Kenyans have staged a protest in the capital Nairobi against a vote paving the way for members of parliament to be paid $110,000 send-off bonus, with money expected from tax increases.
Demonstrators marched on Tuesday after parliament dismissed the majority of wage demands of striking public sector workers, including doctors and teachers – yet it approved the lucrative pay off which will cost the country $24.7m.
A worker earning the national minimum wage would take 61 years in order to earn the amount the MPs have voted to pay themselves.
“It is totally ridiculous for the MPs to award themselves such an amount of money,” said Morris Odhiambo, who helped organise the demonstration.
The demonstrators, carrying placards with messages such as “MPs are thieves” and “greedy hyenas”, marched through central Nairobi to parliament.
“We want them to know that the public mood is against this unjustified increment,” said Robert Alai, another of the organisers.
Kenyan legislators are already some of the best paid on the continent, with a tax-free monthly salary of some $13,000.
Each of the 222 members and the speaker would get $110,800 as a sendoff package at the end of their current term.
“How come our teachers had to strike for three weeks to get a salary hike, yet within a single sitting the MPs could easily increase their remuneration,” Odhiambo asked. “So where is the two billion shillings going to come from?”
The proposed golden handshake – which must still be ratified by President Mwai Kibaki – comes after the finance ministry has already proposed tax rises to pay for public sector wage increase demands.
Rights groups, including Transparency International and the Kenya Human Rights Commission, said in a joint statement the move was “extremely disturbing” and broke constitutional rules.
The statement called on Kenyans to let legislators “know that they are not willing to foot the cost of their greed.”
Raila Odinga, Kenyan prime minister, has said he is “against the MPs’ gratuity bonus”.
Kenya is due to hold in March 2013 the first general election since deadly post-poll violence four and half years ago.
Kenya’s government was propped up by some $270m in foreign aid in 2010-2011, according to official figures, and faces a $1.6bn deficit in the year ahead.