The leadership wrangles at the University of Nairobi have intensified after Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha moved to court seeking to overturn temporary orders that reinstated Prof Stephen Kiama as the vice-chancellor.
Last week, Prof Magoha dissolved the university’s council and revoked Prof Kiama’s appointment. He also reinstated Prof Isaac Mbeche, the deputy VC in charge of finance, planning and development, as the VC in acting capacity, pending the appointment of a substantive office holder.
However, Prof Kiama, went to the Employment and Labour Relations Court on Monday where he secured temporary orders keeping him office, after which he sent Prof Mbeche on leave.
On Wednesday, however, Prof Magoha insisted that his decision to reverse the appointment of Prof Kiama as the university boss was proper, arguing that the process of recruiting him had been flawed. In documents filed in court through his lawyer, Evans Monari, the CS accused Prof Kiama of misleading the court through misinterpretation of facts to obtain orders keeping him in office.
Prof Magoha claimed that the court order had crippled critical administrative functions of the university because the office of the vice-chancellor remains vacant while the institution does not have a council to run its operations.
“It is therefore critical that the CS (Magoha) exercises supervisory powers over the university to ensure that Prof Mbeche continues to operate, pending proper substantive appointment of a VC or the determination of this suit,” said Mr Monari and asked the court to “be pleased to discharge and set aside orders issued by Lady Justice Maureen Onyango on January 20.”
According to the CS, Prof Kiama had made drastic decisions affecting the running and management of the university, hence compromising the interests of the institution and allegedly deceiving the public. Prof Kiama has also been accused of failing to disclose to the Employment and Labour Relations Court that there was another pending suit before a different division of the High Court.
Prof Magoha told the court that Prof Kiama’s appointment was unlawful because there was no consultation between the council and the office of the CS as required under the Universities Act.
With the University of Nairobi leadership row now in the corridors of justice, it will be interesting to see how the push and pull will end.
Meanwhile, Prof Kiama was by Wednesday still unable to access his office. In a memo to staff and students, he said that he had been forced to operate from a temporary office.
He claimed Prof Mbeche had refused to surrender the keys for the top office on the third floor of UoN Towers.
“As an interim measure and to respect and safeguard university property from wanton destruction, the vice-chancellor will operate from the 19th floor of the UoN Towers,” said Prof Kiama.