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It’s time African lawmakers ditched their colonial wigs

We love to talk decolonisation in Africa and yet somehow we managed to miss the fact that in several African countries, lawyers and judges still wear those ridiculous white wigs that our colonial masters brought over a couple hundred years ago.

This week the Washington Post’s Kevin Sieff asked why so many lawyers and judges in Africa still keep up the tradition 50 years after the British left the continent.

According to Sieff, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Malawi, Uganda and other former British colonies are all still holding onto the R86 000 horsehair wigs. “The wigs and robes are perhaps the most glaring symbol of colonial inheritance at a time when that history is being dredged up in all sorts of ways,” he wrote. And we agree.

Many African leaders are vocal about the colonial thievery of the British empire and how it continues to steal from the continent through trade agreements weighted in its favour. But they don’t have much to say about the empire’s legacy in their courts.

A Ugandan lawyer, Augustine Niber, told Sieff removing the colonial attire would reduce the “intimidation and fear that often characterise our courtrooms.” So basically, the wig is meant to instill the fear of the colonial masters into the people.

Arnold Tsunga, director of the International Commission of Jurists’ Africa office said “the colonial system used law as [an] instrument of repression, and we’re still maintaining this tradition without questioning it.”

Horsehair wigs have been used in British courts since the 1600s, but in the UK they’re now only used on ceremonial occasions. And yet, here in Africa, it’s a thing. Isn’t it time we decolonised African courts?

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons
1 Comment
  1. Henry Price Jr. says

    comrades I do agree they should ditch those wigs. To keep them show low self-esteem comparable to low self-esteem far to many Buntu women have been conditioned to except when it comes to hair. In both cases they are embracing a system that intent is not to show their beauty or/plus well being. those are conditions designed to for others well being plus somewhat exploit Buntu. To accept plus honor such system as something special is clearly embracing of low self-esteem. What we should be doing is going natural or/plus designing plus embracing a system by us for us with intent to promote our beauty or/plus intelligence. We should alter acts we blindly commit which are exploitive of us. Correcting that error will put Buntu on a positive road in a such a dynamic manner that it is impossible to predict all good will come. Of course there will be some economic adjustments some will have to make to doing something more useful but these cleverly exploitive conditions should not have ever existed in Buntu community plus would not have if we had been doing what is in our best interest. Fortunately in these matters it is not to late to act in our best interest. Very much sincere, Henry Price Jr. aka Obediah Buntu IL-Khan aka Kankan aka Gue.

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