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 Kenyansmarched through Nairobi on Tuesday to protest against the hugeend-of-term bonuses that legislators have awarded themselves ata time when the state is short of funds and considering taxrises.

Lawmakers in east Africa's biggest economy, already amongthe best paid in the world, voted to triple the bonus they willall receive when their five-year term ends in January to 9.3million shillings ($109,500).

The total cost, around 2 billion shillings, has angered manytaxpayers who already consider many of Kenya's members ofparliament lazy, corrupt and greedy.

Last week, Finance Minister Robinson Githae introduced newtaxes on resource, telecommunications and financial firms inorder to close a 40 billion shilling funding gap for the currentfinancial year.

While the demonstration was not large, a similar protest in2010 forced MPs to scale down the 25 percent pay rise they hadawarded themselves.

The protesters punched the air, sang songs and wavedplacards reading "Wanted! Honest Leaders". Some rolled on theground outside parliament, booing and whistling as the lawmakersentered the assembly.

"Enough is enough," shouted Fredrick Odhiambo, a civilrights activist. "What have they done for Kenyans to awardthemselves extra cash? Kenyans are the ones who pay taxes. Theydon't pay taxes."

The legislators earn about $13,000 a month, the bulk intax-free allowances, a huge figure in a country where anunskilled urban labourer may earn as little as $60 a month.

Protesters urged President Mwai Kibaki to refuse to sign theproposal 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 thegovernment, then bought new seats worth $2,400 each for themembers in the chamber.

Paul Muite, a prominent lawyer and a former MP, said thelatest pay rise was unconstitutional because the MPs had usurpedthe role of the new Salaries and Remuneration Commission.

The commission and rights groups say they are planning legalaction to prevent the raise going through.

Apart from a ballooning wage bill following raises forstriking teachers and doctors, economic growth has slowed andunemployment remains uncomfortably high, while the run-up to thenational election in March is likely to trigger a splurge ofgovernment spending.

($1 = 84.9000 Kenyan shillings)

(Additional reporting by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by JamesMacharia and Kevin Liffey)

((nairobi.newsroom@reuters.com)(Tel: +254 20 2224717))


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