No pay raise for disappointed Kenyans

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Kenyan workers walked out of a Labour Day celebration disgusted Thursday after President Mwai Kibaki failed to announce a much-anticipated pay raise for them.

The hundreds of workers, attending the celebration at Uhuru Park, central Nairobi, had expected the government to raise the minimum wage for the lowest paid workers.

But to their utter disappointment, President Kibaki who presided over the function, told the workers that the government was not in a position to award pay hike s due to the monumental problems the country was currently facing.

Kibaki did not go into details but he was referring to the economic downturn sparked by the recent post-election violence which left 350,000 Kenyans homeless and 1,000 dead.

The violence was triggered by the presidential election dispute which saw both Kibaki and his then main opposition challenger, Raila Odinga, claimed victory.

Kenyans are grappling with escalating prizes of foodstuff, fuel and other basic necessities.

Odinga has since been named prime minister in a Grand Coalition government that brings together Kibaki’s party of National Unity and Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

Earlier, the secretary general of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU ), Francis Atwoli, highlighted the workers’ plight and blamed some organisations for underpaying staff. But in his address, the president did not dwell on workers issues, but instead asked Kenyans to live peaceful and build the nation.

As he wound up the address and prepared to leave the ceremonial Dias, the crowd started shouting “salary, salary, salary”. Kibaki turned round and asked the VIPs at the Dias what the people wanted.

Told that they were asking for pay raise, he quipped, “If it’s pay increase you want, then I have not spoken about it because of the big problems we are facing. There is no money for pay hike. That is the truth even you don’t want it. I must speak the truth.”

“Thank very much,” he said as angry workers shouted and walked out of the venue in protest. Panapress .

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