Egerton leaders in spotlight for disobeying court orders in row with lecturers

Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) officials launching the Egerton University on October 17

Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) national secretary-general Constantine Wasonga (second right) and other union officials during the launch of Egerton University lecturers strike at Njoro Campus on October 17, 2022.

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

Egerton University administrators are under scrutiny for disobeying court orders.

Nakuru Environment and Labour Relations Court Judge David Nderitu on Monday castigated Vice-Chancellor Prof Isaac Kibwage and nine members of the university council for allegedly showing impunity by disregarding court orders.

This is after it emerged that Prof Kibwage and council members had failed to appear in court as ordered through summons issued on November 17.

They were expected to be present when the court was to rule on a petition in which they were cited for contempt.

The bosses were cited for contempt by the University Academic Staff Union (UASU) after they failed to reinstate lecturers’ full salaries. They had suspended half of the lecturers’ salaries to punish them for participating in a strike last year.

A ruling on the contempt proceedings had been slated for Monday, November 28.

But the judge expressed his disappointment with the bosses, saying that as people in positions of power and influence in society, they had shown a bad example.

He warned that Kenya risks plunging into anarchy if people deemed to be learned and the cream of society keep ignoring court orders.

“The courts cannot just be issuing orders in vain,” said Justice Nderitu.

“Here we are talking about the professors and doctors whom we consider the learned, and if these are the kind of people to ignore court orders, then we should be concerned about what the common mwananchi who is ignorant of court processes is likely to do.”

The judge wondered why individuals properly served with summons chose not to honour them.

“There is a possible tragedy where people who are summoned to court for disobeying a court order end up ignoring the summons. Where are we headed as a country?” he posed.

Egerton administrators and lecturers have been feuding in court over salary payments following the university’s decision to slash their salaries by half as punishment for their industrial action.

Lawyer Lawrence Karanja, representing UASU, urged the court to punish the university’s bosses for their actions.

Mr Karanja told the court that he had served Egerton’s legal officer, Ms Janet Bii, with the court summons.

Ms Bii told the court that she made the bosses aware of the summons.

But the court gave Prof Kibwage and the council the last chance to appear before it on November 30, warning that they will face unspecified consequences if they fail to honour the summons.

“The court gives the respondents the last opportunity to appear before it on Wednesday. Let them know that the court orders are not issued in vain and [they] will face consequences,” he said.