15 December 2017

Kenya: Why Masinde Muliro University Put Off Atwoli's Degree Award


Masinde Muliro University has said it postponed plans to award trade unionist Francis Atwoli an honorary degree on advice from the institution's council.

Vice Chancellor Fredrick Otieno said the proposed award of degree in Humane Letters (Labour Relations) to Mr Atwoli was put off after the council asked that it be postponed.

Mr Atwoli, who is the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) secretary-general, was to receive the award today in recognition of his long service and commitment to the national, regional and international trade union leadership.

"The university council requested the award of this degree be postponed until further notice. As a university, we had done our part and we live it at that," he said.

Prof Otieno said the institution followed the right procedure to award Mr Atwoli the degree because of his commitment towards advocating for workers' rights.

"We believe the council will provide the way forward on this matter. We cannot question our employer," he told journalists on Wednesday.

"He (Atwoli) has championed social justice, through progressive labour relations. He has engaged in initiatives that contribute to industrial peace," said Prof Otieno.

The move to rescind the decision has opened speculation, with Kenya National Union of Teachers Secretary-General Wilson Sossion accusing Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i of forcing the university to cancel the scheduled conferment of the award to Mr Atwoli.

Dr Matiang'i is yet to comment on the accusations.

Mr Atwoli said he was taken by surprise in the institution's about-turn.

The VC, who has been accused of corruption, called on the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) to carry out thorough forensic audit on the university's finance and systems to clear the air on the issue of graft allegations levelled against him.

EACC has been investigating the VC for almost one year for alleged intimidation of staff, abuse of office, embezzlement of university funds, and nepotism among others.

Prof Otieno said he was willing to collaborate with the EACC officers, adding that he had nothing to hide.

"I am not corruptible. Cartels that I broke up in when I took over in December 2013 are fighting back," he said.

"I was brought up in a humble background and have struggled to build my career. I wouldn't wish to have the career l have built over years destroyed by my critics," he added.

He also dismissed allegations of promoting nepotism at the institution as propaganda from his critics.

Prof Otieno asked EACC to be impartial when conducting the investigation.

He also outlined the achievements he has made in the institution in the last four years.


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