Kenyan police fire teargas at protest over MPs' pay

by Reuters
Tuesday, 14 May 2013 14:10 GMT

* Rights groups demonstrate with pigs outside parliament

* Just-elected lawmakers demand pay of 130 times minimum wage

* President Kenyatta says stae wage bill must be held down (Adds colour and context)

By Humphrey Malalo

NAIROBI, May 14 (Reuters) - Kenyan police fired teargas and water cannon outside parliament on Tuesday to disperse about 200 people demonstrating against lawmakers' demands for a salary 130 times the legal minimum wage.

Civil rights groups organised the protest to express widespread anger that politicians are demanding a pay rise so soon after a broadly peaceful election on March 4.

Protesters fed pigs' blood to live pigs at the gates of parliament in the capital Nairobi to symbolise a political class widely regarded as greedy and corrupt.

Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya's new president and its richest man, said last week that holding down the state wage bill was key to directing public funds into economic development.

But the appeal was lost on lawmakers, whose pay has been set at 532,000 shillings ($6,300) per month by the state's Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC).

Handouts by politicians are common in Kenya, and MPs say they need more money to help pay constituents' school and medical expenses, as well as to reflect their stature.

They are demanding basic monthly pay of about 850,000 shillings, excluding other allowances - similar to what lawmakers were paid during the last parliament.

Kenyatta increased the minimum wage by 14 percent this month to 6,498 shillings ($77.54) a month - although many of the 80 percent of Kenyan workers employed in the informal sector earn less than this.

In January, hundreds of demonstrators torched coffins outside parliament in protest at legislators who had voted to triple their end-of-term bonuses - an increase that outgoing president Mwai Kibaki refused to sign into law. ($1 = 83.80 Kenyan shillings) (Additional reporting and writing by James Macharia; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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