Why Knut secretary general – Sossion is in deep trouble

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019 00:00 |
Wilson Sossion. Photo/File

Embattled Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) secretary general Wilson Sossion’s alleged high-handedness and abrasiveness when dealing with top government officials has come to haunt him as he fights for survival.

His raggedness when dealing with internal issues has not only led to the simmering rebellion within Knut that seems to have finally exploded, but has also left him isolated at the giant teachers’ union.

A section of the Knut leadership accuses Sossion of not only being a lone ranger but also making crucial decisions unilaterally, leading to a major split within the national executive council and branch executive members.

At the union headquarters, Sossion is said to have found himself an isolated man, having lost the support of his chairman Wycliffe Omucheyi and treasurer John Matiang’i, among other key union leaders.

“I can assure you that the Knut house is at the moment completely divided with the government taking advantage of this to fight the top leadership. Clearly, the union’s future is bleak, and the image, credibility and reliability of a union that has been basking in the glory of the labour movement, has been soiled,” said Malel Langat, the Bomet Knut branch executive secretary.

Push over

Calls for Sossion’s removal have heightened with almost all National Executive Council (NEC) members including Bashir Odowa, Anne Njoroge, Emily Mito, Modesta Akaki, John Karanu, Javan Wachira and Warda Mohammed, joining the bandwagon. 

Sources said that out of the 38 NEC members only nine support Sossion.  Amid the pressure to eject him from the giant union, Sossion last evening remained defiant and vowed to fight until the end.

“Let them not think that this war will be a one-day affair. We are here to serve our full term as mandated by the teachers. So tell TSC that Sossion is no push over,” he said on telephone.

“The entire situation is being orchestrated by TSC and the government but I am unshakeable. I will continue fighting for teachers,” Sossion added.

Yesterday, a day after some Knut branches gave Sossion a seven-day ultimatum to quit his position, the Central region Knut officials heightened the push for his removal, with a declaration that “his time at Knut was over”.

While accusing Sossion of politicising Teachers Service Commission (TSC) issues for his own interests, the officials said Knut boss should start packing.

Kirinyaga branch assistant executive secretary Patrick Kanaiyu and Murang’a branch official Evans Njuguna said Sossion had personalised Knut issues and turned the union into his property.

“Sossion made a serious mistake by stating that TSC must go without seeking the views of teachers. He should pack up and go home,” Kanaiyu told People Daily yesterday.

However, TSC spokesman Kihumba Kamotho said the teachers’ employer should not be dragged into union issues. “TSC does not play any role in Knut internal matters, so let no one try to drag us into their personal wars,” said Kamotho.

According to Knut insiders, Sossion started digging his own grave the moment he started taking on President Uhuru Kenyatta head-on on almost every pronouncement on education.

Sossion was particularly abrasive against the government when Prof George Magoha was appointed Education Cabinet Secretary.

“It was naïve of him to have engaged in a unilateral confrontation over the appointment as that was seen as an affront on the President. His comments that Magoha was arrogant and vowing not to work with him may not have gone down well with the authorities,” top union officials who spoke on condition of anonymity told People Daily.

His alleged second mistake seems to have been his hard-line stance against the implementation of the Competence Based Curriculum (CBC), which he opposed from the beginning. The President had instructed then Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed to ensure the CBC roll-out succeeded at all costs. 

Yesterday, Kiambu West Knut branch secretary Michael Muna said Sossion has made the union appear like an opposition party. 

“It’s unfortunate to see some of our leaders politicising serious union matters. Sossion is behaving like a demigod and has instilled fear in those manning his office such that none can discharge their duties independently,” he said.

Having taken a strong position, the government is said to have seen threats to its education reform agenda and decided to take the war to his doorstep.

Having realised the government’s determination to silence him, Sossion joined the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu), an alliance that shielded him temporarily.

“Even though he had forced his members to join Cotu, Sossion forgot to change his old habits, as he remained arrogant and a lone ranger in Knut. That alliance with Francis Atwoli has not shielded him much,” Muna said last evening.

And his woes deepened when TSC issued a notice to remove him from the register of teachers effective July 29, 2019. The commission accused Sossion of breaching provisions of the TSC Act 2012 and Code of Regulations for teachers when he caused paralysis of CBC training in 11 centres in April.

Call for dialogue

It also accused him of breaching the law when he accepted nomination as an Orange Democratic Movement Member of Parliament in 2017.

But the final nail on Sossion’s coffin appears to have been hammered when TSC froze remittance of teachers’ deductions to Knut, leaving the union without funds for operations.

“This has left his team at the secretariat and branches vulnerable to manipulation by external forces. Who can accept to go without salary and allowances for two months? In any case, nobody knows when Knut shall start receiving funds,” said a source.

Sossion has also found himself on the receiving end owing to issues surrounding the Collective Bargaining Agreeme prompting a notice calling for a special National Executive Council (NEC) meeting next week.

“You are hereby notified of a special NEC meeting scheduled to be held on August 29 at Knut head office. Please attend without fail,” read the notice from Sossion.

Yesterday, the embattled trade unionist received backing from Atwoli who called for dialogue between the wrangling Knut factions. In a statement, Atwoli said they are opposed to any coup among its affiliates because they are not a solution to internal problems in trade unions.

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