List of 5 African countries with female CJs
Lady Justice Martha Koome is bound to enter historical books in Africa to become the first female Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya following a recommendation by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for the post.
Her nomination was announced on Tuesday by the interim chair of JSC, Professor Olive Mugenda.
“After lengthy deliberations and careful consideration of various candidates, the JSC has unanimously recommended the appointed of Hon. Lady Justice Koome Martha Karambu, Judge of the Court of Appeal as the Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya,” said Prof. Olive Mugenda in a press briefing at the Supreme Court.
Her name will be forwarded to President Uhuru Kenyatta who will forward her name for approval by the Parliament.
While her nomination to the post of Chief Justice marks a first for Kenya, various other African countries have appointed female Chief Justices.
In 2019, Nemat Abdullah Khair became one of a small number of female judiciary heads in Africa, following her appointment to the position by the ruling Transitional Sovereignty Council.
According to Africanews, Khair went on record to head the Judiciary in the Arab Muslim nation which has in the past been accused of enabling former President Omar El-Bashir’s regime to suppress dissent and lock up opposition figures.
Ethiopia’s premier, Abiy Ahmed appointed Meaza Ashenafi in November 2018 to become the first female President of the Supreme Court.
Ashenafi founded the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association, EWLA.
Lesotho’s Nthomeng Justina Majara became the first woman to hold the office of Chief Justice in 2014
‘‘I’m notorious for being a very firm person. Nobody would want to intimidate me simply because I’m a woman.’‘ said Majara as quoted by Africanews.
Irene Mambilima has been Zambia’s Chief Justice since 2015. She had served as Deputy Chief Justice since 2008.
Prior to her appointment as CJ, Mambilima was the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Zambia.
In 2015, Hon. Dr. Mathilda Twomey became the 7th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Seychelles. In 2011, she became the first female judge in the history of the Indian Ocean island-nation.
Unlike many African leaders who seek extensions of a constitutionally-mandated limited term of office, Seychelles’ CJ Twomey, honoured her commitment to just one five-year term and stepped down from office.
Threat against female leaders
In her opinion piece, Legal Columnist and the Editor in Chief of the Newsletter of the Judicial Institute for Africa at UCT Carmel Rickard, says women hold top office in just a tiny number of countries. And yet most of these already few women are under scrutiny, facing threat of impeachment or prosecution.
“It is a remarkable fact that, of the southern and east African countries whose decisions we have been writing about recently, women are under scrutiny, facing threat of impeachment or prosecution.
She pointed out this to the fact that in 2018, Seychelles’ CJ, her counterpart in Lesotho – Judge Nthomeng Majara faced an impeachment inquiry, just when prosecution charges were being brought against Kenya’s deputy CJ, Philomena Mwilu.