NAIROBI: Opposition leader Raila Odinga Wednesday lashed out at President Uhuru Kenyatta for slashing his pension and for trying to force him to quit politics as e he gets a decent retirement.
Speaking in a live television interview with NTV, Odinga said the President’s decision was malicious. He vowed that he will not be forced to quit politics just so that he gets to enjoy the hefty retirement perks proposed in the Retirement Benefits (Deputy President and Designated State Officers) Bill.
The former Prime Minister who was supposed to benefit from the perks told the President that he will not accept being boxed into a corner because of the promise of perks. The only time he will quit politics, he said, was when the people tell him to go home.
“I am not somebody who is infallible, I am a human being and I will not live indefinitely. The only time to retire will come when the people decide to retire me, I will see the signs and I will retire,” said the former Premier.
He added: “But I will not be blackmailed by the threat to withdraw the pensions for me to retire from politics. I will not retire because the President wants me to retire. I will retire when the people of Kenya want me to retire.”
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Odinga took issue with the President’s decision to cut the calculation of the golden handshake for retired Prime Minister and Vice President from a lumpsum of 18-months pay for every term served, to just a year's pay for the term served.
“It is malicious. He is reducing the amount. If it was just about the question of the principle, we would understand but he has even gone further to reduce the amount passed by Parliament. This basically tells you there was malice,” said Odinga.
He said he will not beg for pension when there were other government officials earning pension and being paid for their duties with government. He said he had done his duty and needed to be appreciated for it.
“I feel very embarrassed to talk about my pension. I really don’t want to appear to be begging, going down on my knees to beg, for what I think is rightfully mine. Pension is paid for services which have already rendered not what you are doing currently,” said Odinga.
Drawing examples from Tanzania, Mr Odinga insisted that the former Prime Ministers Edward Lowasa and Fredrick Sumaye, got their retirement benefits while they are still pursuing their dreams to succeed Jakaya Kikwete in Tanzania.
“They are currently running for the presidency on a CCM ticket, but they have their retirement perks untouched, they get the pension and they are getting all the protection from the government, yet they are still active in politics. This is just next door. And I can give you other examples. Why the difference in this country?” posed Odinga.
He said the amount pegged at 80 per cent of his pay was not exorbitant. In any case, he said the amount was too little to warrant any concern from the government that it will be diverted to political campaigns.
“Pension is basically for subsistence. That is what you get it for, after you retire as President and PM you need to lead a decent life. You don’t want to have your former President or Prime minister begging on the streets begging in the streets, it is an embarrassment to the nation,” said Odinga.
President Kenyatta’s view was that it will be inconsistent to require a retired President to quit active participation in politics, but let his deputy, who is also retired from government service and is earning government pension, to continue.
But Mr Odinga retorted: “See, we got people in this government who are working, some of them are now politicians working for the government, they earn a government pension, yet they are in politics. Others retired as civil servants and they have been hired as consultants, working for the same government, and the end of the day they get a gratuity on top of the pension”
He added: “You are retired from a particular position or profession, for example the position of Prime Minister is no longer in the Constitution, that of the Vice President too… so you cannot go back and become another Prime Minister, that does not stop you from doing some other work. If you are working out there, you are actually paid your pension.”
The decision on the petition lies with the House, and MPs will have to raise two-thirds majority, 233 MPs to overturn the president’s prescription.