A showdown is looming at the University of Nairobi as two factions claiming it leadership meet today.
Prof Stephen Kiama, whose appointment as vice-chancellor was revoked on Friday by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, insists that he is still the boss, as does Prof Isaac Mbeche, following his appointment in an acting capacity by Prof Magoha.
The situation has caused confusion at the university, with staff and students not sure who to take instructions from.
On Sunday, Prof Kiama placed an advert in the local dailies cautioning all stakeholders and collaborators against working with Prof Mbeche.
“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 vice-chancellor, Prof Stephen Kiama Gitahi, purporting to represent the University of Nairobi, does so at their own peril and the university will not honour or be held liable for such commitments,” said the advert.
Prof Kiama added that any resolution originating from any university organs, which by statute are chaired by the vice-chancellor, if chaired by a person other than the legally appointed vice-chancellor, or any other person expressly authorised by him in writing, will not be binding.
Prof Mbeche, for his part, issued a memo to the director of ICT, saying all official communication must come from the office of the acting VC and not from Prof Kiama.
On Sunday, the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) Chapter Secretary George Omondi said they will work with the vice-chancellor appointed by the government, namely Prof Mbeche.
“We want calm in this institution, and it is our prayer that Prof Kiama will allow the government to conclude the process instead of disregarding the Ministry of Education directive,” he said.
But Prof Kiama insists that he was lawfully and validly appointed VC and will continue to discharge his duties.
“In the face of these developments, I want to urge you all to continue to remain calm and maintain peace and order that has subsisted since my appointment as vice-chancellor. Do not be given to acts of lawlessness as peace and stability of the university is important to all of us,” he said a January 18 memo.
The disbanded university council chaired by Prof Julia Ojiambo has, since Saturday, been holding informal meetings, with information hinting that they are likely to instal Prof Kiama on Tuesday.
However, Prof Ojiambo could not be reached for comment as our calls and text messages went unanswered.
On Friday, in special gazette notice, Prof Magoha dissolved the council and also revoked Prof Kiama’s appointment pending further consultation.
“Prof Kiama will continue dispensing his duties as Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Human Resource and Administration, at the university,” Prof Magoha said in a press release.
Reports say he dissolved the council because the Ministry was unhappy with Prof Kiama’s appointment.
Meanwhile, despite the enactment of the Statue Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) 2018 in January 2019 that was meant to bring order in the recruitment of top university administrators, chaos persists.
The Public Service Commission (PSC) has been unable to recruit vice-chancellors, deputy vice-chancellors and principals of colleges. And where it has succeeded, the recruitments have been challenged in court.
The appointment of Prof George Magoha, formerly VC of Nairobi university, as Education Cabinet Secretary has not made the situation any better.
CHANGE OF LAW
This has left several universities with acting managers, with the latest being Prof Mbeche, who took over in July last year after Peter Mbithi’s exit.
The Amendment of the Universities Act, 2012 took away the power of university councils to advertise, interview and recommend for appointment top university managers.
Those holding administrative positions in higher learning institutions have been unable to make executive decisions for their institutions.
Last October, the Labour Court in Eldoret suspended the appointment of Prof Anne Nangulu as omet University College's principal as well as those of two deputy principals following a petition.