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Kenyans Outraged Over MP Pay Package

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, October 9, 2012.
Kenyans are venting their anger over a late-night decision by the country's parliament to grant lawmakers lavish retirement benefits including a $100,000 bonus and other perks. An online campaign is underway to stop the president from signing the bill.

In one of their last sessions of the year, members of the Kenyan parliament passed a retirement bill that would give each member a hefty bonus, bodyguards for life, private chauffeurs and a state funeral.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki rejected a previous iteration of the bill a month ago. But this time, lawmakers have tacked it onto another order that would also award the president a $300,000 bonus on his retirement next year.

The new amendments were introduced late Wednesday night and made public on Thursday. Kenya's Nation Newspaper reports some of the changes were handwritten on a piece of paper signed by the finance minister.

The public fallout of the bill took to Twitter on Friday, as angry citizens voiced their outrage on the popular social media site - deriding members of parliament as “MPigs.”

A popular Kenyan blogger Robert Alai has been leading the online charge against the lawmakers who he says are already overpaid.

“I don't feel that the country needs to give the MPs such amount of money after serving just five years. And very few of us in employment or running our businesses can get to decide to go out with such a pay package after just five years," he said. "You know, it's kind of ridiculous.”

Alai orchestrated a street protest the last time the parliament tried to pass the benefits bill, and says he is planning similar action for next week, which may include a mock state funeral.

The online campaign drew the attention of Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who denounced the retirement package on his Twitter account, saying the two bills “border on criminality.”

Alai says social media has been able to succeed in empowering citizens where the country's traditional media have fallen short.

“If it were not for social media, I think some of us would not be as much vocal because the problem is that the mainstream media is still majorly owned by the leaders or the politicians themselves," Alai noted. "So social media has been a great godsend to us.”

As the country waits for President Kibaki to make his decision on whether to approve or veto the bills, Kenyans online are joking that they hope members of parliament get those state funerals they have asked for.