Education cabinet secretary Jacob Kaimenyi has now been sucked into the debate over the pending retirement of Kenyatta University vice chancellor Olive Mugenda which has since degenerated into political debate within the KU community and Kenyans at large.
Last week, This Blog and our Twitter hashtag #SendMugendaHome revealed the game plan behind Mugenda’s continued stay at the helm of KU despite pressure that she ought to have gone on terminal leave following a suit by the Universities’ Academic Staff Union national chairman Sammy Kubasu who has since written to Kaimenyi to send Mugenda on terminal leave.
The letter was copied to, among others, Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, CJ Willy Mutunga, AG Githu Muigai, chairman State Corporation Advisory Committee and the chairperson the Law Society of Kenya. Others who have received the letter include the Ombudsman, Prof Mugenda, Uasu national secretary general Muga K’Olale and the institution’s chapter secretary Makokha. In the letter, Kubasu warns that Mugenda should not be given any preferential treatment through breaking the law, adding that this would set a bad precedence. He warns that such attempts will by all existing means be resisted by Uasu.
According to Kubasu’s tough letter, the delay to kickstart Mugenda’s replacement will derail KU leadership transition and cited the universities Act and the KU Charter and Statutes which provides for a six-month transition prior to the change of office for a VC. The letter reads in part: “Mugenda plans to go back through the back door”. The pressure now seems to have generated a lot of heat on the KU’s Council which has now forced the council chairman Ratemo Michieka to write to the chairman of KU’s Uasu Chapter denying claims that Mugenda’s term has been extended and that she has not sought extension.
As pressure continues to pile on Mugenda to retire, an activist Okiya Omtata has also moved to court in a bid to remove her from office. Last week, Omtata filed the case at the Industrial and Labour Relations Court to push for her retirement on grounds that she has completed her mandatory term and should vacate office. According to records, Mugenda was appointed VC in 2007 and was reappointed in 2012 by then president Mwai Kibaki for another five years.
According to Omtatah’s papers presented before Nairobi Justice Hellen Wasilwa, the Education ministry has not advertised her position or sent her on a mandatory six months leave to facilitate her exit. According to the university Charter, Mugenda’s term is expected to end in March 2016.
The fear which has now forced Omtatah to seek legal redress is that in less than six months to the end of her term, no advertisement has been placed in the media announcing the vacancy which is against the best practice in the public service where those approaching the expiry of their terms proceed on a six-month leave pending retirement.
Although Mugenda is keen on extending her term through dubious means, the truth and law is that having completed the two terms, under the law, she is not eligible for re-appointment.
But what is now worrying is that Prof Mugenda is not ready to call it quits as she plans to hang onto the job for a possible third term which is against the universities Act 2012
The Act in Article 39.(1) says “The vice-chancellor of a university shall be appointed— (a) in the case of a public university, competitively by the cabinet secretary on the recommendation of the council; and (3) says the vice-chancellor of a public university shall hold office for a term of five years and shall be eligible for a further term of five years.
What is now worrying Kenyans is that whereas Mugenda is a beneficiary of competitive recruitment, it is shocking and worrying that she is now failing to respect the same and to give others an opportunity to serve in the same capacity as VC.
He explained that there has been relative calm in the country’s public universities and that as a union; they will not tolerate “the seeming incitement by the Kenyatta University Council over the change of guard in the top leadership of the institution”.
The letter reads in part: “We must abide by the rule of law, procedural practice in dealing with leadership transition at Kenyatta University, to build confidence in employees and other stakeholders and foster peace, labour and working relations within Kenyatta University.”
Mugenda must make a bold move and follow the footsteps of former United States International University Africa VC Freida Brown who was the owner of Usiu but obeyed law and stepped down as the VC.
Pressure is now on her to also copy former University of Nairobi VC George Magoha who retired at the expiry of his second term and also Egerton University VC James Tuitoek who has also retired.
As Omtatah pursues her through the courts, we have information that section of Kenyatta University students, teaching staff and non-teaching staff are working on a plot to heckle and jeer her during the forthcoming 39th graduation ceremony if by that time the university council will have not declared a vacancy in the VC’s office.
According to sources well versed with the plan, the graduation is expected to produce drama and fireworks as students plan to openly shout her down to demand that she hands over the instruments of power to her successor.
Earlier, Michieka had in his letter of September 16 2015, told off George Makokha and warning that tainting the university council as what he was doing could be legally challenged and will not be tolerated as his allegations cannot be substantiated. He described Makokha’s letter to him as chair of council rude, demeaning, disrespectful and selfish telling him that “there are many stakeholders beyond you who highly respect the council, management and leadership of Kenyatta University”.
They now want her to emulate Magoha who handed over to Peter Mbithi at the expiry of his two terms. The fear now is that she should currently be on leave pending retirement to allow for advertising, short listing, interviews and appointment of her successor but this seems not to be in her plans.
It is still, however, not known how she wants her term extended because the law is clear on her retirement but sources say she does not want a new VC appointed until March so that she can request for a one or two year contract to finish the projects she claims to have started and which are mid-way. Already, there is talk that she is pressing buttons to be given a fixed contract.
Last week, we revealed that she had refused to have the KU council to advertise her position, sources say after reading the story, she was dejected and was overheard lamenting that she has not refused to retire as reported but just wanted a small contract to finish up her ongoing projects.
Her continued stay at KU has raised eyebrows and tempers are high as those eyeing her position claim she is denying them an opportunity to rise to the top. Already, names are being floated as her possible replacement in an acting capacity awaiting a competitive recruitment process. Those mentioned are John Okumu who is deputy vice chancellor, Academics, Godfrey Msa, deputy vice-chancellor Finance and Development), PK Wainaina deputy vice-chancellor, Administration and Frederick Gravenir, deputy vice-chancellor, Research, Innovation and Outreach.
KU sources divulged that her refusal is based on the fact that she is still putting a number of documents relating to multi-million construction tenders which sources claim costs were inflated where she allegedly pocketed hefty kickbacks.
One such project is the construction of the new main campus gates A and B. Already gate A has been opened and is in use while gate B is still closed. Sources say the manner in which the tender was awarded remains suspect and that huge amounts of money must have exchanged hands before the tender was awarded.
Although Mugenda has been bragging that she initiated several development projects at KU, academic stakeholders have, however, dismissed her saying construction of hospital, morgue and Uni-City is not academic excellence and that it is highly suspected that those many construction projects awarded to the Chinese companies might just be avenues to make money through hefty kickbacks.
Mugenda is known to play her game using her connections to who is who in the government and has come out to borrow heavily from her predecessor the late George Eshiwani. Those who worked with Eshiwani closely say that Mugenda has adopted his style.
KU sources divulged that Mugenda was indeed a student of Eshiwani and the two at one time were being suspected to be having an affair. In fact, those who were privy to the alleged affair say that it is what made her rise very fast as Eshiwani pushed for her to rise to the helm of the university. At one time, Mugenda engaged Eshiwani’s secretary Felistus Makhamara in a brawl over her relationship with Eshiwani.
During the burial of Eshiwani, keen observers must have noticed that she looked more bereaved than Eshiwani’s widow and this was confirmed when immediately Eshiwani’s body was laid into the grave, a heavy downpour followed and what surprised mourners is that while everybody rushed for a shelter, Mugenda was left alone by the graveside still mourning despite the heavy downpour.
Her quick rise to the top position courtesy of Eshiwani at one time raised eyebrows. Records show that Mugenda joined the university as a tutorial fellow in 1981 and rose through the ranks to first become the deputy vice chancellor for Finance and Planning and in 2006, when the position of vice chancellor at the university was advertised, she applied and beat three other applicants, and became the first Kenyan woman to hold the position in April 2006.
We have also gathered that Mugenda has created an impression that she cannot proceed on leave pending retirement and has created a crisis by ensuring that there is no new VC to hand over to.
Investigations reveal that six months before her first term expired, she wrote to the university council requesting for extension of her contract and the council evaluated her performance and renewed her contract as per Section 17 (5) which is now set to expire in March next year.
Sources say Mugenda is also faced with family problems as she is said to have parted ways with her husband Abel Mugenda who has relocated to Rwanda where he is a lecturer at a public university. Mugenda on the other hand is said to have bought land in Kiambu where she is currently building a magnificent home from funds suspected to be kickbacks from contractors.
Sources say the Mugenda family has had serious family problems and at one time during an invitation by KU Christian Union morning prayer meeting, she cracked students’ ribs when she declared that her husband was a smoker when they married but she was able to convince him to stop in one year.
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