Angry demonstrators in Kenya have marched to parliament to protest about a huge bonus members of the country’s legislative assembly have voted to award themselves. The bonus of more than $105,000 each is to be paid when parliament breaks up ahead of elections due next March.
Police used teargas canisters to disperse the demonstrators who were marching along Nairobi streets to protest hefty the send off bonus that MPs have awarded themselves. Anti-riot police confronted them near the Office of the President where they had camped demanding that the president rejects the proposal.
The officers lobbed teargas canisters at the group forcing them to disperse. This prompted a brief chase and panic along Harambee Avenue as police ran after the protestors in a bid to disperse them from the road. An officer in the squad said the protestors were blocking the traffic flow but some of the demonstrators denied the claims saying police had been misled into dispersing them. Organisers of the demo said they wanted to pass a message to the MPs that their move was not welcome. They went ahead with their protest before dispersing at Parliament Buildings where they addressed journalists.
The revelation about the send-off bonus for the 222 MPs has angered many people, coming as it does after strikes in the public sector. Kenyan lawmakers are among the highest paid MPs in Africa, receiving a salary of about $10,000 (£6,200) a month. The parliamentary bonus was passed late on Thursday night last week as part of a last-minute amendment to the Finance Act.
The MPs monthly wages will now be KShs 850,000 ($9,982), of which $2,350 is taxed. In addition, they will also get a ‘sitting allowance’ of $25 for each appearance in parliament and another ‘sitting allowance’ of $25 is paid for each parliamentary committee meeting attended
When the current parliamentary term comes to an end before the next elections, the MPs will be given a one-off bonus of more than $105,000. Early this year, the Kenyan parliament was fitted with brand new seats costing an estimated $3,000 each. According to the AFP news agency, someone earning the minimum wage in Kenya would have to work for 61 years to earn the equivalent of an MP’s proposed bonus.
In September all schools were closed for three weeks and public hospitals only took emergencies as demands were made for better pay and working conditions.
A BBC reporter in Nairobi reported seeing a large crowd that stopped traffic on the main road outside President Mwai Kibaki’s office at State House, Nairobi. They then marched towards parliament and camped outside, chanting “mwizi”, the Kiswahili word for ‘thief’, when any MP drives by. “When you look at the situation the country is in right now, we have problems with teachers, we have problems in the health care sector. It is just selfish, it is unpatriotic and plain stupid,” one woman at the demonstration told the BBC.
Boniface Mwangi, one of the organisers of the march who earlier this year joined activists to paint murals in the city portraying MPs as vultures, called for a “ballot revolution” to get rid of avaricious politicians at the next election. He told the BBC the send-off package was “like a thank you token for doing nothing”. The change to the Finance Act still needs to be signed into law by Mr Kibaki – who stands down as president next year after two terms in office.