By Georgina Magondu
The power struggle for University of Nairobi’s top seat was put aside on Thursday, January 23, during the induction of 1, 600 First-Year students, as Prof. Isaac Mbeche took a back seat and let Prof. Kiama Gitahi run the show.
Two formal activities were penciled in for Thursday, with each requiring UoN’s Vice Chancellor to steer the conventions. With the ongoing fight for the leadership helm at the institution of higher learning, it remained unclear Thursday morning on who between Mbeche and Kiama would preside over the functions.
A climate symposium was slated for 9am at the UoN Towers, with Prof. Mbeche referred to as the VC in the programme schedule. However, it was Prof. Kiama, who presided over the function. At 12 noon, the VC was expected to lead the First-Year students’ induction ceremony. Again, it was Prof. Kiama who was at the wheel.
Prof. Mbeche did not attend either of the events.
This could be part of Prof. Mbeche’s decision to abide by a Monday court order that directed Prof. Kiama — who emerged winner in Prof. Peter Mbithi’s succession race — take charge as UoN’s VC until a case filed by Kiama challenging a decision by Education minister Prof. George Magoha to revoke his [Kiama’s] appointment is heard and determined.
In an interview with K24 Digital on Wednesday, Prof. Mbeche said he won’t act in contempt of a court edict, and, therefore, he would stand aside as Prof. Kiama dispenses duties as the VC.
Mbeche, however, said he remains the VC in acting capacity after Magoha re-installed him in that position following the revocation of Prof. Kiama’s appointment. Mbeche still occupies the VC’s physical office, with Kiama accusing him of hiding the keys to the office. Kiama, meanwhile, operates in a makeshift office.
An attempt by Magoha to counter Prof. Kiama’s suit was dealt a blow Wednesday, when the Employment and Labour Relations Court declined to stay an earlier order reinstating Prof. Kiama as the VC of UoN.
Responding to the application made on Education CS Magoha’s behalf, Lady Justice Maureen Onyango said she could not reverse a ruling she made on Monday, January 20, in which a decision to appoint Prof. Peter Mbeche as Acting Vice Chancellor was revoked pending an inter partes hearing scheduled for Friday, January 24.
“I do not want to cause more chaos and therefore ask you to come to court Friday for inter pates hearing” ruled Justice Onyango.
In an urgent application, CS Magoha — through lawyer Evans Monari — accused Prof Kiama of unlawfully purporting to make leadership changes at the UoN by appointing a Deputy Vice Chancellor and issuing memos.
This, Monari argued “is against the purview of the orders issued by the court on Monday.”
CS Magoha also wanted the court to allow Prof Mbeche to continue serving in an acting capacity.
Magoha insisted orders issued on Monday did not reinstate Prof Kiama, pending the resolution of the matter.
Monari said only the University Council, which has since been dissolved by CS Magoha and the Public Service Commission, have statutory power to appoint a VC at UoN.
The Thursday 9am climate conference was attended by, among others, Dr Vincent Ogutu, who is the VC Designate at Strathmore University, Dr Joseph Njoroge; the Principal Secretary State Department for Environment, Prof. Izael Da Silva; the Board Chairman, Kenya Climate
The event, which was moderated by Dr Collins Odote, addressed opportunities in climate change adaptation and handling challenges of a changing pastoral environment, among other topics.