Game of dons as Magoha moves to court in VC saga

Newly appointed University of Nairobi VC Prof Stephen Kiama (left) and acting VC Prof Isaac Mbeche. Leadership wrangles between them may affect staff's January salaries. [Standard]

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has moved to court to challenge orders reinstating Stephen Kiama as the University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor.

In court documents, Prof Magoha accused Prof Kiama of misrepresenting facts.

Yesterday, payment of January salaries of the more than 5,000 University of Nairobi workers hang in the balance as the battle over leadership of the premier institution raged on.

The workers said yesterday that the bank overdraft guaranteed by the government may not be approved, causing salary delays and failed Third Party Deductions.

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The unions said without a substantive vice-chancellor, salary approvals, often done in conjunction with deputy vice-chancellor in charge of Finance and the university’s Finance Officer, may not take place.

Kiama yesterday accused the acting VC Isaac Mbeche of locking up his official office two days after the labour court reinstated him.

Kiama said he is the “lawfully and validly” appointed VC and will continue to discharge duties of his office from a makeshift space.

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The official office of the VC is located on the 18th floor of University of Nairobi Towers. Kiama said he would work from the 19th floor of the building, which houses the Council chairperson’s office and Council boardroom.

Prof Mbeche, who was appointed acting VC by Magoha, said he also stayed away from the official VC’s office after the Monday court order.

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Magoha revoked the appointment of Kiama after Council appointed him the VC. Magoha also dissolved the entire University of Nairobi Council. Labour court has since barred appointment of a new Council with orders to maintain the status quo.

Immediately after the appointment of Kiama was revoked by the ministry, acting deputy vice-chancellor finance, planning and development Madara Ogot the sent the first internal memo to all staff.

Planned installation

In the January 18 communication, Prof Ogot announced to all staff that the planned installation of Kiama as VC on January 20 had been cancelled.

The memo further said that Kiama would return to his previous office of deputy vice-chancellor, human resource and administration.

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On the same day, Prof Kiama responded by alerting all staff and students that he was the “lawfully and validly appointed VC”.

“As such, I continue in diligent service as your vice-chancellor and remain available to you for guidance and direction,” said Kiama.

Kiama also sent a separate communication to all University of Nairobi stakeholders and collaborators, warning that any person or institution conducting business with the institution with any person other than the legally appointed VC did so at their own peril.

“Any resolutions originating from any university organ, which by statute are chaired by VC, if chaired by a person other than the legally appointed VC or any other person expressly authorised by him in writing, similarly will not be binding,” said Kiama.

Shortly after the statements were received, Prof Mbeche wrote another stern internal memo.

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First, Mbeche closed the University Advancement Office with immediate effect and said staff would be redeployed.

Insider sources said that the office was suspected to be supporting Prof Kiama in dispersing communication to staff and students.

In his memo to staff, Mbeche said: “I have noted with concern that Prof Kiama, whose appointment was revoked by the Cabinet Secretary for Education, has been allowed to send communication online purportedly from the office of the VC. I am now directing that all communication from the VC will come from the undersigned (Prof Mbeche).”

All the correspondence above took place on Saturday, the day the gazette notice that revoked Kiama’s appointment was published.

On the same day, Mbeche held a meeting of the university executive management board and also met workers and students unions at the chancellor’s boardroom on the 19th floor of the University of Nairobi Towers.

Two days later on Monday, January 20, students and workers unions separately addressed the media in support of the directive of the ministry.

On the same day, Kiama successfully extracted orders reinstating him as the VC of Nairobi.

The following day, Tuesday January 21, Kiama toured the University of Nairobi premises and observed registration of new students.

He also attended a meeting of university professors and addressed them on the need to find a lasting solution to the institution’s problems.

Addressing the media, Kiama said he started service as VC on January 6 after his appointment and noted that he had been working since then and there hadn’t been any issues until Friday when his appointment was revoked.

“I don’t read any malice in the revocation. It’s just a feeling from some quarters that perhaps they have certain authorities over certain things and it is an issue that may require further interpretations,” said Kiama.

Her added: “I wish to say that university has a culture of excellence with many trained here and wherever they go they are strong and offer leadership that is expected of them because of the nurturing and training spirit at the University of Nairobi.”

Later in the day, Kiama released a memo sending Mbeche on annual leave.

He said Mbeche’s request to proceed on annual leave had been granted with immediate effect.

But Mbeche hit back saying he was recalled from leave by the Education CS and given a letter to act as VC.

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George MagohaStephen KiamaUniversity of Nairobi