Kenya: Crisis at Egerton Deepens as Lecturers Block VC Mwonya Office

1 December 2020

The crisis at the financially troubled Egerton University deepened yesterday when more than 100 lecturers blocked the entrance of the administration block at the Njoro Campus.

The lecturers held prayers and sang solidarity songs as they vowed to block any attempt by the embattled Vice-Chancellor Prof Rose Awuor Mwonya to access the office.

The lecturers who signed a return-to-work formula with the acting Vice-Chancellor Prof Isaac Ongubo Kibwage were protesting the decision by the Employment and Labour Relations Court to reinstate Prof Mwonya as the institution's Vice-Chancellor.

The court ordered the matter to be heard on December 10.

However, the crisis is set to continue as a source told the Nation that the university council is also planning to move to court to block Prof Mwonya from accessing the office.

Prof Kibwage was appointed as acting VC on November 20 by the university council but Prof Mwonya moved to court to protest the decision to send her home before the end of her term.

Prof Mwonya has attained the mandatory retirement age of 70 years, but her first term as VC ends on January 12, 2021.

"We have signed a return-to-work formula with the acting VC Prof Kibwage who is more approachable and we wonder what unfinished business does the outgoing VC want to accomplish in the office. We shall not allow that even if it means sleeping here today," shouted a lecturer.

As the lecturers protested the university management was having a senate meeting to discuss the reopening of the university to enable the students particularly the more than 2,000 Fourth year students graduate before the end of the year.

The dons said they will keep vigil and ensure Prof Mwonya does not access the office.

"We shall monitor every vehicle entering the gate lest she is sneaked into the university," said Fredrick Mwangangi, Universities Staff Academic Union (Uasu) Egerton chapter chairperson.

"We are ready for anything this time around. Egerton has lost its credibility and we shall not allow the university to sink as we watch. We shall keep vigil," said Grace Kibue, Uasu vice-chairperson Egerton Chapter.

"This time around even if she brings a contingent of gun-wielding policemen we shall not move an inch," said another lecturer.

Uasu Egerton Chapter organising secretary Patrick Murerwa said that the outgoing VC who is supposed to officially retire on January 12, 2021, want to settle scores with the lecturers whom she blames for pushing for ouster.

But the dons maintained they went on strike after the university administration cut their salaries by 40 per cent in April.

Prof Mwonya said the lecturers should respect the ruling by the court which reinstated her.

"If the lecturers feel aggrieved by the ruling they should seek redress at the court unless they have their own laws," said Prof Mwonya.

According to the deal signed between union leaders and management, the university has agreed to clear the arrears starting this month by paying half of the April arrears amounting to Sh120 million.

It was signed by Uasu National chairperson Muga K'Olale, Uasu Egerton Chapter secretary Janepha Kumba, chairperson Fredrick Mwangangi and witnessed by Prof Alexander Kahi, Deputy Vice-chancellor Academic Affairs, Prof Bockline Omedo Bebe (acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and (Extension) and Registrar Human Capital and Administration, Thomas Serem.

When the Nation visited the university on Tuesday, Prof Mwonya's office was locked.

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