Inside Martha Koome's Girls Club of Powerful FIDA Lawyers

  • CJ Nominee Martha Koome (center) alongside her friends and lawyer counterparts Judy Thongori, Nancy Baraza, Martha Karua, Muthoni (red)
    CJ Nominee Martha Koome (center) alongside her friends and lawyer counterparts Judy Thongori, Nancy Baraza, Martha Karua, Muthoni (red)
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  • Last week, a group of accomplished women made their way to the home of a Court of Appeal judge where they made merry and toasted to some good news that they had received earlier in the day. 

    A few of them avoided video cameras that had been set up by enthusiastic journalists, eager to get every detail. Others went onto speak on the record about the joy of having one of their own nominated for the position of Kenya's Chief Justice. 

    This was the mood at Lady Justice Martha Koome's Nairobi residence on Tuesday, April 27, a few hours after the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) made the historic announcement that it had nominated the first woman Chief Justice in Kenya. 

    Court of Appeal judge Martha Koome
    Court of Appeal judge Martha Koome
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    Koome's inner circle is a testament that one's network often translates to their net worth. 

    Her girl's club includes former presidential candidate Martha Karua, prominent divorce lawyer Judy Thongori, Kenya's first Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza, among others. 

    Many of those who celebrated with her at her moment of triumph were equally accomplished individuals - many of them female lawyers who have played a pivotal role in breaking the proverbial glass ceiling for Kenyan women. 

    The inner-circle was also a demonstration of the influence of the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA Kenya) in Koome's legal career. 

    The CJ nominee joined FIDA and was elected as its chairperson in 2001 before being elevated to become a High Court judge in 2003. During her reign, she led civil rights organisations in securing women's participation in the constitutional review process. 

    Court of Appeal judge Martha Koome appearing before the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on Wednesday, April 14
    Chief Justice Martha Koome appearing before the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on Wednesday, April 14
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    Karua, who is also a member of Fida, has been at the forefront of defending human rights in the country. She is regarded as one of Kenya's most influential female politicians in the country. 

    Thongori, on the other hand, is Kenya's only Senior Counsel who is a specialist in family law. She is a strong supporter of women's rights and is renowned for successfully suing the Kenyan government for not delivering 30 percent representation for women. 

    Thongori has taken on powerful individuals in divorce matters including Philip Moi in his divorce case against Rosa Pluda.

    "I am excited that we have a person in authority that deeply understands the family…If anybody can do it, I know she will," Thongori stated while speaking at Koome's home. 

    Another prominent counsel is former Deputy Chief Justice and prominent FIDA activist, Nancy Baraza. Baraza, also a former chairperson of FIDA, vouched for the new Chief Justice nominee as a passionate human rights defender. 

    "She has been in the judicial system for a while. Now, she will need to ensure that recommendations are implemented. I have no doubt she will implement the reforms," the former DCJ said. 

    Baraza became a member of Kenya's first supreme court after the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution. She served at the helm till her resignation in 2012. Baraza is the step-mother to Sauti Sol's Bien-Aime Baraza. 

    Another friend, Muthoni, also lauded Koome for her achievement. She noted in an interview with Citizen TV's media anchor Victoria Rubadiri that she served as an intern during Koome's tenure as FIDA chairperson.

    "I remember as a young girl listening to her and hearing about the important things that FIDA was doing for women's rights. So to witness the nomination is really indescribable," Muthoni stated.

    Further, Martha Karua, who is also an advocate, lauded Koome for her role in outwitting her competitors and bagging the nomination position

    "Congratulations to Honorable Justice Martha Koome on the JSC unanimous decision nominating her as the next Chief Justice.

    "This is not only momentous but also of great significance to the country. Wishing her the best in the confirmation process," Karua stated.

    Her nomination by the JSC and appointment by President Uhuru Kenyatta has brought about mixed reactions from fellow CJ candidates as some alleged an unfair judgement in appointing Koome for the role.

    “Four commissioners from Mt Kenya region reduced my scores after they were called by powerful people. Without that intervention, I was far ahead of all the other candidates,” Senior counsel Fred Ngatia disputed Koome's nomination. 

    Koome will be vetted by MPs on May 13 for her final quest to become the first female Chief Justice. Her strong advocacy for women's rights was highlighted during the CJ interviews by the JSC panel.

    Lady Justice Martha Koome while she delivered judgments and rulings of the Court of Appeal via Skype on April 24, 2020.
    Lady Justice Martha Koome while she delivered judgments and rulings of the Court of Appeal via Skype on April 24, 2020.