AN OPEN LETTER TO THE STUDENT COMRADES OF UoN

Written by on June 13, 2019

As written on 11Th June 2019: 2PM by Ongicha Hilary Buore  

Fellow victims, the student comrades of Kenya. I wish to address the comrades enduring hardship, corruption, incompetency and a kind of misadministration that can only be equated to a form of brain senescence embodied in the current university administration headed by one Prof. Mbithi. This is my second letter in this series of letters at a time when we are acknowledging the beginning of the revolution in Africa in general and specifically in Kenya. You can find the first letter on https://panafricanmovement.wixsite.com/2pmk.

I have painfully seen the University of Nairobi that people worked extremely hard to elevate to the highest level of academic and institutional excellence (students, faculty and society at large) being looted, mismanaged and run down to a point where the shame is too huge that calling the media to the university premises led to a student (Malema Makori Orina) being suspended. I have also noted with concern that the dissatisfaction among students and staff has reached a point where nobody will be able to take any more mediocrity.  

The purpose of this letter is hence to call the comrades to defiance (with reasons) and maintain a complete non-violent defiance and noncooperation with Prof. Mbithi and his administration starting 14th (Friday), June 2019 at Midnight until he steps down. Whatever happens to us, nothing should dissuade you from the non-violent reclamation of our rights and indeed the future of this nation. The defiance will only stop when prof.mbithi is no longer the vc of the university of nairobi willingly or forcefully.  

THE SINS OF MBITHI

Mbithi has not only exhibited his incompetency in running this institution but has also presided over a massive looting and mismanagement of the University of Nairobi. Below are some of the issues we have been able to lay our hands on that have forced me to take personal responsibility to call on the entire student population to take action.

a) Mismanagement and swindling of public funds

I studied at the University of Nairobi under the unforgettable leadership of Prof. Geroge O. Magoha. At this time, Prof. Magoha, the comrades used to cook in the hostels using jua kali electric heaters with very low electricity to heat conversion efficiency. We could literally light up the coils and warm our rooms in cold months from June to August. I can only imagine how much electricity bill the university was paying with over 20000 students cooking. Another downside to this cooking is that the Students Welfare Authority (SWA) was generating very little revenue from their catering services.

Even with these, the university was still able to attract and retain very high talent within all departments of the university. The centralized examination centre in Chiromo and many other standard buildings and improvements in the university were erected and equipped by sheer shrewd financial planning and management. To top it up, the University of Nairobi towers was constructed at a staggering cost of Ksh. 2.3 billion without a single loan. To top it up, Prof. Magoha retired and left the university with a surplus of KSh. 2billion.

It was unheard of that the staff salaries delayed as a result of delays in government capitation. In fact, the university had a reserve that could pay salaries for three months without external support. Mbithi was the DVC Administration and Finance.

Fast forward, the imbecile became the VC. He saw it wise to replace all the furniture at the VCs office at a cost of  KSh. 3.9million and nobody knows the whereabouts of Magoha’s sets furniture. He then used KSh. 100million to renovate and buy furniture into the official VC quarters at Kileleshwa. He was so keen on the surplus that Magoha left behind that he refused to hand over the duties of the VC administration and finance to his successor Prof. Njoroge and as a result frustrated Prof. Njoroge out of the office.  

These and other unexplained expenditures in just under 4yrs in office, the university is in a KSh 2billion debt, cannot pay salaries in time, and does not remit statutory deductions such as NSSF, NHIF, HELB, PAYE etc. I have confidence that we have the blessings of the lecturers who are the immediate victims of this chump. The departments and workshops are seriously lacking in equipment from as simple as wall sockets. In order to save money, comrades have been banned from cooking in the halls of residence. He has frozen employment of staff while disgruntled lecturers are leaving and others are retiring. For the first time, I have witnessed UoN students being taught by graduate assistants unsupervised because more qualified lecturers are not willing to teach on part time basis because part time is no longer paid at UoN.

b) Nepotism and abuse of office

Mbithi has a daughter called Ms Florence Mbithi. A sharp and respectable lady by all standards. She holds a First Class Honors in Mechanical Engineering from UoN. She was engaged at the department of Mechanical Engineering immediately after her undergraduate as a graduate assistant and proceeded to pursue her masters degree in USA.  When she came back with this master’s degree, under the direct influence of her father Prof. Mbithi, she was immediately promoted to the position of a full lecturer. This is wrong in two ways. First, it is a requirement by the Commission for University Education (CUE) that a person can only become a full lecturer after completing PhD and after attaining several numbers of publications and after having supervised a number of students for masters. Ms. Mbithi is yet to complete her PhD, has three publications and has co-supervised 2 undergraduate students.

Secondly, there are over three members of staff in the department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering who have completed their PhDs and have supervised several students and have numerous publications but to date as I write this letter, are only tutorial fellows, not even assistant lecturers. This goes beyond tribalism and proves my hypothesis that tribalism is a card only played in public to fool us but when it comes to corruption and looting, it goes down to family, specific families. I say so since the other PhD holders are actually of Kamba origin.

There is no tribalism in Kenya. Just upon joining college they play the tribal card on us. That is when we know there is a Kikuyu and a Turkana in this country. However, it is time for us to realize that it is a well organized system of class oppression and it only camouflages its class nature under a tribal cover. And in the end, it moves against anyone irrespective of tribe.  

c) Gagging and Killing the voice of students.

The voice of students must never be gagged. I stated earlier that this is one of the best avenues that can be used to engineer the society for the better. Magoha understood this and worked in perfect harmony with the student leaders. In our own case, James Orengo, Paul Muite, Gitobu Imanyara and others used student politics to achieve multiparty democracy and the relative freedom we enjoy today.  

I will not dwell in the Duale’s University Amendment Act 2016 which killed the universal suffrage in the elections of student leaders. I will come back to this later in the struggle. But simply put, this is a law which must be defied with welcome consequences. We can’t have a legislature which makes laws targeting individuals since this law was made specifically to tame Babu Owino. But from what I have witnessed, a parliamentary system of governance may not work in Kenya. This act has effectively reduced SONU to a prefect’s body. The new body called UNSA is a handpicked body that cannot check the administration, inspire student leadership or even represent the students. They lack political legitimacy so much that they don’t even have a voice with the students.  

The worst part of it is that the voice of the comrades in so confined that calling a press conference within the university has led to the suspension of several young and brilliant students. The university security, Lavington Security has on many occasions physically assaulted students but no action is taken on them. Why would Mbithi act while Lavington Security is a firm owned by Dr. Ruto. With the youth unemployment, why can’t more youth be recruited to the NYS and then the can offer these security services to all government premises and earn a free university education? These are privatized to feed corrupt and greedy interests.

Anyway, comrades must regain their status in the society. And to this end MBITHI MUST FALL. I will join you every Thursday at 2PM for an anti corruption vigil. And along must come other comrades from other universities. We must save Kenya even if it costs our lives and freedoms. Mbithi proceeding to a compulsory leave will not be enough. He must exit the university a disgraced man. The corrupt must never be honored. The corrupt must be haunted either to prison or to their grave.  

THE METHOD

The method I recommend for this struggle is a PEACEFUL BOYCOTT OF ALL UNIVERSITY OPERATIONS starting 14th (Friday), June 2019 at Midnight. You know the old guard who taught us violence call us “keyboard Warriors”  because in their time, the only existent knowledge was violent confrontation with police, asking police for teargas, insulting police and people of divergent ideas, stoning buildings and destroying other facilities. They want us to show courage by looting and killing.

It is because of this violent attitude that SONU lost its moral platform in the society. While fighting for a cause, comrades would go as far as stoning and looting from motorists in and around the university.

Well, there are hundreds of viable and effective options to violence. In this particular struggle, we know that the strength of the university lies in its academic programs. That is the lectures, exams, the seminars, the researches etc. if we can cripple the academic programs then effectively we have no University. The buildings remain functional and the staffs are available but there is just no student in class or sitting the scheduled exam UNTIL MBITHI IS OUT OF THE UNIVERSITY. This is the kind of protest that even the weakest in the society can sustain. Just stay in your room and chat. If you don’t fix the short man and his corrupt tendencies, then please be content with the wanton looting and theft exhibited by our leaders and police and the judiciary out here in the general society.

The moment we receive this wonderful news, we resume class immediately. Nobody is hurt, except Mbithi and his thieves of course. But they are physically not harmed yet properly shamed. We don’t only shame him but we remain alert since the system has a way of awarding corrupt individuals by appointing them to yet better positions. We the youth must ensure that no corrupt individual ever gets to act in any public position in this country, else we will seek all avenues to paralyze that institution and shame the individual and ensure he gets out. We have better options in individuals who can steer the university with the future of the students and the nation at heart.

We must stop worshiping and awarding the corrupt. We will not spare them. We know them but we need momentum to tackle them. This culture never leaves an individual once you taste the fruits of corruption.NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS TO US, DO NOT ABANDON THE BOYCOTT UNTIL MBITHI HAS EITHER STEPPED DOWN OR HAS BEEN FIRED. The boycott must continue even if he goes on leave.

THE PROBLEM WITH KENYA

I will only highlight two problems that have held back the nation in its attempt of end corruption and achieve development rates and levels equal to the its age mates like South Korea and Malaysia. The problems I will list here are the misinformed and/or inactive youth and a consumer working class.

1. Consumer working class

I refuse to recognize that we have a middle class in this country. What we have is a 1% extremely rich lot of looters and “businessmen”, a 98.9999..% of working class and a 0.000001% of honest wealthy persons. The 98.99999…% would want to consider themselves our middle class but they are a lot of wannabes whose main role is to chase bills and save a few coins for beer. To sound a little NeoMarxist, they are the modern day lumpenproletariat. They have no thinking of society and care less about the happenings within their political and social environment.

The Lumpenproletariat will not attend any social gathering or a town hall debate because they associate it with goons. They will not attend the mashemeji derby because it is full of hooligans. They will not watch rugby with the other members of society because it is for hooligans. They choose to ignore the role of politics in their life because”it is not important” or “siasa haileti ugali mezani” kind of mentality even if the person claiming so is fully fed and clothed by politics. Well, the goons who are active in the chiefs barazas and attend political rallies, the “demagogs”  who sing praises to the politicians eventually elect one of their own, I need not to elaborate this but I am sure you the caliber of your MP,MCA, governors etc. The working class must become politically mature, active and aware.

2.  Misinformed and/or inactive youth.

The pillars that support any system include the media, police, civil servants, workers (Lumpenproletariat for our case), religious organizations, the business community, military and the YOUTH. Of these pillars, the youth is the most important because age is on their side and they have everything to lose by inaction and everything to gain by being vigilant and forcing the governance system to be objective.

It goes without saying that no revolution in the world was ever initiated, sustained or even succeeded without the youth. This is true for Fidel Castro movement in Cuba and a host of others. Even if the revolution ideology comes from an older generation, no success is ever achieved until the youth participation is substantial.

Further to this, in this world of knowledge, student politics is extremely key in determining the political and social direction of a nation. Paul Stalinand in his book “Networks of Rebellion” zeroes in on four ways through which the political and social direction of a nation can be determined and they are through insurgency, political parties, religious organizations and student politics.

We have a youth that sits down and watches as evil engulfs the very nation and resources they will need the following day. You sit and attend class with a hope of “finishing and finding jobs” while the very industries are being run bankrupt. The very university you are attending is a hotbed of corruption yet you are keen to “complete and get out”. I hope you find yourselves back as lecturers in the same institution you watched as Mbithi and his cronies run down. Furthermore, there are no jobs out here except for the Chinese and the European “expatriates”. Youths, WE MUST TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY.

We have bigger wars to fight. Grabbed land must be repossessed by the youth, the corrupt individuals and their accomplices must step down and never be close to any public institution, we must not associate with the property of the corrupt or the corrupt themselves, we must be assured of free and quality education. These among others will send a clear message that Kenya is tired and ready to write a better future for her children and that we will never worship corruption. We must revive our cottage industries and produce our own textile, we must unite under the African Nationalism philosophy and bury the tribal hatchet the colonialist and his perfect prodigy he left us so that I can buy milk from my Kalenjin neighbors and coffee from Kiambu and clothes from Kitui.

All these are pretty big and dangerous wars that this generation must fight. It is a fight for survival because at this rate, we are being sold out or looted dry. But for us to fight these wars, we must win some battles and the first battle in this case, MBITHI MUST GO.

Long live Africa, Long Live Kenya.

Ongicha Hilary Buore  

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