In what might be the silliest editorial I have read this year, Peter Mwaura of the Daily Nation (sub req.) provides a how-to-dress guide for would-be defendants in Kenyan courts. He writes,
Attending court is serious business. You must always create the right impression in front of a judge. And never wear sunglasses. Those are for mobsters or pretenders.
And whoever you are, for the love of God, don’t wear a leather jacket. That flags a criminal, a law breaker, a con man, a member of a criminal gang. Jeans and short dresses are also inadvisable for women.
Wear clothing that you are comfortable in. If you look nervous and shifty in your clothing, the judge will notice and draw his own conclusions.
Look serious, reasonable, modest and ordinary. Don’t call attention to yourself by the way you dress.
Granted, there is nothing wrong with what he writes, but he prefaces it with a discussion of how judges act capriciously by sentencing defendants who dress “inappropriately” more severely. A young woman who appeared in front of a judge dressed in trousers, for instance, was judged a “mkora” (criminal) and received a harsher sentence.
Now, I would like to dismiss his article as an April Fools prank, except it is dated 4/5/2008.
I do think his article is symptomatic of some incredibly irresponsible reporting in the mainstream Kenyan press. An article that could potentially have afforded a critique of the class biases of our justice system and the almost criminal capriciousness with which Judges make their decisions becomes, instead, a call for readers, and potential defendants, to become normative and respectable in their dress.
Why is a structural and systemic critique so difficult for our article writers? Why do they write and publish the most annoying, irrelevant stories?