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The wearing of white horsehair wigs by judges has been a part of the dress code for legal professionals.

Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo has warned against the level of ‘casualness’ among some judges in the country, and ordered all judges to henceforth wear wigs during court sittings.

Judges and lawyers who appear in courtrooms but are not properly dressed in the accepted dress code are termed ‘naked’, figuratively to denote bare.

“The Chief Justice has directed that with effect from 1st November 2017, all judges are to wear wigs during court sittings,” a memo to all judges from the Judicial Secretary, Justice Alexe Poku-Acheampong, stated.

Colonial relic argument

Some critics have in recent times questioned the wearing of wigs by lawyers and judges in our part of the world, claiming it is a glaring symbol of British inheritance.

Others have argued the wearing of the white horsehair wigs makes judges appear dreadful and feel uncomfortable, especially in the hot climate of Ghana.

A Ghanaian lawyer, Augustine Niber, has argued that removing wigs worn by judges would reduce the “intimidation and fear that often characterise our courtrooms”, the Telegraph reported.

Former Kenyan Chief Justice Willy Mutunga who described the wigs as “dreadful”, reportedly appealed for the country’s legal professionals to discard wearing it on the basis that they are a foreign imposition and not Kenyan tradition.

Wear wig to ‘be anonymous’

However, Ghana’s Chief Justice holds a different opinion on the debate and rather ensuring that the practice of wearing wigs in the courtrooms is enforced to preserve “tradition and uniqueness of the work of judges and the legal profession”.

In the memo sighted by 3News, the Chief Justice explained the decision to enforce the wearing of the wigs was taken to among other things, “provide the needed protection and anonymity for judges”.

She added it would enhance their personal security.

“It will help restore the formal nature of court proceedings and eliminate the creeping casualness in the system,” she said in the memo.

The Chief Justice has thus urged all judges to comply by being “fully attired in wigs and robes” with effect from November 1.

Ms. Akuffo however failed to state whether judges who flout the directive would be sanctioned.

By Stephen Kwabena Effah||Ghana

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.

Read more: It’s time African lawmakers ditched their colonial wigs

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