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Kenyan lawmakers raise taxes, take a hefty bonus

Protests broke out in Kenya after lawmakers voted to give themselves a $25 million bonus in a bill that raises taxes.

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Kenyans demonstrate against their Members of Parliament who last week quietly awarded themselves a $110,000 bonus for five years of service in parliament, in downtown Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, Oct. 9.

Ben Curtis/AP

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Demonstrators marched through Nairobi’s capital today to protest another attempt by Kenyan lawmakers to boost their pay, after it emerged the officials had voted for a $25 million bonus for when they leave office.

In a quiet amendment added to the Finance Bill late Thursday, members of Parliament approved a golden handshake of $110,000 each to be paid after their term ends early next year.

The sweetener comes on top of an annual package worth $125,000, which is 70 times more than the average Kenyan worker takes home each year. It would take an average Kenyan worker 61 years to earn the sum that each of the country’s 222 lawmakers would be given under the bonus.

“There’s no one I’ve come across who’s not been totally outraged about this,” says Rachel Gichinga, a manager at a Nairobi technology development center, who joined yesterday’s protests.

The move comes less than a fortnight after Kenya’s government said it could not afford to cover pay increases demanded by teachers and doctors, who had been on strike for three weeks in September.

“After everything that’s been happening with the teachers’ and doctors’ strikes, when the government said it had no money to pay them higher salaries, to then give themselves $25 million is beyond unreasonable,” says Ms. Gichinga.

The raises for law makers will add to a revenue shortfall that will be covered by increased taxes outlined in the bill on mobile phone money transfers, banking checks, and withdrawing money from ATMs. There were reports that costs of some popular drinks, mobile phone airtime, and accessing the Internet would also be increased to cover the shortfall. All are areas that will hit both Kenya’s middle classes and its poorest citizens, in a country where the average annual per capital income is roughly $1,800.

“We have been suffering for so long with these people as our leaders, and they know we will vote them out at the next election,” says Evans Odera, a civil rights campaigner living in Kisumu, western Kenya’s main town. “That can be the only reason they are trying to steal so much from us. It will not work.”

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