Women Chief Justices
Click below to read our background paper:
Her Ladyship Chief Justice: The Rise of Female Leadership in the Judiciary in Africa
Chief Justice, 2021-
Martha Koome was born in Kithiu village, Meru County, Kenya in 1960. Her parents were peasant farmers. She received her LLB from the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and attended the Kenya School of Law in 1987, where she graduated with distinction and was then called to the bar. She received her LL.M in Public International Law from the University of London in 2010.
Koome’s career began at Mathenge and Muchemi Advocates as a legal associate. She soon opened a law firm that became one of Kenya’s most successful women's law firms. As an astute lawyer, she represented and defended persons charged with politically instigated offenses during the one-party rule of President Daniel Arap Moi in Kenya.
Koome was appointed as a Commissioner to the African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of Children by the African Union Heads of States in 1995. Additionally, she served as Chairperson of the National Council on the Administration of Justice special task force on children matters and led discussions on the review of the Children’s Act.
In 2003, President Mwai Kibaki appointed Koome as a judge of the High Court, where she headed the family, environmental, and land division for eight years. During her active years as a High Court Judge, she also sat in satellite courts to clear a backlog of cases. Her excellence and hard work earned her an appointment as a Court of Appeal judge in 2012, the same year she was elected as the Chairperson of the Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association.
On April 14, 2021, Koome was shortlisted and interviewed publicly for the position of Chief Justice. She demonstrated a deep understanding of legal and social issues and proved to be a formidable candidate for the role. After being presented with her name, the President referred her to the Kenyan Parliament for vetting and approval. On May 19, 2021, the Parliament approved of her appointment and President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed her Chief Justice, making her the first woman to become a Chief Justice in Kenya.
Chief Justice, 2020-
Turks and Caicos
Mabel Agyemang has had an illustrious career in the judiciary within three Commonwealth jurisdictions working as a superior court judge. Mabel Agyemang received her undergraduate degree at the University of Ghana and attended the Ghana School of Law. Immediately following her graduation, Agyemang was called to the Ghanaian bar in 1987. She entered private legal practice from 1987 to 1991 before joining the judiciary of Ghana, where she worked in the judicial circuit and served in many different jurisdictions during her tenure.
In 1996, Agyemang became the Vice President of the Association of Magistrates and Judges of Ghana, which she continued to serve in until 2000. It was in 2002 that Agyemang was elevated to the High Court in Ghana. She left her position in the Ghanaian court system to work for the Commonwealth Secretariat. The Commonwealth Secretariat is an association of 54 different countries originally rooted in the British Empire. Its mission is to support mission countries to enable collaboration for global challenges including, those of civil and criminal justice reform. It is in this area of the Commonwealth that Agyemang worked as an expert to the judiciaries of The Gambia and Swaziland as a High Court Judge from 2004 until 2014.
In 2013, Agyemang was appointed to become the first woman Chief Justice of The Gambia, though she was only able to fill the position for a year until 2014. In 2014, she left The Gambia after the President of The Gambia unlawfully terminated her services because Agyemang was attempting to reform the judicial system. She returned to her native Ghana after this removal and was sworn in as a Justice of the Court of Appeals until 2020.
In April 2020, she was appointed by the Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands to become the Chief Justice of the Turks of Caicos Islands, a position to which she is bringing her years of experience in the judicial field.
Nemat Abdullah Khair
Chief Justice, 2019-
Nemat Abdullah Khair is the Chief Justice for the Supreme Court of Sudan who serves as the head of the Sudanese judiciary. She is the first woman to serve as the Chief Justice for Sudan. She is originally from the state of Gezira in Sudan and was born in 1957. For her education, Khair went to Cairo University to receive a Bachelors in Law. Following her graduation, she became a member of the Sudanese judiciary in the 1980s. She worked in the Court of Appeals and the Court of First Instance in Sudan before joining the Supreme Court. She is also the founder of the Sudanese Judges Club. Khair was confirmed as the Chief Justice of Sudan in October 2019 after being selected by the Transitional Military Council and the Forces of Freedom and Change alliance.
Lúcia da Luz Ribeiro
President, Constitutional Court, 2019-
Lucia da Luz Ribeiro was born in 1963 in Maputo, Mozambique. Initially, Ribeiro received her Portuguese Language Teacher certification from the Faculty of Education of Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM) in 1984. Ribeiro returned to school to obtain her law degree from UEM in 1994. Ribeiro also attended the Polytechnic University of Madrid to obtain her master's in business law. She then trained in Legal Counseling for Companies at the Polytechnic University of Madrid.
Following her attainment of a law degree, she began serving as a professor at UEM and has continued to do so since 1994. Additionally, she became a legal advisor for the Minister of Public Works and Housing, a role she filled from 1995 until 2003. Ribeiro served as a founding member of the Bar Association of Mozambique.
In 2003, Ribeiro became the President of the Jurisdictional Council of the Mozambican Bar Association. She then became the Director of the Faculty of Law at UEM from 2003 to 2004. She began her tenure as a judge on the Constitutional Court in 2003. Additionally, she is a member of the Women’s Law and Development Association, the Mozambican Association of Women in Legal Careers, and the Child, Family, and Development organization. She has concurrently been an associate researcher at Women and Law in Southern Africa and operated as a legal advisor for both government and private institutions in Mozambique.
She was elected as the President of the Constitutional Court in Mozambique in 2019 and currently serves in this position. Additionally, she received her PhD in law from the Faculty of Law of UEM in 2019.