Intrigues behind University of Nairobi leadership wars

Monday, January 20th, 2020 00:00 |
Stephen Kiama. Photo/File

 The leadership wrangles at the University of Nairobi is likely to escalate today with two crucial meetings scheduled to take place this morning.

Acting Vice-Chancellor Isaac Mbeche has called a crisis Senate meeting that is likely to attract the attention of his nemesis, Stephen Kiama, who was appointed to the same position by the University Council two weeks ago.

Kiama’s appointment was revoked by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha on Saturday, but he insists he is the rightful holder of the position.

At the same time, members of the Council that was also sacked by Magoha on the same day have called a meeting at 10am in the Chancellor’s boardroom.

The meeting has been called by former Samia East MP Julia Ojiambo, who was the Council chair until Friday.

The developments came as it emerged that powerful political interests had a hand in the leadership row at the country’s oldest university where the VC controls a huge budget which includes Sh20 billion government capitation annually.

A source familiar with the UoN intrigues revealed Kiama’s appointment was being linked to a powerful politician believed have close ties with former VC Peter Mbithi.

Three names

The university council seems to have laid the ground for the current crisis by rushing to announce Kiama’s appointment allegedly behind the minister’s back.

University of Nairobi. Photo/Courtesy

The Council is said to have called the acting VC, Mbeche, on Friday night and ordered him to hand over the following day.

“The Council had presented three names to the CS and he asked for time to consider the candidates, but to his surprise the same Council issued a press statement announcing Kiama’s appointment the following day, a Saturday,” the source said.

“Although the minister was upset at the turn of events, he decided to leave the matter at that. However, the new VC’s move to buy space in the newspapers to announce his inauguration triggered the drastic decision to sack him and the Council.”

People Daily has learned that the decision to sack the Council and Kiama was reached at a high level meeting in Mombasa on Friday after President Uhuru Kenyatta was briefed on the developments.

Kiama was declared the best candidate by the Public Service Commission followed by Madara Ogot and Kameri Mbote. Mbeche came fourth.

Yesterday, we established Ojiambo’s team may be headed to court even as the CS prepares to name new council members who could be gazetted at any time.

The back and forth surrounding the VC’s appointment spilled over as two factions of student leaders yesterday differed over who should be the substantive office holder.

Prof George Magoha. Photo/Courtesy

The first group of students, led by University of Nairobi Students’ Association (UNSA) secretary general Gideon Majiwa urged the government to expedite the process of picking a new VC.

The group, which supports Mbeche, said they are behind the move to revoke Kiama’s appointment.

“Some people are masquerading as vice chancellor but we want to state that we are fully behind Prof Mbeche, he understands running of the university and will lead the institution towards regaining its lost glory,” said Majiwa.

Call for calm

“There have been claims that there was mischief in the process of appointing vice chancellor. The matter must be investigated,” said the UoN main campus secretary Bryson Ochieng’.

But another faction led by UoN Council of Governors’ chairperson Peter Mutinda, said they recognised Kiama as the duly appointed VC.

They, however, called for calm and urged the government to intervene and shed light on the process of appointment, adding that they will follow PSC’s results.

“The student fraternity is not happy with the confusion. We are standing with Prof Kiama, we do not know any other vice chancellor. The CS should not bring politics on these issues because it will frustrate learning in the university,” said the students.

They issued an ultimatum that Kiama be installed tomorrow as the eighth vice chancellor, as was planned. The ceremony was to be held at Taifa Hall, with guests urged to be seated by 8.30am.

On Saturday, Magoha revoked Kiama’s appointment until on-going consultative process of appointing a substantive vice chancellor is completed.

The CS directed Kiama to continue dispensing his duties as Deputy VC, Human Resource and Administration and appointed Mbeche to the position of VC on acting capacity.

What followed was an exchange between Kiama and  Mbeche, both claiming to be in charge.

“This is to inform all stakeholders and collaborators that any person or institution entering into a contract with any other person other than the legally appointed VC, purporting to represent UoN, does so at their own peril and the University will not honour or be held liable for such commitments,” warned Kiama.

However, acting deputy vice-chancellor (Finance, Planning and Development) Ogot gave another communication to staff and students, cancelling the Tuesday installation of Kiama as VC.

Mbeche later sent a communication warning against allowing Kiama to send communication to staff, saying his appointment had been revoked.

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