By Vincent Odhiambo | Lady Justice Martha Koome was today vetted by the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) for the position of Chief Justice following her approval by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Justice Koome said fighting corruption will be on her top most agenda if approved by parliament. Having admitted that corruption still remains a systemic big problem in this country. She called for collaboration with other government organs including the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to ensure the judiciary is free from corruption.
“The services that we render must engender confidence in Kenyans. We’re paid to render services and therefore no member of the public should pay a judicial officer for anything,” said Justice Koome.
The Lady Justice also added that she would work together with the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ), the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), the police and other stakeholders to determine corruption cases that have stalled in the courts.
“We are now embracing technology and we can be able to proceed with these cases and the same way we complete election petitions within six months we can be able to complete these corruption cases if we all work together towards ensuring that the earliest justice and our country is secured and protected from corruption.”
Asked about the principles of gender equality, equal opportunity and ethic balancing Justice Koome who will be Kenya’s first female Chief Justice if approved said her approval would not only be a milestone to the achievement of the 2/3 gender rule requirement but she would ensure these principles are met.
If approved, Justice Koome will bring the membership of the Supreme Court bench to 3 women and 4 men. Currently at the magistracy level, there are more female representation of 52% compared to men representation at 48 percent. However, there are fewer female judges at 39% with the majority being men.
“The whole outlook of the government, the three arms of government will be gender compliant because one arm of the government will now be headed by a woman ,therefore ,these principles will be complied with”
Justice Koome also weighed in on land issues that have seen more innocent Kenyans suffer after being evicted from their homes. According to the lady justice, there’s a need for collaboration with Parliament and hinted at coming up with an Act of Parliament or more regulations towards addressing land issues.
“Balancing those public interest matters and the interest of citizens requires all of us to come to a round table meeting and discuss the best way if evictions have to be effected, how do they get evicted.”
The lady justice also added that she’s against lowering of the age of sexual responsibility as the country is currently battling early child marriage and there’s no hurry to lower consent age which is internationally recognized.
The Judicial Service Commission (JSC), nominated Justice Koome on April 27, after 2 weeks of grueling interviews. The Commission unanimously settled on Koome from 10 candidates who were shortlisted and screened.
Last month in a letter dated April 28, President Uhuru Kenyatta asked National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi to fast-track the vetting. The National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) led by Kangema MP Muturi Kigano now has 28 days to report its findings to the House.