Out with colonial wigs and robes in Kenyan courts


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Whenever a new judge is appointed, somebody from the office of the registrar usually calls them to ask for their measurements for the robe and wig members of the exalted offices wear.
But the advent of a new era in Kenya’s Judiciary appears to have brought with it changes not only to its structure, with the creation of the Supreme Court, but also the dress code of its most senior officers.
It was not lost on observers that Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza were sworn in while wearing the suits they would have worn to their previous jobs.
The Chief Justice told NTV in an interview on Tuesday: “I would be perfectly happy to wear a robe that is a Maasai blanket.
“That’s Kenyan. My thinking is that we (members of the Supreme Court) wear suits and then design a robe that’s very Kenyan.”
He added that failing to wear the maroon robe and powdered white wig was neither an oversight nor a failure of the Judiciary tailor to finish stitching it up on time.
“I thought I was going to insult the President and the Prime Minister, who fought so hard to get the Constitution, if I showed up there (for the swearing-in) wearing colonial wigs and dresses,” Dr Mutunga said.
The CJ said that while nobody at State House appeared to have noticed that he was not in the robes, “the President was cool with it”.
The Chief Justice said he spoke with Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo about the dress code and they were in agreement it needs to change.
Dr Mutunga revealed he had held discussions with Ms Baraza and Supreme Court nominees Njoki Ndung’u and Mohammed Ibrahim.
They all agreed the red robes should go.
Dr Mutunga said designer and musician Joy Mboya, the executive director of The Godown Arts Centre, has volunteered to design the new gowns for that court.
Dress matters aside, Dr Mutunga spent part of Monday afternoon walking around the ancient building that houses the seat of the Judiciary, where he “saw that a lot needs to be done”.
Until the Nairobi Law Courts migrated to the bigger buildings last month, the building on City Hall Way was populated by lawyers, suspects and the public, with an odour often finding its way out of the basement cells.


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1 Comment
  1. Julia Kamau says

    Not a moment too soon.

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