Backlash Over Kenya's $30 Million Celebration Plans

Civil Society Groups have denounced the pricey celebrations in light of the East African country's current economic status.

Posted: 08/01/2013 03:45 PM EDT

In honor of Kenya’s upcoming 50th year of independence, the East African nation’s government has proposed a celebration worth nearly $30 million.

“More than half the Kenyan population lives below the poverty line and the country has an external debt of about $6.8 billion, so the government should practice austerity instead of spending money for a celebration,” said Morris Odhiambo, the president of the National Civil Society Congress, on Tuesday.

Other civil society groups are echoing Odhiambo’s outcry and protesting the exorbitant costs. They also claimed that the country has neither any reason nor any means to spend that amount, particularly when public workers like police officers, teachers and doctors face poor pay and working conditions.

The Coalition for Constitution Implementation told AP that the government’s celebration proposal is a “serious economic crime."

"This is also a slap on the face of Kenyans who are currently overburdened by the cost of living and the majority of whom have nothing to show or to celebrate as the last 50 years have been characterized by economic plunder, corruption and oppression," the group's Cidi David Otieno added.

"The minimum wage in Kenya is about $1,500 a year, but many here live on even less."

Odhiambo pointed to other recent expenditures of newly re-elected President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government that many have questioned, including a proposed $6 million home and office for former President Mwai Kibaki.  

"All these things are avenues of corruption" he said.

Currently ranked 139th out of 182 nations by anti-corruption campaigners Transparency International, Kenya gained independence from its British colonizers on Dec. 12, 1963.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Marko Djurica)

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