After leading the University of Nairobi to the world map in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Prof Stephen Kiama has today been installed as the new Vice chancellor of the premier institution in Kenya.
The event presided over by the University chancellor Dr. Rattansi brings to an end a leadership tussle that preceded his appointment in January. Prof Kiama’s stay at the UoN goes beyond 1990 when he was first employed at the institution as an assistant lecturer before rising to the positions of Lecturer (1995), Senior Lecturer (2002), Associate Professor (2012) and Professor (2016).
Prof Kiama’s appointment to the key post after a rigorous process by the Public Service Commission (PSC) was revoked in January by Education CS George Magoha setting the stage for a protracted battle that led to a leadership crisis at the University.
He replaces Prof Peter Mbithi whose bid to serve for a second term was rejected last year.
The ceremony is being conducted virtually in tandem with measures put in place by the government to prevent the spread of coronavirus which has so far infected over 2,000 people.
Prof Isaac Meroka Mbeche who took over from Mbithi in an acting capacity in July last year retired last month. His short-lived tenure was marred with controversy following a stand-off as Prof Kiama tried to stamp his authority after his ouster.
Prof Mbeche was among the shortlisted candidates for the post by Public Service Commission. Others were Prof Kiama, Prof Bernard Njoroge, Prof Madara Ogot and Prof Patricia Kameri Mbote. Others were Prof Kareithi Ruth Wanjiru Nduati, Prof Elijah Omwenga and Prof Solomon Igosangwa Shibairo.
PSC chairman Stephen Kirogo distanced the commission from the controversy.
“We grade the candidates and the issue of appointments falls within another domain … the law is very clear our role is to recruit. We advertise, shortlist, interview and prepare a merit-based performance and forward that to the council,” said Kirogo.
Magoha after the revocation recalled Prof Mbeche from his annual leave and put him in charge as acting VC while Kiama refused to step down.
The CS further dissolved the university council headed by Dr Julia Ojiambo arguing that it had erred in making Prof Kiama VC without consultation and input from President Uhuru Kenyatta. The council contested the move in court and were granted stay orders.
Prof Kiama who stayed put faced rejection from a section of the university staff. He later moved to the Employment and Labour Relations Court to stop the CS from ousting him.
In March, Prof Magoha backed down and withdrew his countersuit, paving the way for Prof Kiama to be at the helm of the university. The CS said his decision was as a result of an out-of-court settlement between him and Prof Kiama.
Since his takeover, Prof Kiama has steered the University to score many firsts in the country. The institution surprised the continent when it conducted the country’s first ever end of semester examinations online owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first examination saw 26 students pursuing a Master of Arts in Environmental Law and eight taking Master of Arts in Environmental Policy sit a four-hour exam.
The university has also reported that over 5500 virtual classes has already taken place and are still going on.
Prof. Stephen Kiama Gitahi, with over 16 years’ experience in management and leadership positions now takes over as the 8th Vice Chancellor of the University of Nairobi and will head the institution for a five-year term.