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Kenyan lawmakers vote themselves a hefty retirement bonus again

By Faith Karimi, CNN
January 11, 2013 -- Updated 1537 GMT (2337 HKT)
Kenyan demonstrators marched in Nairobi in October after lawmakers voted themselves a $110,000 send-off bonus.
Kenyan demonstrators marched in Nairobi in October after lawmakers voted themselves a $110,000 send-off bonus.
  • They vote for a bonus of $110,000 each despite president's earlier veto
  • Kenyan parliamentarians are among the highest paid on the continent
  • An average Kenyan would have to work for 61 years to earn the bonus amount
  • Protesters plan to take to the streets Wednesday to demand another presidential veto

(CNN) -- Kenyan legislators voted to give themselves send-off bonuses of $110,000 each, despite the president's veto of their earlier attempt at another hefty payoff.

Members of parliament approved the retirement package in a late-night vote this week, this time adding extra perks such as diplomatic passports, a state funeral and VIP access to the nation's airports.

In addition to their perks, they included a bonus for President Mwai Kibaki, who is not running for re-election in March.

Read more: Kenyan DJs go six days without food to promote peaceful elections

Kibaki blocked their earlier attempt to award themselves bonuses in October, calling it unconstitutional and unaffordable.

The nation's parliament members are among the highest paid on the continent. An average Kenyan makes about $1,800 annually, and would have to work for more than 60 years to earn the bonus amount.

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The proposal has sparked an outcry among citizens, who demanded that the president block the bill's passage.

"I'm disgusted," said Warothe Kiru, a blogger who lives in the capital of Nairobi.

"They really don't care. The thing that's making it worse is what's happening in Tana," he said. In the same news reports about women being attacked with machetes, "you're seeing ... MPs getting bonuses."

In recent months, retaliatory attacks between rival tribes have raged in Tana River District, leaving more than 100 people dead.

Read more: Renewed violence kills 19 in southeast Kenya

Protesters plan to take to the streets Wednesday to demand that the president veto the bonus bill -- again.

In October, when the first bill passed in another late-night vote, throngs gathered outside parliament offices and hollered "thieves" as lawmakers dashed into their offices. The president vetoed that bill hours after the protests.

Read more: Kenyan lawmakers vote for bonus of $120,000 each at taxpayer expense

Last year, parliament shot down wage demands of teachers and doctors, arguing that the government did not have the funds.

"You can see we are dealing with selfish people," said Edward Mburu, 38. "People are angry. ... I hope it translates into conscious voting."

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, a presidential contender in the upcoming election, said he is against the latest bonus, which was approved Wednesday night.

Read more: Complete coverage on Raila Odinga

"In a nation struggling with hunger, insecurity, unemployment, wanting health services, rising cost of education and numerous other shortcomings, I find no words to explain and justify the proposed packages," he said in a statement Friday.

The March vote will be the first general poll since violence left hundreds dead after a disputed election in 2008.

Citizens have accused the government of not doing enough to bolster security leading up to the election.

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