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Varsity graduation on course after court reinstates council

By Douglas Dindi
Monday, July 19th, 2021 00:00 | 3 mins read
Mmust graduands receiving their academic awards in 2017. Photo/PD/DOUGLAS DINDI

The appeal court has temporarily removed the main hurdle impeding the convention of the 16th graduation ceremony for Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (Mmust) after it restored the university council.

The  court  granted the university the injunction, stating a decision by the Employment and Labour Relations Court (ELRC) that invalidated this crucial organ in a ruling delivered on April 6 this year.

Mmust had planned to hold the graduation for the 2020/21 diploma and degree candidates on June 11, but was forced to postpone the exercise indefinitely in order to give ‘life’ to this vital body that had been invalidated by the court.

Acting Mmust Vice Chancellor Prof Solomon Shivairo announced early this month that the annual academic ritual postponed on June 2, will now be held virtually on August 20, in conformity with the government health and safety protocols.

“The university council is fully constituted for the graduation to take place,” he said after the ruling,

“However, no public gatherings are expected at the university academic square in strict observance of government guidelines to curb spread of the coronavirus pandemic,” he enumerated.

The appeal court granted the university this second chance so as not to inconvenience the students as they prepare to challenge the ruling of Justice Stephen Radido of ELRC on April 6,  that nullified the appointment of five of the six Mmust council members.

The appellate court issued the stay orders on June 17, and directed the appellant to file her submissions within 14 days up to June 30.

The case is fixed for a mentation on July 29 while December 8, is reserved as judgement date.

Petitioner Moses Wanjala Lukoye has challenged the appointment of the council chairperson Jane Musangi and council members Stephen Mutoro, Connie Mogaka, Joshua Onyango Ogango and Gad Gathu Kiragu by education cabinet secretary Prof George Magoha on grounds of lack of consultation and was in breach of the University Act 2012.

Crippled key functions

The education cabinet secretary, the attorney general and the council chairman and members are listed as respondents in the suit.

Mmust is now challenging the court verdict arguing the university was not party to the suit whose verdict had literally crippled its key functions.  

In annulling the appointment, Justice Radido noted the manner the appointments were conducted was inconsistent with provisions of Article 10 of the constitution on composition, appointment and terms of office.

The judge also quashed the gazette notice No.2365 that purported to gazette the name of Musangi as Mmust council chairperson and the names of Mutoro, Mogaka, Ogango and Kiragu as members.

Mmust has remained without a substantive Vice Chancellor for over 30 months now since the exit of the late Prof and  Eng Fredrick Otieno in 2018.

Attempts to fill the vacant position by the ministry through the public service commission have been riddled with political interests and court battles.

The recruitment of the Mmust council and senior academic staff has remained a tug of war pitting the education CS, Public Service Commission (PSC), the Kenya University Staff Union (KUSU) and civil rights activists since the exit of the late VC prof Fredrick Otieno back in 2018.

Civil rights activist Okiya Okoiti Omutata is battling the education ministry in court over attempts to restart the recruitment of the vice-chancellor and has successfully thwarted government machinations.

He wants the court to declare the last recruitment exercise concluded and a candidate who scored the highest points appointed as VC.

He wants an order compelling the education CS to pick the VC from among the names submitted by PSC noting the exercise was never invalidated by court.

The government last February re-advertised the position of Mmust VC putting March 2, 2021 as the final date for submission of applications.

In suit papers, Omutata argues that restarting the recruitment exercise was unfair labour practice and a waste of public resources given that it had already been concluded and that only the appointment exercise was pending.

Results of  August 2019 recruitment exercise show Prof Gitonga Mburungu, former Mmust deputy VC in charge of finance and administration Prof Makhanu Sibilike and the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology VC Prof Joseph Bosire emerged top.

The title of ‘acting’ appears to be synonymous with Mmust. From VCs to deputy VCs the list is unending. It began with Prof Bosire, Prof Fred Otieno, Prof Asenath Sigot and now Prof Shivairo.

Also serving in similar acting capacity at the institution, include Prof Judith Achoka (Planning, Research and Innovation), Prof Charles Mutai (Administration and Finance) and Dr Patrick Ojera (Academic and Students’ Affairs).

Douglas Dindi