The suspension of Kenyatta University Vice-Chancellor Paul Wainaina yesterday and the disbandment of the university council was long in coming.
The last nine days have been hellish for the soft-spoken professor of philosophy of education.
According to University Education Principal Secretary Simon Nabukwesi, the new council headed by former University of Nairobi boss, Prof Crispus Kiamba, was appointed on Friday and gazetted yesterday.
The council, which held a meeting for the first time yesterday that went on until late in the evening, resolved to suspend Prof Wainaina for 30 days “pending investigations” into allegations of “acts of misconduct”.
The council backtracked from its earlier position on ‘firing’ of the VC, who had held a staff meeting and announced his exit.
To act in his place, the council yesterday appointed the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic Affairs) Prof Waceke Wanjohi.
By the time the meeting ended, Prof Wainaina had left and was, therefore, not served with the suspension letter.
“Public officers act on behalf of the appointing authority but some reach there and forget and act in defiance,” Mr Nabukwesi told Nation.Africa.
Signs that he was pitted against powerful forces emerged on Monday when a National Youth Service (NYS) bulldozer descended on the disputed land at 12.30 am.
Its mission was to demolish a wall separating the university and its offspring, the Kenyatta University Teaching Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRRH). A busload of NYS recruits provided security.
Prof Wainaina and the university council spent much of last week resisting efforts by the hospital, with backing from the Office of the President, to excise 410 acres of its land. This was ahead of the Saturday groundbreaking ceremony for a Sh600 million World Health Organization Emergency Hub.
The intended beneficiaries of the KU land are: WHO (30 acres), the Africa Centre for Disease Control (10 acres), KUTRRH (180 acres) and resettlement of squatters of Kamae Settlement Scheme (190 acres).
During the ceremony, President Uhuru Kenyatta threatened to deal “swiftly and effectively” with the management of Kenyatta University.
“A few of us who are learned unfortunately lack wisdom and behave like very ignorant people who have never even entered a classroom. This is the property of the Kenyan people held in trust by the GoK. We don’t operate in silos. You’re just a caretaker. Siku zake zimehesabiwa. I still have three weeks. We shall deal with those individuals swiftly and effectively. Tutaenda nyumbani na wao,” Mr Kenyatta warned.
It took just two days for the axe to fall.
“This is probably the last time you’ll see me addressing you as VC,” a teary Prof Wainaina announced to staff yesterday.
The sacking of the VC came just hours after the ‘indefinite’ postponement of a meeting that was to be held between the university council and Public Service boss Joseph Kinyua at Harambee House at 2.00pm yesterday.
To emphasise the weight of his intention, the President repeated the threat three times. What followed was a flurry of letters from head of Public Service to the university council and the VC, ordering them to surrender the mother title deed (LR11026/2) of the 1,000-acre land for sub-division.
“I want to tell the truth. We’ve been going through difficult times. A lot of things have been happening. A lot of things were said very strongly touching on myself,” a tearful Prof Wainaina told the university staff during a meeting at the amphitheatre yesterday.
After the bulldozer demolished the wall, Prof Wainaina received a letter from Mr Kinyua on Monday at 4.32 pm. He was ordered to surrender the title deed by the end of Tuesday.
“I consulted the chair of the council and the council met at 2.00 pm on Tuesday to discuss the letter. However, at 2.30pm, we received another letter inviting us for a meeting to discuss the excision of the land,” he said.
According to the letter, the decision to subdivide the land was arrived at during a Cabinet meeting held on May 12, 2022.
“The decision was premised not only on the fact that Kenyatta University is holding large tracts of unutilised land, but more strategically, because the planned interventions have a nexus to KU’s academic and research programmes,” Mr Kinyua’s letter reads in part.
However, Prof Wainaina said that the land is not idle and is already planned for. He revealed that the council had even submitted to Mr Kinyua the physical plan for developments they intended to put up, including students’ hostels. Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha also called the council for a meeting at his office, where he ordered them to surrender the title deed.
Since the President’s threat on Saturday, Prof Wainaina said he had received three more letters from Mr Kinyua putting pressure on him to surrender the title deed and cede the land. The council was meant to meet yesterday but did not, following news that it had been disbanded and Prof Wainaina relieved of his duties.
“The council has the responsibility to preserve university land, not to cede (it). The council has resisted ceding KU land. The council wrote to Mr Kinyua stating that the VC did not have the capacity to surrender the title. The letter was taken to State House at 6.50 pm. We had been ordered to take it by 5.00 pm,” Prof Wainaina said.