CJ Martha Koome quotes US VP Kamala Harris: ‘I am the first, but not the last’
Kenya’s CJ Martha Koome, who was sworn in on Friday, paid tribute to other women who she said were trailblazers having walked the path ahead of her.
In her maiden speech, CJ Koome quoted US Vice President Kamala Harris saying: “I am the first, but certainly not the last.”
“I am the first woman in Kenya to take this office but because every time a member of the marginalised group breaks a barrier, they hold a space for the dreams and hopes of others,” she said.
CJ Martha Koome stated that it is now easier for other women to follow in her footsteps since the ‘path is now well defined’ making it easier for other women to follow suit.
My warmest congratulations to Lady Justice Martha Koome as she becomes the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of Kenya. Women's equal representation in legal systems is integral to achieving fair, just, and inclusive societies. #WomenLeaders #Kenya
— Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (@MaEllenSirleaf) May 19, 2021
She spoke about the oath of office that she took at State House, Nairobi saying the weight and responsibility that falls on her 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 the branches of government and it is as strongest as its weakest link. At the end of the chain, it is us the Judiciary, but we cannot work when the chain is broken,” CJ Koome said.
I congratulate Hon. Lady Justice Martha Karambu Koome on her appointment as Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya.
— David Maraga (@dkmaraga) May 21, 2021
She said there is need to restore coordination and focus to the justice system that requires renewed commitment to working together as “co-equal branches of government.”
The CJ intimated that she has taken time to internalise the oath of office and said the President had repeated it to underscore its significance.
“These are important words which are often referred to as guiding principles: impartiality, independence, fairness, power to protect the constitution, to render service with integrity and competence,” she said, adding that the oath would constantly remind her that power is entrusted to Judicial officers “as a servants 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.”
Africa’s female Chief Justices
For the first time in history, Kenya’s Judiciary has three female leaders at the helm: CJ Martha Koome, her Deputy Philomena Mwilu and Chief Registrar Anne Amadi.
In Africa, there are five other countries that have appointed a female CJ for the first time in their history:
- Nemat Abdullah Khair (Sudan)
- Meaza Ashenafi (Ethiopia)
- Dr. Mathilda Twomey (Seychelles)
- Irene Mambilima (Zambia)
- Nthomeng Justina Majara (Lesotho)
- Christine Nzeyimana (Burundi)
- Manassa Danioko (Mali)
- Lucia da Luz Ribeiro (Mozambique)