NAIROBI, Kenya – Hours after Kenya's prime minister was discharged from the hospital following a brain procedure, the leader on Sunday denounced a move by lawmakers to approve for themselves a $175,000 annual pay package.
Lawmakers voted last week to adopt the recommendation of a pay committee to increase their salary and allowances and pay tax on their income for the first time.
With the new taxes in place, the proposed increase in members' take-home pay would be relatively small — about $1,500 a month. But the media and public have been scathing in their condemnation of the move, which still needs to be made law to take effect.
"Without mincing words, I am totally against the idea of MPs (members of parliament) adding salaries to themselves arbitrarily," Prime Minister Raila Odinga told journalists during his first news conference since being hospitalized on Monday. "It is unfair. It is sending very wrong signals to the people of this country, at a time when the economy of this country is going through very great strains."
Odinga spoke just hours after he was discharged from the hospital where he had spent six days recuperating after doctors drilled a hole in his head to drain fluids that were putting pressure on his brain. The prime minister was admitted to the hospital Monday after suffering persistent headaches that day.
He said when he went to the hospital, his doctor ordered a CT scan that showed he had been injured some time before, causing some internal bleeding. That is when doctors decided to drain the fluid, Odinga said.
He said doctors have instructed him not to resume his full duties for up to two weeks. They have only allowed him to do light duties and light exercises.
This could be a blow to the campaign in support of a draft constitution that will be put to a referendum on Aug. 4. President Mwai Kibaki, 78, and Odinga, 65, have been leading that campaign, but the prime minister has been the driving force. Before being hospitalized, Odinga typically addressed several rallies across the country over a weekend. He is recognized in political circles as an astute organizer and mobilizer of people.
Odinga became prime minister when he signed a power-sharing deal with President Mwai Kibaki to end the country's 2007-2008 postelection violence in which more than 1,000 people died.
(This version corrects spelling of prime minister's first name in graf 4 to Raila, instead of Rail).)