Kenya: Prof Kiama Blocked From Office as UON Row Deepens

22 January 2020

Prof Stephen Gitahi Kiama, the man who is running the University of Nairobi (UoN) on orders of the Labour Court, is unable to access his office.

In a memo to staff and students, Prof Kiama, whose Vice-Chancellor (VC) appointment was suspended by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha over the weekend, Wednesday said he had been forced to operate from a temporary office.

He claimed that Prof Isaac Mbeche, who had been appointed by Prof Magoha as acting VC, had refused to surrender the keys for the top office located on third floor of UoN Towers.

"As an interim measure and to respect and safeguard university property from wanton destruction, the Vice-Chancellor will operate from the 19th floor of the UoN Towers," said Prof Kiama.

His decision, he said, was aimed at upholding the image of the university as an organisation with strong corporate culture and belief in the rule of law.

However, Prof Mbeche dismissed the claims, saying he was recalled by Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha to act.

"I was on leave but was asked to come back," said Prof Mbeche, who also disclosed 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," said Prof Mbeche.


On Tuesday, in a communication to staff and students, Prof Kiama said Prof Mbeche, who is currently Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Finance, Planning and Development, was proceeding on annual leave with effect from January 6 following his own request and which had been granted.

Prof Kiama appointed Prof Madara Ogot, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Extension, to act in the position for the period Prof Mbeche will be on leave.

"Further, Prof Julius Ogeng'o, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic Affairs, was appointed in an acting capacity as Deputy VC Student Affairs to allow for the filling of the position," said Prof Kiama.

He said both Prof Ogot and Prof Ogeng'o were formally appointed.

UoN staff and students were Wednesday holding separate meetings to discuss the stalemate at the university.

Some staff and students support Prof Kiama while others are on Prof Mbeche's side.

"As your Vice-Chancellor, I want to encourage such discourses, forums and meetings of mind to discuss challenges and matters of interest to the university and her constituents," he said.

Prof Kiama said no single person possesses a monopoly of knowledge, wisdom and solutions.

"My solemn duty at this time is to remind you that as you pursue your inalienable rights to assembly, you accord with and observe the tenor of laws and regulations governing such assembly and, indeed, the broader remit of civility and decency," he added.


However, the secretary of Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) UoN chapter, Dr George Omondi, called for a solution to the standoff.

The leadership row, he said, marred the reputation of the institution.

"We have international collaborations with various agencies and, if we continue with the infighting, we may lose them," he said.

He said the institution is facing several challenges, including poor funding, thus cordial relations with the government were vital.

Dr Omondi said business at the institution has not normalised due to the leadership crisis.

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