTOUS occasion that is witnessed by many with joy and hope not only because I am the first woman in Kenya to take this oath of office, but because every time a woman, a member of marginalized group or a person living with disabilities breaks a barrier they hold space for the dreams and hopes of others. I have travelled this long journey but it was not lonely because I walked the path of other women trail blazers who went before me. After many trials, I can confidently say the path is now well defined and easier for others to travel after me. I am the first but certainly not the last.
I HAVE TAKEN THIS OATH of office with utmost solemnity and have internalized each and every word that l have uttered therein seriously. These are important words, which we often refer to as guiding principles. They are: impartiality, independence, fairness, power to protect the Constitution, to render service with integrity and competency among others. This oath will constantly remind me that this power is entrusted to me as the servant of the people, to work with others towards ensuring justice is done; that it is dispensed expeditiously without fear or favour or undue regard to technicalities.
YOUR EXCELLENCY, ladies and gentlemen, the weight of responsibility that now falls on my shoulders in the role of Chief Justice of Kenya cannot be understated. It is a heavy one, but it becomes lighter because it is a shared responsibility. It is a shared responsibility because justice works through a chain which runs through all branches of government and is as strongest as its weakest link. At the end of the chain is the Judiciary, but we cannot work when the chain is broken. We must restore coordination and focus to the justice system and that requires renewed commitment to working together as co-equal branches of government.
This transition offers an opportunity reset the working relationship and to build on existing systems to strengthen the delivery of justice along the entire justice chain. Kenyans don’t care which of the arms of government is the weakest link they simply want justice and as government we must work together to improve the delivery of service to Kenyans.
THE EXECUTIVE has the duty to ensure budgetary allocations that supports the functions of the Judiciary; that court orders are obeyed and implemented; and that the investigations and prosecution of cases are undertaken efficiently. The Legislature has a mandate to make law and oversight other branches including approve the nomination of the Chief Justice. The Judiciary’s role is to adjudicate conflicts based on the Constitution and the law to promote peace and prosperity. Resolution of conflict however, doesn’t mean that all parties are satisfied, but our constitutional democracy requires that those dissatisfied with legal rulings pursue the matter through the judicial process and legal channels. As we continue to encourage legal resolution of conflict and
enforcement of court orders and judgements we will create an enabling environment for dignity and sustainable development.
WHEN I APPEARED before the August House for vetting and approval of my nomination, I was put to task to explain how the Judiciary can remain independent and work in harmony with other arms of government without compromising its independence. I had no difficulties to state that the independence of the Judiciary in decision making and in hiring of staff is protected and ring fenced in the Constitution: such that any party or authority attempting to direct how the Judiciary should decide a matter would be in violation of the Constitution. I also had no difficulties to state that as the Judiciary, we are accountable for the resources entrusted to us. We are accountable for every hour and every day of work as well as all other resources entrusted to the Judiciary.
MY CLARION CALL TODAY is for everybody to bear their own weight and for each of us individually and institutionally to become champions for justice, by playing our constitutionally mandated role in a timely manner and in cooperation with each other. When everybody bears the responsibility for justice from individuals to institutions, we promote resolution and reconciliation and can avoid the pitfalls that lead to unceasing conflict and endless litigation.
In our daily endeavour
- Let us embrace the various methods of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms;
- Let us live by the values that avoid conflict; that leads us to see each other as equal members of the society; a human being and a child of God deserving a second chance; and
3. Let us seek and practice Ubuntu.
PLEASE JOIN ME TODAY in becoming a Justice Champion, a citizen who stands up for what is right for themselves and others, so we can build a fair and just society whose foundation is the Rule of Law and our Constitution.
Hon. Lady Justice Martha K. Koome, EBS HON. THE CHIEF JUSTICE AND PRESIDENT OF THE SUPREME COURT OF KENYA