bank notes

Statute vs Statue: when judges become art critics

Kenya’s constitution says that the currency of that country ‘shall not’ bear the 'portrait' of any individual. So, when new bank notes were issued earlier this year, depicting the Kenyatta International Convention Centre with Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, clearly distinguishable, seated alongside the building, the question arose whether the new notes were constitutional. Two of the presiding judges felt they had to solve the legal conundrum by deciding whether the bank notes bore a ‘portrait’ of Kenyatta  - or if it was just a picture of a statue.

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The sharp-eyed petitioners in this case were former MP and now legislator in the East African Assembly, Simon Mbugua, with the director of Kenyans for Justice and Development, Okiya Okoiti. They challenged the constitutionality of the new bank notes for their depiction of the man regarded as the founder of modern Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta.

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