On 20th September, 2016, two governors – Jackson Mandago, (Uasin Gishu) and Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo Marakwet) led MPs Oscar Sudi (Kapseret), Silas Tiren (Moiben), James Bett (Kesses) and Uasin Gishu County Assembly Speaker Isaac Terer into Moi University main campus to protest the circumstances under which the CS was ignoring a previous nomination exercise.
They particularly protested the outright refusal by CS Matiangi to appoint the current Deputy Vice Chancellor of Egerton, Mr. Isaac Kosgey as VC who had reportedly come in first in the previous recruitment drive.
They believed that the refusal was based on Mr. Kosgey’s ethnicity.
In August, 2015, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) through its Chairperson, Hon. Francis Ole Kaparo proclaimed that public universities have turned out to be incubators of tribalism.
However, a closer look at the phenomenon indicates that successive governments had encouraged this trend by rewarding ethnically correct individuals to senior management positions in the various varsities.
In a scene that perhaps set the stage for such confrontations, Maasai leaders in 2013 successfully ejected Prof David Serem (A Kalenjin) from Maasai Mara University claiming that the locals were not sufficiently represented in the institution. He was subsequently barred from participating in a fresh recruitment process.
In February, 2015, Senator Isaac Melly of Uasin Gishu County would also lead a group into University of Eldoret in protest of the appointment of Prof Akanga (A Luhya) as VC.
THE WRITING IS ON THE WALL
In some regions, Professors from the host tribe are awarded the Vice Chancellor positions. However, it seems that other areas are earmarked for national cohesion where even qualified natives stand no chance as the list below reveals.
It is noteworthy that 11 out of the 23 VCs in our public universities are drawn from respective host ethnic groups.
- Maseno University in Kisumu County – Vice Chancellor – Julius Omondi Nyabundi (Luo)
- Karatina University in Karatina – Prof Mucai Muchiri – Kikuyu
- Laikipia University in Laikipia- Francis Lelo – Kikuyu
- Dedan Kimathi University of Technology in Nyeri – Prof R. Eng. P.N. Kioni(Kikuyu)
- Kisii University in Kisii – Prof John S. Akama (Kisii)
- Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology in Siaya – Prof Stephen G. Agong (Luo)
- South Easter Kenya University in Kitui – Prof Geoffrey M. Muluvi (Kamba)
- Technical University of Mombasa – Prof. Laila Abubakar, Ag. Vice Chancellor (Coast)
- Pwani University in Kilifi – Prof M.S Rajab (Coast)
- University of Kabianga in Kericho – Prof Wilson Kipsang (Kalenjin)
- Chuka University in Chuka– Prof Erastus N. Njoka (meru)
- Egerton University in Njoro – Prof Rose Mwonya – Luo
- Technical University of Kenya in Nairobi – Prof Francis Aduol (Luo)
- University of Eldoret – Prof Teresa Akenga (Luhya)
- University of Nairobi – Prof Peter Mbithi (Kamba)
- Multimedia University of Kenya in Nairobi – Prof Festus Kaberia (Meru)
- Kenyatta University in Nairobi – Prof Paul Wainiaina – Acting Vice Chancellor (Kikuyu)
- Kibabii University in Bungoma – Prof Isaac Ipara Odeo – Teso
- Masinde Muliro University in Kakamega – Prof Fredrick Achieng Otieno – Luo
- Maasai Mara University in Narok – Prof Mary Walingo – Luhya
- Moi University Eldoret in Uasin Gishu – Prof Ayiro – Acting VC – Luhya
- Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology – Prof Mabel O Imbuga (luhya)
- Meru University of Science and Technology – Prof Japheth K Magambo (Luo)
As the debate rages on ethnicity and national cohesion in Kenyan centres for higher learning, policy makers must decide on whether to actively prevent perceived ethnic ownership of institutions by not appointing leaders from the dominant group or, on the other hand stick to meritocracy.
A deviation from clear policy leaves room for leaders to manipulate public expectations and feelings on the classic us vs them mentality scenario.
The above list reveals a double standard where some ethnic groups and regions are allowed to be out-rightly homogeneous while others are earmarked for national cohesion aspirations.