UoN crisis takes new twist as court overrules Magoha

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020 00:00 |
University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor Stephen Kiama (right) with then UoN Council chair Julia Ojiambo during the launch of the 2019-2020 strategic plan on January 6, 2020. Photo/PD/samuel Kariuki

Irene Githinji, Bernice Mbugua and Bernard Gitau

The leadership  crisis at the University of Nairobi (UoN) took a new twist yesterday when the Labour court overturned Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha’s revocation of Prof Stephen Kiama’s appointment as vice chancellor.

The court made the decision moments after Magoha hinted President Uhuru Kenyatta orchestrated the revocation and dissolution of the university council on grounds the decision was undertaken without consulting the government.

Magoha said the university council failed to consult his ministry about Kiama’s appointment.

But the Labour and Employment Court suspended the CS’s decision as well his appointment of Isaac Mbeche as acting vice chancellor.

Justice Maureen Onyango issued the orders following a suit filed by Kiama, who told the court that he took over office of vice chancellor on January 6 and proceeded to discharge the duties required of him without any complaint from any person or institution.

The order will remain in force until February 5, when the case will be heard.

Despite the reprieve from court, the UoN Senate and the University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) supported the revocation of Kiama’s appointment.

They said due procedure must be followed in appointing a new vice chancellor.

Above board

Magoha said the council acted in a manner that did not conform to due process of appointing a vice chancellor.

But the Public Service Commission (PSC) came to the defense of Kiama, insisting the shortlisting and interviewing process was above board.

PSC chairman Stephen Kirogo said the recruitment complied with the law and PSC carried out its mandate professionally.

PSC said its role was only recruitment and could not advise on how to address the current stalemate.

Magoha, a former UoN vice chancellor himself, said the Council failed to allow a consultative process, which includes the input of the President.

“All senior appointments be it TSC, Knec, public universities…when the process is complete the interviewing entity consults the government.

It is not an information process but consultation and if you look at the Ministry of Education, I will tell you that I do not have a government; it belongs to President Uhuru and that process must be concluded,” said Magoha.

“Let us take a hypothetical example where you have three people appointed to lead a certain university.

The Presidency looks at many other things and the President is not bound by my recommendation, the council’s or any other entity,” he added.

He said the revocation of the council and Kiama’s appointment was out of an informed process “coming from somewhere and we must remember there is only one government”.

“The Council went ahead and appointed a vice chancellor and since I am not a politician I pulled back.

When I went to Mombasa, President Uhuru asked about the process and told him where we are so whatever you are seeing in the press is an informed process coming from somewhere. I cannot appoint anyone without consulting,” said the CS.

He termed the confusion over the appointment as “hot air and politics”.

Pulling strings

“I am not beholden to anybody because I take orders from my appointing authority. Whatever is happening is very unfortunate because someone somewhere is pulling strings and wants to destroy the university.

I am taken aback to see how people are posturing about things that are non-existent,” he noted.

Magoha further insisted the consultative process must be concluded, hence his revocation of both the Council and Kiama’s appointment.

Separately, Uasu retracted its congratulatory message to Kiama, saying information in their custody then had not revealed gaps in the requisite threshold of independence, professionalism, consultation and transparency necessary for such an appointment.

UoN Chapter secretary George Omondi said: “Uasu reiterates its support for a transparent process devoid of shortcuts, grand standing and pursuit of individuals as opposed to the larger interests of the institution,” said Omondi.

Meanwhile, Magoha has asked the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to probe financial processes of the university.

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