Why Prof Stephen Kiama may not return to the University of Nairobi

The University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor, Prof Stephen Kiama. [Samson Wire. Standard].

The University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor, Prof Stephen Kiama, may not return to lead the institution even after the expiry of his six-month leave, it has emerged.

Details of a letter he sent to Council Chairman Prof Amukowa Anangwe reveal that the VC asked for six months' leave, extendable.

“I plan to take annual leave for a period of six months extendable,” Prof Kiama wrote in a letter to the council chair.

This means that upon the expiry of the six months' leave in January 2024, Prof Kiama may take additional months ahead of his terminal leave.

The VC was appointed to office on January 6, 2020. This means that his term would come to an end in January 2025.

If Prof Kiama extends his leave after the end of the first six months in January 2024, he would take an additional six months (extendable) away from the university until July 2024.

And at the end of the second extended leave, the VC could proceed to take his six-month terminal leave starting August 2024.

This effectively means that if his differences with the university Council are not resolved between now and July next year, Prof Kiama may spend the remaining months on his terminal leave.

In his letter dated July 28, 2023, Prof Kiama said: “I wish to request annual leave from August 1, 2023, in order to exhaust all my accumulated leave days before the end of my contract.”

In the same letter, Prof Kiama noted that he shall not seek a second term upon the expiry of his term.

“I have no intention of presenting my name for consideration for another term,” the letter reads.

This means that if his differences with the Council are not resolved in time to allow him to resume work, Prof Kiama may not return to the institution as his contract will have expired.

Speaking to The Standard, Prof Kiama said his return to the helm of the university leadership will depend on how the stand-off with the Council would be handled at the end of his sabbatical.

“If there is a solution, I don’t have to utilise the entire six months' leave, I will be back in office before that time lapses,” Prof Kiama noted.

He told the Standard that other forces within the University of Nairobi have tried to meddle with his mandate.

“There have been some governance issues, when another person wants to take over the role of a Vice-Chancellor it is hard to execute my job.  So I decided to take my accumulated leave period and see how things play out,” Prof Kiama said.

He added: “I have tried to address the issue and the sabbatical is part of the ways seeking to settle the standoff to help both parties reflect.”

However, the letter copied to Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu and the institution’s chancellor, Dr Vijoo Ratatansi, is silent on his tribulations with the Council.

Instead, Prof Kiama noted that he had accumulated a lot of leave days which he needed to exhaust.

“I have until now been unable to take annual leave since my appointment as vice chancellor of the University of Nairobi on January 6, 2020 because of the heavy demands of the office. This has resulted in my accumulated leave days that will be impossible to exhaust if I do not proceed as requested,” Prof Kiama said.

In addition, Prof Kiama also referenced a Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) circular addressed to all chairpersons of public university councils and constituent colleges.

The letter, Prof Kiama said, advised that leave days shall not be commuted to cash.

“Advisories from SRC are binding to all public officers. I need to clear all my leave days before the end of my contract as vice chancellor.