Land saga: Kenyatta University VC Paul Wainaina suspended

KU Vice-Chancellor Paul Wainaina. [Esther Jeruto, standard]

A storm is brewing at Kenyatta University with reports that Vice-Chancellor Paul Wainaina has been suspended and the institution’s council disbanded following a land row.

University Education PS Simon Nabukwesi said Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Waceke Wanjohi would be the Acting VC for the next 30 days.

During this period, Prof Wainaina will be placed under investigation on allegations of misconduct and insubordination. “If investigations find that he has no questions to answer, he will take back his job,” said Nabukwesi.

Prof Wainaina had, however, hinted that a new team would be in place to manage the university.

“This is the last time am talking to you as your VC. I understand a new council is being formed and the installation of a VC being planned. This has happened because we refused to cede university land to the government,” said Prof Wainaina. Yesterday, Prof Wainaina called an impromptu meeting with university staff and informed them he could leave office for opposing the takeover of the land.

PS Nabukwesi, however, denied reports that the VC had been sacked. But he said a new council had been gazetted under the chairmanship of Prof Chrispus Kiamba. Kiamba is the former University of Nairobi vice-chancellor and one-time Higher Education PS.

“Part of the team was gazetted last Friday and the rest of the team gazetted today (Tuesday),” said Nabukwesi.

On Friday, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha appointed Maj. Gen. (Rtd.) Bashir Yusuf, Andrew Nyanchoga, Alice Waruguru Muita, as members of the Council of Kenyatta University.​ At the center of the storm is a letter by Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua requiring Prof Wainaina and the old council to surrender the title deed of the university land to facilitate the acquisition.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha. [File, Standard]

Kinyua’s letter was dated July 7. In it, he asked the VC to submit a letter of authority from the university as the holder of the title to enable the Lands ministry enter the disputed premises and carry out physical planning.

The university management was also to submit a revised master plan to factor in the excision of land.

But the old council told the State that they are only custodians of the university property but didn’t have powers to cede land as requested unless a proper procedure was followed.

The letter shows that the university management were required to cede 30 acres to the World Health Organisation Centre and another 10 acres to the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. The university was also required to cede 180 acres to the Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital and some 190 acres for resettlement of Kamae squatters.

“The Cabinet, in its meeting held on May 12, resolved to approve the allocation of land to strategic interventions under the Ministry of Health,” says Kinyua’s letter.

“The decision was premised not only on the fact that KU is holding large tracks of unutilised land but more strategically, the planned interventions have a nexus to KU academic research programmes as to inevitably create a synergetic relationship to benefit the university as a whole,” Kinyua said. 

Crucial meeting

He said another consultative meeting was scheduled to take place yesterday at the Harambee House boardroom, Nairobi, to confirm the status of actions and agree on the next steps.

Head of Public Service Dr. Joseph Kinyua. [PSCU, Standard]

On Saturday, while launching the ultra-modern Cath Lab at the referral hospital, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the 1,000-acre piece of land (LR.NO. 11026/ Grant 33404) owned by the university was not individual property, but that of Kenyans, who have entrusted persons in leadership to take care of it.

“Property, whether State House (which I will be leaving in a few weeks), a hospital or a university like this is the property of Kenyans held in trust. You are just a caretaker. I will go home with them in three weeks’ time since we will deal with them swiftly,” Uhuru said.

The development is now interpreted to mean Uhuru may have cracked the whip as he had promised on Saturday against university officials who had blocked the acquisition of the land when he presided over the groundbreaking of the WHO center.

At that time, Uhuru had wondered why Kenyatta University administration was against the use of the land.

“What the nation wants is people with visionary ideas. It is very sad to have a few of us who are learned but lack wisdom and behave like those who have not been to school. We shall deal with those individuals swiftly. We shall go home together in the next three weeks,” Uhuru said.

The controversy surrounding the takeover of KU land started on July 4 when the institution’s fence was brought down by personnel from the National Youth Service (NYS), according to the VC.

“Those who invaded our land are people from the forces in plain clothes. Accompanied by NYS personnel with two bulldozers, they stormed into our premises through the Northern bypass and destroyed the perimeter wall after overpowering our security guards,” said Wainaina in an earlier interview.

“They did not talk to anyone. They started clearing the land using bulldozers. So far we have not received any information regarding what is happening,” he said. Finer details reveal that Kinyua’s letter asked the university to provide an agreement for the sub–division of the said parcels of land and further surrender the existing land title deed (LR.NO. 11026/ Grant 33404) to the Lands ministry for re-planning.