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House team to vet Koome for Chief Justice position

By Grace Ng'ang'a | May 12th 2021
Justice Martha Koome at the Supreme Court on October 16, 2016. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) will on Thursday vet Lady Justice Martha Koome for the position of Chief Justice.

The committee chaired by Kangema MP Muturi Kigano will cross-examine the judge to assess her suitability to head the Judiciary.

She was nominated by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and her name approved by President Uhuru Kenyatta after emerging top among nine other candidates interviewed for the post.

In a letter dated April 28, the president asked National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi to fast-track the vetting.

President Kenyatta also attached the required documents including the original copy of the JSC report on the recruitment and selection process for the CJ and Justice Koome's Curriculum Vitae, which were forwarded to JLAC.

The committee will write a report after vetting the judge and table it in the National Assembly.

“This was submitted in line with the provisions of Article 166 (1) of the Constitution which provides and I quote: The President shall appoint the Chief Justice and the Deputy Chief Justice, in accordance with the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission, and subject to the approval of the National Assembly,” Muturi said.

Some of the questions that Koome will answer include an affidavit by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Nelson Havi where he suggested in a memorandum that she was not suitable to succeed Justice David Maraga at the Supreme Court.

From the submissions, Havi had questioned Koome’s handling of three cases arguing that she was influenced by nepotism, favouritism and improper motive ruling in favour of the executive.

The cases mentioned were the one between the National Cereals and Produce Board and Erad supplies in 2012, a night sitting of the Court of Appeal on the eve of the repeat presidential election in 2017 and an appeal by LSK on the election of its male representative.

She will also be expected to answer concerns by activist Khelef Khalifa on reasons she was among judges who ordered the suspension of a High Court ruling on the eve of the repeat election in 2017.

Khalifa who accused the three of, among other things, issuing the ruling without giving him a chance to reply claimed that they sat to hear the matter after the designated office hour.

High Court Judge George Odunga had declared that all the 271 returning officers and their deputies were illegally appointed just a day before the 2017 repeat presidential election however, Court of Appeal judges Koome, Fatuma Sichale, and Erastus Githinji suspended the order and the elections went on.

“I believe that the Hon Justice Martha Koome through her conduct in judicial proceedings before her in which I was a party has demonstrated disregard for the rule of law and administration of justice,” read the affidavit in part.

The public had until yesterday to submit their written statements and supportive evidence on the suitability or otherwise of Koome.

Should she pass the vetting she will become the first female CJ in East Africa and the sixth in Africa.


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