Embattled Kiama denied access to varsity VC office

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020 00:00 |
University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor Prof Stephen Kiama. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

Irene Githinji and Bernice Mbugua

Embattled University of Nairobi (UoN) Vice Chancellor Stephen Kiama yesterday said he had been denied access to the office despite obtaining court orders.

Consequently, he has opted to run the university from a temporary office. 

Prof Kiama said he is not serving anyone’s interest and only wants the government to respect merit and court orders.

The confusion came as Employment and Labour Relations court declined to lift orders that suspended Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha’s decision to revoke Kiama’s appointment.

Prof Magoha had revoked Kiama’s appointment as VC and appointed Prof Isaac Mbeche to act in that position.

Undertake functions

Justice Maureen Onyango said she cannot reverse the orders she issued on Monday and instead directed the case be heard inter partes tomorrow. She, however, certified the application by Magoha as urgent.

Magoha wants the orders suspended, arguing that Kiama misled the court into issuing temporary orders, affirming that there is currently a vacancy in the office of the VC.

Through lawyer Evans Monari, the Education CS sought to have the orders varied so that  he can appoint an acting VC/Deputy vice chancellor to enable the university continue with its critical administrative functions and to stop misrepresentation by Kiama as the VC of the institution.

“Professor Kiama unlawfully purported to make leadership changes at the University of Nairobi by appointing a Deputy vice chancellor and issuing memos,” he argued in court documents.

The CS argues that the ex parte orders issued on Monday have  paralysed the proper functioning of the university, saying there is a lacuna in the office the Vice Chancellor and the Council of UoN.

“Unless the ex-parte orders are set aside, the University of Nairobi is unable to undertake critical administrative functions required of the office of the Vice Chancellor and the Council of University of Nairobi,” said Magoha in court documents.

And separately, Prof Kiama said he is running the institution from a temporary office on the 19th floor of the UoN Towers, as opposed to the official one, which sits on the 18th floor of the same building.

Uphold image

Despite the court’s decision halting his revocation, Kiama said he has been forced to operate from the temporary office owing to the fact that Prof Isaac Mbeche has refused to surrender office keys, a situation he termed as unfortunate.

He said his decision to operate from another office is aimed at safeguarding the image of the university, which over the years has had a strong culture and belief in the rule of law.

“I have been given work to do and must keep the institution running. We still have no access to the official VC’s office, it does not belong to any individual and I would not want to get into issues of locks. 

I cannot just get into that office as if it was my own house, I want to avoid acts of lawlessness,” said Kiama.

“As an interim measure and to respect and safeguard the university property from wanton destruction, the Vice Chancellor will operate from 19th floor of UoN Towers as a solution that upholds the image of the university as an organisation with strong corporate culture and believes in the rule of law,” he said.

He further committed to be available to all university staff, even as he insisted that he will keep representing the university as its Vice Chancellor in all avenues.

The UoN staff had called for a prayer meeting yesterday morning and were caught by surprise when Kiama showed up.

Right to serve

However, owing to the controversy surrounding his appointment, Kiama said he attended the meeting because he is a member of UoN staff and was interested in taking part in the discussions on various pertinent issues, including welfare and status of the institution.

Also during his brief stay at the meeting,he assured the staff who had turned up that they will receive their salaries in time despite the confusion over leadership.

He said he has the right to serve as Vice Chancellor since he went through the required process, which saw Public Service Commission (PSC) take all the eight candidates interested in the position through interviews.

Since Magoha revoked Kiama’s appointment; divisions have played out among students with some choosing to stand with him and others with Mbeche.

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