UoN council directs Prof Kiama to proceed on leave again amid escalation of conflict at the institution.
Nearly a month after his return to work, the University of Nairobi (UoN) council has ordered Vice-Chancellor Stephen Kiama to proceed on leave again.
The new twist raises the veil on the simmering conflict between the council and Prof Kiama, appearing to escalate boardroom battles.
The council wrote in a letter that “…you are still deemed to be on the said leave and, therefore, you must not discharge the duties of the vice-chancellor with effect from September 25, 2023 until your leave lapses.”
According to the council, it had previously granted Prof Kiama permission to proceed on a six-month leave pending the end of his contract, only for him to return to of´ce on September 1.
Prof Kiama publicly announced his return on social media, where he posted on X (formerly Twitter): “Well rested and rejuvenated. Back to work!”
But the council faults his motive, terming it unacceptable. “Your letter referenced under the rubric, ‘notice of resumption of duty’, that was addressed and delivered to the chair of council on 1.09.2023, at about 5pm, when you had already spent the day visiting campuses and discharging duties in the VC’s office, without prior variation/cancellation of your six-month leave by the council was unprocedural, untenable and not acceptable to the council,” UoN Council Chairperson Amukowa Anangwe said.
Consequently, in the letter dated September 22, and copied to the Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service Felix Koskei, UoN chancellor, and the Ministry of Education, the university council directs Prof Kiama to remain on leave until the lapse of his days.
The council reminded the VC that Head of Public Service Felix Koskei issued a directive on September 21 requiring all public service officers with accumulated leave days to proceed on leave.
Koskei said by June 30, 2024, only 15 leave days will be carried forward.
“Secondly, there’s no commutation of leave days for money, we cannot pay for corruption and inefficiency,” Koskei said during a consultative meeting with ministries, departments and agencies at the Kenya School of Government.
“This directive inevitably conflates with the council resolution of July 31, 2023 and whose concurrent effect is to require you to comply with both until your accumulated leave of 161 days is accumulated leave is exhausted,” the council said.
When applying for leave, Kiama said a busy schedule he had prevented him from taking a break since he assumed office on January 20, 2020.
He applied for the six-month leave to the Salaries and Remuneration Commission on July 18, 2023, saying he needed to exhaust all his leave days before the lapse of his contract in 2025.
On August 7, the University of Nairobi Students Association protested his leave and urged the council to recall him back.
The student body argued that the approval of his leave was “wrong and untimely” as no sufficient information was given to the students about the decision for the sabbatical.
“The university is readying itself for two graduation ceremonies, resumption from recess, admission of the first year class of 2023 and the implementation of the New Universities Funding Model and hence the leave the VC took was untimely,” the students said.
His return before the lapse of the period stirred confusion in the institution, with a section of the teaching staff demanding clarity on the leadership.