, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 8 – Human rights activists held a peaceful demonstration in Nairobi on Thursday to protest the proposed hefty pay increase for Members of Parliament.
The demonstrators first converged at Uhuru Park\’s Freedom Corner before they marched to Parliament through Uhuru Highway with placards rebuking the legislators.
Some chanted slogans of "Wezi, Wezi, Wezi [thieves, thieves, thieves]" as they approached the Parliament buildings.
Officers from the Central Police station escorted the nearly 500 demonstrators and cleared the way for them, in some instances stopping vehicles at junctions to give them way.
"This is just the beginning. We want these MPs to know that it is immoral and criminal to keep increasing their salaries at will," Morris Odhiambo, the President of the National Civil Society Congress which organised the protests said.
"We want a new Constitution to pass so that they [MP\’s] can stop taking Kenyans for a ride," he added.
Most of the protestors carried placards and twigs as they marched through the streets while chanting slogans as others shouted at motorists and passers-by urging them to join in the demonstration.
"This is a war we should all fight. It is our money… it is our taxes they are misusing, you people should stop pretending and join us," one protestor shouted.
Organisers of the protests said the peaceful march was aimed at heaping pressure on Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta not to endorse the proposed pay increase for MPs salaries as recommended by a report which Parliament adopted last week.
At the Parliament buildings, they found the main gate locked and were asked to deliver a copy of their petition to an official representing the Speaker of the National Assembly.
After a brief argument with police officers at the main gate, the protestors finally handed over the copy of the petition and vowed to organise more demonstrations soon.
"We have handed over our petition to an official but we know the Speaker is afraid to face us, we will still come back here very soon," Mr Odhiambo said.
The five-page petition highlights six major reasons why the MPs should not award themselves a hefty pay.
These include poverty, inflation, high domestic debt, high rate of unemployment, Budget deficit and governance and public expenditure management.
"Therefore, your petitioners demand that the request for salary increments be rejected forthwith," part of the petition read.
The protest came a day after National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende termed as \’premature\’ the public outcry over the proposed perks. He said the adoption of the report last week did not complete the process as the specific laws must be amended.
"At this point it is premature to talk about MPs having their salaries or allowances increased because they have not been," he said.
There has been persistent public outcry over the new perks that if implemented will make Kenyan legislators among the best paid in the world.
Once implemented, an MP\’s monthly pay (basic salary plus allowances) will increase to Sh1.2 million while the Speaker would earn Sh2.8 million up from Sh1.5 million according to the proposal tabled in Parliament on Wednesday last week.
The Prime Minister and Vice President would be the biggest beneficiaries and could earn hefty salaries amounting to Sh3.2 million and Sh2.7 million respectively following recommendations by the Parliamentary Service Commission.
The Commission\’s report proposed that the Speaker be entitled to a sitting allowance of Sh30,000 up from Sh10,000 while MPs will take home Sh10,000 up from Sh5,000 per session.
"What must follow before those recommendations are implemented is the passage of the requisite legislations by Parliament and then if found appropriate assented to by the President," the Speaker said.
The new perks had originally been proposed by a tribunal that was headed by former Court of Appeal Judge Akilano Akiwumi. The PSC however reviewed the Akiwumi proposal upwards.
Despite the public pressure to abandon the new perks Mr Marende defended the proposals saying they emanated from the recommendations of an independent tribunal.
"In commissioning the review what the House did was invoke the law, to review their remuneration and this as you are aware came from the concern that MPs were not paying taxes," he said.
The Speaker said the legislators were within the law to review their perks in a bid to cushion them as they comply with public demands that they pay tax on their hefty allowances.