First order of business for new Kenyan MPs: more money

2017-08-25 10:00
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Nairobi - Kenya's freshly elected lawmakers have yet to take their seats, but some have already irked voters by asking for higher wages - just weeks after a pay cut was introduced.

President Uhuru Kenyatta himself stepped into the row on Thursday, warning lawmakers to drop their "shameful" demands.

In July, the country's Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) gazetted a pay cut for all state officials, including Kenyatta, in a bid to slash its massive wage bill by 35%.

The state wage bill had been taking up 52% of GDP and Kenyan MPs are among the highest paid in the world.

Lawmakers were earning a basic monthly salary of $6 800 topped up with hefty extras such as a $50 "sitting allowance" just for showing up in parliament.

Under the changes however, new and re-elected MPs will now earn $6 000 per month - and some are not happy.

"There is a clear mission to demean MPs and reduce them to beggars ... and this will not happen under our watch," said Homa Bay lawmaker Gladys Wang, one of 47 deputies specifically elected to represent women.

"Just let us have what we had, do not disadvantage us inappropriately and try to incite Kenyans against us and I think the Kenyan public will understand," she said.

Gathoni Wa Muchomba, another women's representative initially took a similar position, saying she should be "paid well".

"Asking for a pay rise is not a crime," she added.

But she was forced to back down on Thursday after residents of her region began a petition to stop her from being sworn in.

"What I said yesterday was probably not in line with what my people expected," she told Citizen TV.

Kenyatta has in any case vowed he will not sign off on any wage increase. This kind of behaviour was why many of their predecessors had been voted out, he warned the MPs.

"I am greatly disturbed by the statements from individuals who claim that they should be paid more than what the law provides, even before they have been sworn in."

The opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) also distanced itself from the demands, and several new MPs took to Twitter denouncing the move and supporting the pay cut.

Kenya's lawmakers have a history of rubbing voters up the wrong way with their salary demands.

After the 2013 elections, their first act was to increase their wages, prompting protesters to take to the streets denouncing them as "MPigs".

Then in the midst of a crippling doctors' strike last December, outgoing lawmakers awarded themselves each $100 000 as an exit package ahead of the elections.

The first sitting of the new parliament, which was elected on August 8, takes place next week.

Read more on:    uhuru ke­n­yatta  |  kenya  |  east africa

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