One of my favorite African newspapers, the feisty Nairobi Star, has a fair and balanced story today about the decision by reform prime minister Odinga to put his very own wife on a government salary of more than $6,000 U.S. dollars a month. That’s probably enough money for to run a school for a month. I know democracy in Africa has its costs, and that even countries with lots of poor people still must have appropriately-compensated government officials, but Odinga is a self-professed reformer and the leader of a movement to widen democracy in Kenya, one of the region’s most important countries. Putting his wife on the government payroll sends a bad message. He should “fire” her immediately — for the sake of his reputation.
The BBC pointed out, wisely, that perhaps Odinga’s own salary as PM should cover his wife’s costs in addition to his own. The news service
also cited the former head of the Kenyan chapter of Transparency International Gladwell Otieno as saying the payments to Odinga’s wif is fresh confirmation that Kenyan politicians are just a greedy caste, looking after themselves at the expense of poor Kenyans recovering from the effects of post-election violence.
Odinga’s wife, Ida, is receiving less money than Lucy Kibaki, whose allowances increased last year to nearly $8,000 a month.
President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga agreed to share power in February after negotiations ended weeks of violent clashes.