Nairobi: Kenyan police fired tear gas to scatter demonstrators protesting yesterday against plans by members of parliament to award themselves big pay rises as a "severance package" before December elections.
Dozens of protesters rallied by a grassroots group, the Civil Society Task Force on Grand Corruption, tried to reach parliament, blowing whistles and waving placards denouncing the move to grant legislators another 1.4 billion shillings (Dh77.8 million). Police blocked the road outside and later fired several tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd as legislators drove into the building in luxury saloons and four-wheel-drive cars.
"Down with members of parliament, down with the thieves of taxpayers' money," some protesters shouted. Amid the mayhem, police arrested five leaders of the march and detained them at parliament's police station. "This is not the end, we shall go on protesting until this plan [pay rise] is shelved," Geoffrey Birundu, a protest organiser, told Reuters at the scene.
Kenya's legislators are widely viewed by ordinary Kenyans as greedy, selfish, and lazy. In 2003 they quadrupled their salaries as their first order of business. Since then, they have rarely been able to raise the quorum of 30 out of 222 MPs, except when their own compensation has been up for debate. Members of parliament contacted by Reuters declined to comment before the Bill is tabled in parliament, which is expected to happen soon. Under the proposed bill, the lawmakers will receive 12.5 per cent of their annual earnings, backdated to January 2003.
"It is criminal that what 222 MPs want to award themselves per month is what a worker in the industrial area works for 10 years to earn. Raw greed indeed," the protestors said.