Kenyan Christian, Muslim and Hindu leaders are backing a demand by civil society groups that those standing in parliamentary elections scheduled for this year should sign a charter committing themselves to salary reductions, accountability and transparency - writes Fredrick Nzwili.
"It's a good thing," the Rev David Sawe from the All Saints Anglican Cathedral told Ecumenical News International in Nairobi. "If Kenyans can stick to it [the charter], then they can hold their parliamentarians accountable."
Sawe told ENI that many of Kenya's 37 million people were frustrated about voting for individuals who later appeared to abuse their power and to misuse the resources of the country, while at the same time earning huge salaries.
Under a diverse coalition known as the Movement for Political Accountability, the groups say Kenyan lawmakers are some of the highest paid in the world, pulling in monthly salaries of around 880,000 Kenyan shillings (US$13 000). In neighbouring Uganda, lawmakers earn the equivalent of 180 000 Kenyan shilling each month and in Tanzania, 120,000 shillings.
"If you compare what parliamentarians earn, you wonder how Kenyans arrive at their figures. They should be reduced and used for development," asserted Sawe.
The groups in his camp want aspirants to sign up to open and transparent management of development funds, diligence in parliament, transparency and accountability in a system that would have them declare their own wealth. The charter they sign up to would also require them to denounce the inciting of violence and the supporting of private militia.
"Kenyans have to start making demands from those aspiring to parliamentary seats," said Maina Kiai, the chairperson of Kenya's National Commission on Human Rights.
Many members of civil society groups in Kenya have argued that there is in the country a lack of political accountability that has fuelled a culture of impunity and entitlement which ignores the aspirations of most people in the east African country.
[With grateful 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]