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Case challenging new currency referred to Chief Justice

High Court judge said the case is weighty and referred it to be heard in a panel

In Summary

• Judge says the case raises serious questions of law and should be heard by a bench.

• Activist is suing CBK for ‘sneaking in’ portrait of founding President Jomo Kenyatta on notes.

The deadlock on whether the new currency notes released by CBK should have portraits will be determined by a three-judge bench.

Kenyans are divided as to whether the Central Bank of Kenya should have used the picture founding President Jomo Kenyatta in the new notes launched during the Madaraka Day celebrations.

Activist Okiya Omtatah on Monday challenged the decision to include the Funding Father’s portrait on the notes, arguing that it violates Section 231 (4) of the Constitution that bans the portraits of individuals.
“Notes and coins issued by the Central Bank of Kenya may bear images that depict or symbolise Kenya or an aspect of Kenya, but shall not bear the portrait of any individual,” the law says.

In his ruling, Justice Weldon Korir said the case filed by Omtatah raises serious questions of law that should be determined by a three-judge bench.

He said the case was weighty and referred it to Chief Justice David Maraga to empanel a bench.

Omtatah wants the court to bar the CBK from circulating or giving effect to the new generation Kenyan currency banknotes launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta and the governor of the Central Bank on Madaradka Day on Saturday last week.

 Symbolism of retaining portrait of Kenyatta on notes reinforces ‘falsified and highly embellished association of the history of Kenya with the family of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’.
– Activist Okiya Omtatah

Omtatah says contrary to the Constitution which decrees that Kenyan currency banknotes shall not bear the portrait of any individual, each new generation Kenyan currency banknote bears a prominently displayed portrait of the late President Jomo Kenyatta.

According to the activist, by putting a picture of his full statue which is erected in front of the Kenyatta International Conference Centre on every note, the CBK simply used an architectural masterpiece to sneak the portrait of Jomo Kenyatta onto the new notes.

“There are several architectural perspectives that could have been used to present the KICC-tower, amphitheatre and podium without dragging the statue of the late President Kenyatta to the foreground,” he argues.

Omtatah says it was the people’s express wish during the Constitution review process to disassociate imagery on Kenyan money with any individual.

He says the symbolism of retaining the portrait of Kenyatta on the notes reinforces the “falsified and highly embellished association of the history of Kenya with the family of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.”

“Especially when it is constantly reinforced in the subconscious by the association of the Jomo Kenyatta with the country’s currency, money being something valuable to the cherished and protected.”

Omtatah has also accused CBK of lying that the currency was issued vide the Gazette Notice May 31 as “no such Gazette notice exists at the government printer and a copy of the Kenya Gazette published on May 31 does not contain a notice issuing the currency.”

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