Church leaders in Kenya are criticising a hefty pay rise that lawmakers have awarded themselves, terming it a betrayal of the East African country's citizens - writes Fredrick Nzwili.
The reaction follows the recent passing of a bill aimed to increase the salaries of those in parliament to levels where the prime minister could earn one third more than Britain's prime minister and 10 per cent more than the president of the United States.
"It obvious this is the wrong direction. How can we pay them more than those of the developed countries?" said Roman Catholic Archbishop Boniface Lele of Mombasa in an interview with ENInews. "There's a lot of poverty in this country. Many people are dying of hunger and disease."
If implemented, the change would make the Kenyan members of parliament among the world's highest paid lawmakers. Church leaders have noted that Kenya is a poor country with a US$30.4 billion gross domestic product, compared to Britain's US$2.7 trillion and the US$14.1 trillion of the United States.
"This is selfish and a betrayal of Kenyans. Many people are living on nothing in this country," Anglican Archbishop Eluid Wabukala told journalists in Nairobi. He urged the politicians to abandon the plan and concentrate on organising the economy, which is recovering from the effects of the violence of 2007-2008 which followed elections.
Under the proposed plan, lawmakers in the parliament would earn up to US$126 000 after taxes, making them among the world's best-paid politicians.
Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta has told lawmakers to forget the increment, citing a shortage of money to implement it, as civil society groups threatened protests against the action.
"The increment should be rejected on the principle that no group of employees should determine their own salaries," said Morris Odhiambo, the National Civil Society Congress President.
Kenya's Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, rejected the proposal. "I am totally against the idea of MPs increasing their salaries arbitrarily." He told journalists, "It is sending wrong signals to the people of this country."
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]