Kenya’s Members of Parliament (MPs), having rejected the Kshs. 532,000 monthly salary PLUS allowances offered them by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, are now locked in a battle of will and attrition with the erstwhile “tool of the wazungu”, the country’s civil societies in a confrontation that is both entertaining and instructive. The visual of pink pigs and piglets gorging blood in front of the supposedly august and hallowed grounds of the country’s parliament is side-splitting. It also symbolizes the greed that is par for Kenya’s political leaders. The live tragi-comedy played out in front of Kenya’s parliament that was organized by Kenya’s Civil Society Organisations also resulted in the filing of a lawsuit by the Leader of Majority Hon. Aden Duale, a devout Muslim whose religion forbids its adherent from associating with anything remotely connected to pigs; creatures considered unholy. President Uhuru Kenyatta, to his credit, has already come out against the protestation by the MPs for a salary increase that would see their pay jump from the current kshs. 532,000/month to 850,000/= – a 60% increase! By contrast, the average Kenyan voter takes home approximately Kshs.6,600/month; a figure based on an annual per capita income of $976 – Wikipedia. It must be particularly irking for said “average Kenyan voter” whose euphoria after the Supreme Court ruled the presidential election in favor of the “majority” Jubilee Coalition is slowly turning into a nightmare to wit; it is going to be a very interesting five years for Mr. Kenyatta, his deputy Mr. Ruto and their jubilant supporters!
Equally edifying is the hand-wringing, self-flagellation, and Schadenfreude, all in equal parts, taking place in the blogosphere. Bloggers are either livid, resigned or gloating at the “greed” and sense of entitlement on display by those they elected to represent their interests.
Below are comments from cyberspace that capture the essence of the country’s moods:
slycat – May 15 2013 11:00 AM: kenyans ! kenyans! . we never seize to amaze.we voted them in right?.. bend over and take it….the mpigs got this horse by the neck. This is what we get for voting in the greedy. apparently we are not tired of the same old stories..wacha wakule kabisa… eat mpigs. kula kabisa. kula yote..and guess what ?next general election, we will vote them in.
George Manyali – May 15 2013 5:06 AM: What MPs are asking is what is basically enshrined in our tradition and practice. Voters are truly the proponents of this culture. It’s time to break the norms.
Jose Muga – May 15 2013 1:52 AM: Hehehe let us laugh! We are now united finally there is no TNA or CORD. Kenyans are just about timing!
omusoreriOmusawa – May 14 2013 11:31 AM: Kenyans these are the fruits of voting for a party and not individuals…ignorance has brought us here: the reward of greedy MPs.
From afar, I have to say that I am experiencing feelings, albeit reluctant ones, akin to those expressed by omusoreriOmusawa and slycat: Moments of “pleasure derived from the misfortune” of those who are now faced with having to live with the consequences of their choice or vote followed by tinges of sadness about the dysfunction of the country’s politics not to mention the voracity of its political leaders! Former US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Mr. John Carson was indeed erudite when he offered his now (in)famous clarion call that “elections have consequences!” I would argue that the majority of Kenyans voted these people into office fully aware of the history of the country’s politics and that of its politicians. In a piece titled “Kenya’s Rorschach Test” – https://thetwoninetyonetracker.com/2013/03/15/kenyas-rorschach-test/ – written in late March/early April of this year; I opined that the 50%+1 Kenyans who voted the Uhuru/Ruto ticket into office during the just-concluded elections clearly evidenced their take on Kenya’s culture of impunity and entitlement. With the current hullaballoo over the salaries of their chosen representatives in full effect and the vanquished “cordants” opting to “move on”, I can now announce that the chickens of the aptly-named “jubilants” have started coming home to roost!
I am not sure which candidate/party the two bloggers – Langat and Arufeni – quoted below voted for but their comments are particularly enlightening:
Langat – 15 May 2013 10:56AM: Actually the pigs ni sisi. Tuliwachagua knowing full well what types we were electing – like-minded. The dysfunction is pretending to be outraged yet secretly we admire them & wish/know if we were in their shoes we would do exactly the same thing or worse. The buck stops with us.
Arufeni – 14 May 2013 11:44AM: US legislators earn 4 times the national average. UK legislators earn twice the national average. Both countries have schools that look like schools, not the crumbling hovels many of us voted in. They also have significant social safety nets for the poor. Kenyan legislators earn 45 times the national average. A first time MP whose name I unfortunately forget is on record saying that what people are failing to consider is that the pay is subject to 30% tax – this is in response to today’s protest. We all know the state of service provision.
To further expound on Arufeni’s analysis, I used gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita figures obtained from the (Wikipedia) links provided below and came up with the following:
- American legislatures – Congresspersons and Senators – earn a base salary that is approximately 3.5x the per capita income of the American electorate who elected them into office i.e. $174,000/$49,922.
- Kenyan MPs currently earn Kshs. 535,000 or $79,259/year; 81x the per capita income of their supporters. They are seeking the equivalent of $125,926/year – Kshs. 850,000/month x 12/81 ($1 = kshs. 81) or 129x the per capita income of the “jubilants” who elected the majority into office – $125,926/$976! The hapless “cordants” who voted for the opposition have no choice but to “move on” to the pigsty! Ah the tyranny of the majority…not to mention that of Mr. Ngunyi’s numbers!
- Mr. John Boehner, the Speaker of the House and the 3rd person in line to succeed Son of K’Ogelo and his VP Joe Biden as the “leader of the free world”, receives $223,500/year. The respective GOP and Democratic Party leaders – majority and minority – of the US Congress earn $193,400/year.
- America, a country with a GDP of $15,685trillion ($15,685,000,000,000) or three hundred and eighty-one times (381x) that of Kenya’s $41,117billion pays its rank-and-file members of Congress $174,000/year.
- Kenyan MPs, legislating over an economy that is a fraction of the American economy (.00262 – $41,117b/$15,685t) want to be paid 72% ($125,926/$174,000) of what their (American) counterparts are earning!
Maybe those dreaded foreigners/wazungu are on to something and are not nearly as bad as they are made out to be! Humor aside, the fore-going comparison between the salaries of Kenyan and American legislatures, while simplistic and a near-apples-to-oranges exercise, is very instructive. The basic analysis provides a useful perspective for Kenyans and their leaders on the subject of remunerations for public servants and the services they supposedly render (to the public). The analysis also provides a window into the raison d’etre for Kenya’s “public servants”.
In my book Wuodha: My Journey from Kenya to these United States published by Friesen Press, I argue that most Kenyan politicians get into public office, not for altruistic reasons, but because it is a proven way to self-enrichment; and not in the abstract or spiritual sense, but monetarily! Perusal of a listing of Kenya’s rich demonstrates the strong co-relation between financial wealth and political power. And far from being a “hater” or jealous of the rich, I applaud those who have been able to “build it” or make money. On the other hand, there is nothing impressive about attaining said wealth illegally or because of who you are and/or who you know! I further argue a point now being proven by the on-going saga in front of Kenya’s parliament and the MPs clamor for more money: That most Kenyans with money/wealth worth writing about most likely used public service as a conduit for acquiring and amassing said wealth.
I would have to say that Kenyans have finally met their enemy – and it is them! They formed a winning coalition with the votes/numbers to elect those tyrannical MPigs into office. Oh the duplicity, the treachery and capricious tyranny of numbers! It is indeed about time for these MPs to “move on” to other professions unless they believe that “wako pamoja na” a numerically-superior number of protestors who heaven forbid, support their quest for more money i.e. their greed. I hope not! On the other hand, I never thought I would live to see the day when the president and vice-president of the country of my birth faced charges at The Hague for crimes against humanity.
The way I see it is that unless the average mwanainchi or citizen holds her/himself to the highest ethical standards, it is very difficult, indeed highly hypocritical for them to expect their elected leaders to exemplify those high (ethical) standards!