Kenyans protest after legislators triple their own bonuses
* Lawmakers award themselves $110,000 end-of-term bonus
* Protesters ask president to reject the increases
* Country faces rising wage bill, economic slowdown
By Duncan Miriri
NAIROBI, Oct 9 (Reuters) - More than a hundred Kenyans marched through Nairobi on Tuesday to protest against the huge end-of-term bonuses that legislators have awarded themselves at a time when the state is short of funds and considering tax rises.
Lawmakers in east Africa's biggest economy, already among the best paid in the world, voted to triple the bonus they will all receive when their five-year term ends in January to 9.3 million shillings ($109,500).
The total cost, around 2 billion shillings, has angered many taxpayers who already consider many of Kenya's members of parliament lazy, corrupt and greedy.
Last week, Finance Minister Robinson Githae introduced new taxes on resource, telecommunications and financial firms in order to close a 40 billion shilling funding gap for the current financial year.
While the demonstration was not large, a similar protest in 2010 forced MPs to scale down the 25 percent pay rise they had awarded themselves.
The protesters punched the air, sang songs and waved placards reading "Wanted! Honest Leaders". Some rolled on the ground outside parliament, booing and whistling as the lawmakers entered the assembly.
"Enough is enough," shouted Fredrick Odhiambo, a civil rights activist. "What have they done for Kenyans to award themselves extra cash? Kenyans are the ones who pay taxes. They don't pay taxes."
The legislators earn about $13,000 a month, the bulk in tax-free allowances, a huge figure in a country where an unskilled urban labourer may earn as little as $60 a month.
Protesters urged President Mwai Kibaki to refuse to sign the proposal into law.
"This single action will ruin his good legacy of 10 years," one protester called through a megaphone.
Last year the MPs refused to pay back taxes demanded by the government, then bought new seats worth $2,400 each for the members in the chamber.
Paul Muite, a prominent lawyer and a former MP, said the latest pay rise was unconstitutional because the MPs had usurped the role of the new Salaries and Remuneration Commission.
The commission and rights groups say they are planning legal action to prevent the raise going through.
Apart from a ballooning wage bill following raises for striking teachers and doctors, economic growth has slowed and unemployment remains uncomfortably high, while the run-up to the national election in March is likely to trigger a splurge of government spending.
($1 = 84.9000 Kenyan shillings)
(Additional reporting by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by James Macharia and Kevin Liffey)
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Keywords: KENYA PARLIAMENT/