Monday, January 14th witnessed a demonstration by civil and human rights societies against the MPs' decision to award themselves hefty perks. The procession began around 11.00 a.m. at the Freedom Corner in Uhuru Park before proceeding to Kenyatta Avenue, Moi Avenue then Parliament buildings where an effigy of the Members of Parliament dubbed "Judas Iscariot" was tied and hanged at the main gate.
The procession then ended at the Office of the President where a petition was delivered. The protest saw vehicles with GK number plates heckled out of the way of the procession as the seemingly discontent people shouted “Mwizi! Mwizi!” (Thief! Thief!) in reference to the bloated government expenditure on state officers perceived to ride in the mostly trendy cars. Reverend Timothy Njoya, known for similar protests during the Moi era, spoke to the gathering. He condemned the MPs’ disregard for the Constitution, saying that they were increasing the tax burden for the Kenyan public and accused them of betrayal.
Reading a verse from the Bible, Rev. Njoya compared them to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. “These MPs are guilty of enriching themselves from blood money,” he reiterated. Atsango Chesoni, the Executive Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission also pointed a finger at the MPs. Chesoni condemned their usurping the role of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission which is mandated to determine the salaries and other payments to public servants. She called this “an act of treason” at a time Kenyans when overburdened by insecurity and joblessness. “Our leaders are culpable of abuse of office at the expense of poorly paid and overworked taxpayers,” she said.
Meanwhile, President Kibaki declined to append his signature on the controversial bill but has remained vague on his own Retirement Benefits (Deputy President and Designated State Officers) Bill, 2012, as well as other retirement emoluments to be awarded to MPs, Cabinet ministers and senior civil servants. According to a statement on the MPs Retirement Package, these benefits included state funerals, diplomatic passports, drivers to all 42 Cabinet ministers and their 55 deputies.
Most grievously, The National Assembly Remuneration Act would have given all 222 MPs KES 9.3 million at the expense of the taxpayer. Among other prominent people present at the demonstration were Davinder Lamba of Mazingira Institute and Human Rights lawyer, Harun Ndubi. Mr Stanley Kamande, Under Secretary for the Provincial Administration in the Office of the President received the petition and promised to forward it to the President.
Find more images from the protest march here.
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