Pomp as Koome takes over as Chief Justice
Bernice Mbugua @BerniceMuhindi
Police mounted a guard of honour to welcome new Chief Justice Martha Karambu Koome to the Assumption of Office ceremony at the Supreme Court Building attended by dozens of her peers.
She appeared astounded as she inspected the parade before taking the red carpet to the dais acknowledging salutations from judges bedecked in their official robes and wigs.
Justice Koome was handed instruments of power by Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, who had been the acting CJ for 162 days.
The instruments include the Constitution of Kenya (2010), Judiciary emblem and a status report on initiatives by the Judiciary.
Koome was welcomed to the venue by Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi, Supreme Court judges and other judicial staff with Kenya Police Band in their element.
Retired Chief Justice David Maraga, Attorney General Kihara Kariuki, Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji, vice chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission Olive Mugenda and Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi attended the event.
Others at the colourful ceremony were former Cabinet Minister Martha Karua, former deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza and Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Nelson Havi.
Mwilu gave an emotional speech welcoming her new boss cautioning Koome that the Judiciary is not an “easy place” to be in but advised her to seek God’s guidance.
“The interviews are all over. At the interviews, you were judged by a mere eight commissioners of the JSC.
From today, the whole 50 million plus Kenyans will be on your case. Kenyans can be harsh in their judgement. But it is expected,” said Mwilu.
“We will hold you to the rule of law and Constitutionalism. We will demand accountability and much more. Today henceforth, the rubber meets the road. Buckle up and lead us,” added Mwilu, who asked her colleagues to support the new CJ.
“I preach my unqualified support for you if ever you will need it. I shall undertake all legitimate and lawful assignments that you will assign. I shall help you do the right thing if you require me to assist you,” she said.
Mwilu advised her new boss not look at herself as a woman but a judge, saying justice was “neither female or male.”
“I am pleased to welcome Martha Koome to the helm of the Kenya Judiciary. The Constitution 2010 is your roadmap. It is your Judiciary Chief Justice. Ni wewe mwenye kusema,” said Mwilu.
Maraga, who spoke on behalf of the retired judges, said women were more gifted than men.
“Ladies are able to multi-task more than men and we have to accept that. Chief Justice Koome you and I have come a long way I know you have served this country in very many capacities and this now is an opportunity to serve as the CJ. It is a very demanding office but you are equal to task,” he said.
The retired CJ asked Koome to keep reminding everybody that “constitutional power is constrained power”, which requires the various players to keep to their lanes.
Maraga urged Justice Koome to seek’s God’s guidance in all her undertakings as she had entered a very demanding office.
“I know you are a prayerful woman and when you pray, you will get things done. Please keep reminding all of us that constitutional power is constraint power,” Maraga stated.
New judges stalemate
Prof Olive Mugenda, who was the interim JSC chair during the interviews, urged CJ Koome to explore all avenues to have the delayed appointment of 41 judges finalised. She noted that it is now nearly two years since the JSC made the nominations and the Judiciary was facing a shortage of judges.
Kenya’s first High Court judge Effie Owuor excited the guests while narrating how the Judiciary looked like when she joined it as the first female judge.
“There were no toilets for women and the Chief Justice had to give up his toilet to make peace between me and male judges,” she told the guests.
Justice Owuor congratulated Justice Koome and acknowledged that her achievement was proof that society had accepted that “women can do it”.
She further recounted the arguments which prevailed then regarding which title to give a female judge.
“Some lawyers would refer to me as “My Lady” in a cheeky way and I would refuse that title, telling them I wasn’t their lady, it might disappoint somone somewhere... but it has become a situation that society has accepted,” Owuor explained.
She encouraged Justice Koome to serve the country without fear or favour as Kenyans have not misplaced their trust in having a female President of the Judiciary.
Justice Kariuki and Lusaka pledged their support and urged her to dispense justice without fear.
Koome, the first woman to become a Chief Justice in the country described her nomination for the post as “momentous”.
In her speech, Koome, who was accompanied by her husband and children, paid glowing tribute to women pace setters such as Priscilla Abwao, who was the first woman to serve in the Legislative Council in 1961, Grace Onyango who was the first woman MP and Nyiva Mwenda Kenya’s first female Cabinet minister and Owuor saying she had walked on their shoulders.