Paper Money

Does statue on Kenyan note violate law prohibiting a portrait?

When Kenya’s new series of bank notes was introduced on June 1, much fanfare was made over the fact that they were the first ones issued in compliance with the country’s 2010 Constitution. 

The notes were strikingly different from their predecessors because the law prohibited notes and coins from bearing the portrait of any individual. Instead, the faces of the 50-, 100-, 200-, 500- and 1,000-shilling notes all have an image of the Kenyatta International Conference Center.

Kenya’s Business Today reported Aug. 6 that a local activist, Okiya Omtata, is suing the Central Bank of Kenya and its governor, Patrick Njoroge, for violating that provision of the Constitution. The accusation: Shown on the notes is a statue of Jomo Kenyatta that is 260 feet from the conference center tower. Kenyatta was the country’s founding prime minister and president. The statue was erected the day after Kenyatta officially opened the center on Sept. 10, 1973. 

The law prohibits the use of individual portraits on coins and currency. The bank and Kenya’s attorney general argue that statue is part of the KICC complex since they both stand on the same parcel of land. The bank’s lawyer added that “the image was considered and approved by the Cabinet and that there was adequate consultation before new generation currency notes were printed.”

A three-judge panel will issue its ruling Sept. 27.

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