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Mystery over Kibaki nominee’s PhD degree

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Updated Mon, August 8th 2011 at 00:00 GMT +3

By DAVID OCHAMI

A decision by a parliamentary committee to clear a nominee for the Judicial Service Commission is raising eyebrows following questions over the validity of his Doctor of Philosophy degree.

The Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) of Parliament cleared Rev Samuel Kobia who was nominated to the JSC by President Kibaki, in consultation with Prime Minister Raila Odinga. But The Standard has learnt that Kobia might have received his PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) degree from an unaccredited American university, although the cleric, a fierce critic of the old Kanu government, had denied hiding anything.

Rev Samuel Kobia. He is to replace Bishop Anthony Muheria who resigned abruptly from the Judicial Service Commission in April citing other commitments.  [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]
Kobia is to replace Bishop Anthony Muheria who resigned abruptly from the JSC in April citing other commitments.

It was not immediately clear whether CIOC was aware of the controversy surrounding the PhD issued by the University of Fairfax when it interviewed Kobia.

When CIOC recently vetted the well-known cleric, the interrogation was smooth and no questions were raised about events during his tenure as Secretary General of the World Council of Churches (WCC), during which the allegations that his Phd might be illegitimate first emerged.

Regarded as a reformist, Kobia, 65 was Secretary General of the 349-member WCC between 2003 and 2008, which also published the Ecumenical News International (ENI).

But as he prepared to vie for a second term as WCC Secretary General in 2008, a German news agency, epd disclosed that Kobia was awarded a PhD from the University of Fairfax in the State of Louisiana in 2004, an institution that was actually non-existent at the time, a fact confirmed by Kobia when The Standard contacted him.

"It is true I was awarded the PhD in 2004, but later I realised the University of Fairfax in the State of Louisiana had ceased to exist at that time," said Kobia.

Dismissal

The news was carried by ENI, a publication that was temporarily shut down by WCC last year, and its editors Peter Kenney and Stephen Brown dismissed.

The editors’ dismissal triggered the resignation of Rev Anders Gadegaard a Dane, who was ENI’s president and Moderator of WCC’s Finance Committee.

It was after Kobia’s nomination to the JSC by President Kibaki that the ENI team spilled the beans on the controversial Phd.

Peter Kenny, who was ENI’s editor-in-chief at the time the news about the university’s status was first published, claimed Kobia was extremely upset about the report, although the initial story was relayed by a German protestant news agency epd.

"He tried to intimidate my staff and interrogate them," Kenny told The Standard on telephone at the weekend adding that Kobia "also accused me of racism" after the publication.

But Kobia denied ever intimidating any ENI staff, and said he only met Kenny "professionally". He also said Brown, Kenny’s colleague, took a dislike to him after failing to get a senior position at the news organisation.

The respected cleric said he applied for admission to the University of Fairfax and also submitted his research and thesis titled: "The Courage to Hope —The Roots for a New Vision and the Calling of the Church of Africa" through the Internet.

And he maintains the PhD was "my original work."

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