University of Nairobi’s leadership conundrum deepened on Tuesday after reinstated Vice-Chancellor Stephen Kiama Gitahi took over and announced that Prof Isaac Mbeche, who was holding the position in an acting capacity, had proceeded on annual leave.
Prof Mbeche, who is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) for Finance, Planning and Development, had started his annual leave on January 6 when Education CS George Magoha recalled him to take up VC duties.
In a communication to staff and students, Prof Kiama said he had appointed Prof Madara Ogot, the DVC for Research and Extension, to act in Prof Mbeche’s position for the duration of his leave.
“Further, Prof Julius Ogeng’o, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, has been appointed in an acting capacity as Deputy VC Student Affairs to allow for the filling of the position,” Prof Kiama said.
He said both Prof Ogot and Prof Ogeng’o were formally appointed.
“Meanwhile, I wish to take this opportunity to thank all staff and students for remaining calm and proceeding with normal university business,” Prof Kiama said.
On the other hand, Prof Mbeche said he was recalled by Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha to act.
He further said that he stayed away from the VC’s office to allow the court process to take place.
“We are waiting for the decision of the government after Monday’s court orders for the next course of action,” Prof Mbeche said.
Prof Kiama reported on duty after Employment and Labour Relations Court Judge Maureen Onyango suspended the order issued by Prof Magoha on Friday last week revoking his appointment.
Prof Kiama said that the institution is running smoothly despite what he termed as confusion over the weekend and on Monday.
“As you can see, first year students’ registration is going on smoothly. I’ve met with some professors and we agreed that the university activities must go on,” he added.
He also said the institution had experienced delays in the way it operates over the weekend since workers were not sure of whom to consult.
“People were not sure of whom to consult or go to. However, the court order issued on Tuesday has settled everything,” he said.
The university’s Senate had on Monday morning endorsed Prof Mbeche as the university’s acting Vice-Chancellor as directed by Prof Magoha.
The UoN now finds itself in the same boat with a number of other public universities that have top managers in acting capacities.
At Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST), the top four managers — VC and DVC Academic and Students Affairs, Administration and Finance, and Planning, Research and Innovation — are in acting capacity despite interviews having been conducted mid last year.
Prof Joseph Bosire was tapped from Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology (JOOUST) where he was Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs to head MMUST but was mid last year replaced by Prof Asenath Sigot.
At Taita-Taveta University, Prof Fred Simiyu Barasa is acting Vice-Chancellor after he replaced Prof Hamadi Boga, who was appointed Principal Secretary for Agriculture in 2018.
Prof Bernard Wamuti Ikua is the acting DVC Administration and Prof Robert Kinyua is acting DVC Academic Affairs at Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT).
The Public Service Commission (PSC) conducted interviews for the two positions, but they are yet to be filled.
At Moi University, Prof Daniel Tarus is holding the DVC Finance position in an acting capacity while at JOOUST, Prof Washington Olima is also holding the DVC Planning and Administration position in an acting capacity.
Kibabii University has no substantive DVC Finance and Administration, and the same applies to Laikipia University.
At Garissa University, the PSC has advertised for recruitment of the vice-chancellor.
Last year, vice-chancellors warned that the decision to give power to the PSC to recruit the top administrators for the institutions was undermining their academic freedom.
Prof Magoha has since indicated that the government will review the rules on appointment of university administrators, but it is not clear when this will be done.
Best human resource practices require that those in acting capacities hold the positions for about six months during which time the appointing authority should put in place mechanisms to competitively fill the positions.