Kenyan civil society groups plan to protest Tuesday against the decision by members of parliament (MPs) to increase their own salaries.
Maurice Odhiambo, president of the National Civil Society Congress, says the protest is designed to pressure MPs to cancel their pay increase, which he says violates the constitution. The legislators voted unanimously to increase their salaries, 130 times the legal minimum wage.
“We will be mobilizing as many Kenyans as possible to go outside parliament. It will be a peaceful protest,” said Odhiambo. “If we let members of parliament have their way, then it will be one way of clearly undermining the constitution.
“We will also hold discussions with members of the public, in which case we are going to elaborate why this action is important and why the members of the national assembly must not be allowed to get away with unlawful behavior,” he said.
Odhiambo called on Kenyans displeased with the lawmakers pay increases to join Tuesday’s protest, which he codenamed “Occupy Parliament Reloaded.”
This would be the third time that civil society groups hold demonstrations against the lawmakers. Last month, they paraded pigs outside parliament as part of their protests.
“We are going to have something new, which will be more symbolic than the pigs that we unleashed last time. So that is something that the public will only get to know about this Tuesday on the day of the protest,” said Odhiambo.
He says protesters want the MPs to sign a petition promising not to accept the salary increase.
“We are going to barricade the place and make sure that any members of the National Assembly who want to come through is then prevailed upon by the citizens to sign up saying that they are opposed to the actions of what the National Assembly as a body is attempting to do,” said Odhiambo.
The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) as well as other civil rights groups recently petitioned a High Court seeking to prevent lawmakers from receiving their recently approved salary increases. The groups raised constitutional concerns about the ability of MPs to increase their own pay.
But, lawmaker James Opiyo Wandayi says parliament needs to educate the public about the controversy surrounding lawmakers’ pay.
“The Parliamentary Service Commission, which is in charge of the welfare of members of parliament and other staff of parliament, needs to make a clarification or to do a sensitization [campaign] so the public may come to understand the issues as they are,” continued Wandayi, “because what is not being told is that [legislators] this time around, unlike in the past, are obligated to pay taxes just like any other members of the public.”