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CB Madan Awards: A beautiful legacy of honesty, simplicity and work well done


In a December 2015 piece that was published in The Nation, Dr Franceschi, Dean Emeritus – Strathmore Law School  wrote that “Heroes are often forgotten. In the good old days, they would join the roll of the forgotten more or less soon after death. Our modern generation has changed this. Nowadays heroes are forgotten long before they die. Kenya has a good number of unsung heroes; hidden champions who moulded the country’s history and every so often prevented its imminent collapse.” The purpose for quoting this reminiscent piece? He was reminding us of one such unsung hero, a valiant soldier for the rule of law whose relatively brief tenure as Chief Justice was marked by radical changes in the Kenyan legal system.

“Before his retirement upon reaching the statutory retirement age of 74 years, Mr. Justice Chunilal B. Madan bestrode the Kenyan judicial landscape with unequalled brilliance. A short soft-spoken man whose gait betrays Gandhian frailty as he strolls from a coffee house in the City Centre to his Prudential Building office. Justice Madan nevertheless has left a legacy that the men and women he has left in the Bench will be eager to emulate.” This is the opening narration of Gitobu Imanyara’s 1987 piece in the Nairobi Law Monthly.

A one of a kind culture

Borrowing inspiration from the former Chief Justice and in his tribute, Gitobu Imanyara would then go on to promote the C. B. Madan Prize, a prize for legal excellence, to celebrate some forgotten unsung heroes in the legal profession. This birthed a-one-of-a-kind culture which begun almost a decade ago, the #CBMadanAward and the CB Madan Memorial Lecture, to memorialize one of Kenya’s greatest Chief Justices.

The C.B. Madan prize is awarded annually by The Platform for Law, Justice and Society – Gitobu’s intellectual, engaging legal magazine, in partnership with Strathmore University. It is then presented to an individual or group who has made a significant effort to advance the cause of constitutionalism and the Rule of Law in Kenya. This year’s Madan Prize award ceremony, the ninth, was hosted by Strathmore Law School at the Microsoft Auditorium.

Courtesy of top Law firms in the region such as Coulson Harney, KN Law LLP, IKM, Anjarwalla & Khanna, Muma & Kanjama, DENTONS HH&M, Nyiha Mukoma, TripleOKLaw, and Ngatia Associates, the function also feted outstanding Strathmore Law School personalities through the 2021 Student Awards that featured: Mdathir Issa, Fenan Estifanos, Sharon Adhiambo, Bertha Mary, Mariam Hiba Malik, Evelyn Kerubo, Benazir Ahmed, Sharon Ndunge, Tracy Nduta, Vianney Sebayiga, Amelia Achieng, and Bradley Simiyu.

Prof. Karuti Kanyinga, renowned particularly for his extensive research and publications on land rights; civil society and development; ethnicity and development; and electoral politics and development, delivered the C. B. Madan Memorial Lecture.

2021 C.B. Madan Prize Laureate

At the Tuesday ceremony, graced by Justice Mohammed Ibrahim of the Supreme Court among others, Chief Justice Martha Koome was named the 2021 C.B. Madan Prize Laureate in recognition of her efforts in defending the rights of children and vulnerable persons in society. Her son made a witty, hilarious and nostalgic introduction of the CJ while her daughter, and husband, later joined her for a ‘group’ family photo.

During her acceptance of the award, Lady Justice Koome said that she shared the heart-warming spirit of the award with others who have dedicated their lives to pursuing social justice and the advancement of the rights of the vulnerable.

“The law can serve as an instrument for egalitarian social change in society. This is what informed my activism in my days in private practice and at FIDA-Kenya in the 90s where we harnessed the normative power of the law to fight for the protection of women’s rights,” she said adding that it is this concern that drove her work on the rights and welfare of children as a Commissioner of the African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of Children and Chairperson of the National Council on the Administration of Justice Special Taskforce on Children’s matters.

She challenged those in the legal profession to be “Agents of Justice” while making reference to her agenda as Head of the Judiciary themed Social Transformation Through Access to Justice. The Chief Justice termed law as an effective tool in protecting and advancing the interests of marginalized groups and the most vulnerable.

“The ‘Social Transformation through Access to Justice’ vision for the Judiciary aims to optimise service delivery and open the doors of justice to all, especially the vulnerable in our society,” she concluded.

We challenge the awardees and laureate to continue being at the forefront of upholding CB Madan’s beautiful legacy; one of honesty, simplicity and work well done. A legacy worth emulating!


This article was written by Francis Kabutu. 


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