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Objection to Kenyatta statue on notes driven by malice, partisanship

By Alexander Chagema | Jun 6th 2019 | 4 min read

There is a battery of lawyers out there on Social media. Whether they are quacks or the genuine items, both hold opinions that are at once brilliant and dumb. But then, law as a discipline is equally brilliant and dumb; so dumb that to confuse us poor mortals, most of it is written in a dead language - Latin.

Why would lawyers read from the same script and see different things? What is the need for a string of courts established in the order of superiority; each of which endeavours to prove the lower court incompetent in matters of interpreting the law, yet the ‘incompetent’ continue to draw salaries?

Why would the law have a clause like; “Any law inconsistent with the Constitution is void to the extent of the inconsistency”? Why should there be inconsistencies in the first place?  It is a jumbled jungle and that is why everybody is a lawyer. So, what the heck! Let me join them.

Suddenly, the term ‘demonetisation’ is on everybody’s lips. This follows a caveat by Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge that the old Sh1,000 notes will become obsolete on October1, 2019.

The blanket application of the terminology is such that it gives the impression Sh1,000 notes will be pulled out of circulation. Sensationalists in their woolly headed enthusiasm are determined to whip emotions by propagating untruths, for in reality, the Sh1,000 note is still legal tender.

Scant respect

What baffles is the zeal exhibited by those vehemently opposed to the new look notes, particularly because they feature the statue of Kenya’s founding President, Jomo Kenyatta. Others argue that Kenyans were not consulted.

The finer points of the Constitution regarding the minting of money have been raised by individuals who have demonstrated scant respect for the same Constitution behind which they now want to hide to stymie efforts to fight corruption.

Some leaders who routinely pilfer public money, despise Chapter Six and misuse their positions in parliamentary committees are now acting all holy and puritanical.

I recently initiated discourse on the new notes at the office and when I asked several of my colleagues to tell me what images are on the old notes, none of them could. Neither could I. Why, then, are some people so obsessed with what is on the new notes? What is depicted on the currencies, as long as it does not diminish the value, is neither here nor there. If the notes are legal tender and show the value, they might as be all red or white.

Realistically, people are not in the habit of admiring images on notes, the expediency is in exchanging the money for other valuable items. So far, none of those opposed to the new notes has given a rational argument except nefarious claims that old Jomo messed up this country, or that the ‘constitution says’. The whole objection is centred not on any demonstrable principle, but on hatred, bitterness and the itch for public attention.

The statue

Our Constitution largely borrows from the American one. While at it, therefore, we should be willing to imitate most of the values of the US constitution and customs.

If the $100 features the image of Benjamin Franklin- a founder statesman, we might as well have the statue of Kenyatta on our currencies. Well, even the rupee has the image of Mahatma Gandhi.

Where Franklin was instrumental in drafting the Declaration of Independence, Kenyatta was in the drafting the Lancaster House constitution.

The Constitution expressly forbids the use of a portrait on currencies, it does not talk about statues, yet what we have on the new notes is the statue of Kenyatta. KICC, which is prominently featured on all notes is incomplete without the statue of Jomo as much as a portrayal of the High Court is incomplete without the Hamilton Fountain Statue.

The constitutional call to ‘consult’ on national issues is for aesthetics. It exists to cover a word count in a document cobbled together as a compromise between warring parties pressed for time. Holistically, it is impractical to consult 45 million plus Kenyans on anything.

How can anyone claim to have consulted Kenyans when millions of them in Northern Kenya don’t even know they are in Kenya, and this, because government presence is hardly felt there? It would just take a few bright Johnnies going to court to dispute that they have been consulted on a weighty national matter to expose the farce that consultation is.

So, if MPs represent the wishes of the people of Kenya because the constitution says we donated power to them, why not just let the charlatans be ‘consulted’ on our behalf on matters as touchy as what should be on the currency notes?

Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The [email protected]


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