Kenya is set to get a new chief justice, as Martha Koome becomes the first woman to head the country’s judiciary.

Koome is to be sworn in on Thursday and takes up the role at a sensitive time, amid tensions over a failed attempt to bring about constitutional reforms.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday assented to the nomination of Koome, after this was approved by parliament.

Koome, who beat nine other applicants, is to head the judiciary for a 10-year term.

She succeeds retired chief justice David Maraga, who is remembered for a landmark ruling in 2017 that annulled Kenyatta’s electoral victory for a second term, triggering a repeat election.

Koome will lead the judiciary through what is expected to be a tight election in 2022.

Judicial fairness has been a highly controversial topic in Kenya.

Earlier this month, the high court annulled an attempt to amend parts of the constitution to expand parliamentary and executive structures, among other things.

The initiative, fronted by Kenyatta and his rival Raila Odinga, was crafted following tensions after the disputed 2017 elections, and was touted as a way to seal the country’s tribal divisions.

The court’s decision to derail the initiative was greeted as another hallmark of judicial independence.
Koome, known for her passion for children and women’s rights, has held several roles in the high court and the court of appeal.

Last October, she received a Runner-up Award as UN Kenya Person of The Year 2020, in recognition of her advocacy for the rights of children in conflict with the law as well as child victims.