Kenya looks into appointing first female chief justice
Published: May 06, 2021 06:53 PM
Kenyan judge Martha Koome has defended dissidents and helped to write women's rights into the constitution - now she's on track to be the first female chief justice in a country where the role is particularly sensitive.

A child of subsistence farmers, she was chosen by a judicial panel over the lawyer who argued President Uhuru Kenyatta's case in a 2017 battle with the Supreme Court that she will now head.

Kenyatta endorsed her and his legislative majority means she is set to be confirmed by the end of this month. That makes her likely to be in place during 2022's elections, when Kenyatta must step down after two terms in office.

In 2017, the Supreme Court annulled initial election results that showed Kenyatta had won a second term, the first African court to have scrapped the win of a sitting president. Kenyatta won the rerun after the opposition boycotted the vote.

Koome - who has 33 years of legal experience - cut her teeth representing political detainees such as former prime minister Raila Odinga when he protested against repression under the late president Daniel Arap Moi in the 1980s and 90s.

"She played a key role in the fight for the second liberation from the authoritarian regime of President Moi," Priscilla Nyokabi, a lawyer and former legislator, said.

One of 18 children in a polygamous family, Koome cofounded and chaired the Federation of Women Lawyers, which campaigns for women's rights and offers poor women free legal services and contributed to a landmark 2010 constitution.