Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion suspended

Development effectively bars the official from any financial transactions on behalf of the union.

In Summary

• Ministry of Labour effects changes at union's headquarters.

• The secretary-general is replaced, in an acting capacity, by his deputy Hesbon Otieno.  

Suspended Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion and chairman Wycliffe Omuchayi at their office in Nairobi.
Suspended Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion and chairman Wycliffe Omuchayi at their office in Nairobi.

Embattled Kenya National Union of Teachers secretary general Wilson Sossion has been suspended. 

The Registrar of Trade Unions E.N Gicheha yesterday effected the changes recommended by Knut's National Executive Council at the union's Nairobi headquarters. 

“I wish to inform you that I have registered the Notice of Change of Officers covering the appointments made on 29 August 2019,” she said.

Sossion has been replaced as the official union's spokesperson by his deputy Hesbon Otieno, in an acting capacity.

The development effectively bars Sossion from transacting any financial business on behalf of the union.

Sossion had on Wednesday obtained a court order outlawing a planned NEC meeting whose agenda was to remove him from office on Thursday.

And soon after Gicheha announced that she had effected the changes, the secretary general said he would again move to court to reverse the decision.

Sossion had been under pressure from some NEC members to quit after the Teachers Service Commission and senior teachers fell out with the union over the execution of the Sh54 billion 2017-2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Reports in local dailies have indicated that more than 90,000 teachers, 18,000 of them being school principals and deputies have since quit Knut following the dispute.

But Sossion denies that teachers are leaving the union in huge numbers, saying there are outside forces fueling the infighting in Knut.

“Knut remains the union of choice for the teachers of Kenya and so far the figures we are being treated to out there are pure lies,” Sossion said

Sossion said this was not the first time the union being attacked and it would not be the last. 

But a day after a move to oust Sossion flopped, it emerged that another meeting was convened in Rongo in Migori county to find ways of persuading Sossion to step down and save the union.

The chairman of branch officials from Nyanza region Samuel Omwaga told the Star he convened the meeting to avert an imminent downfall of the union.

Omwaga said three senators, 21 branch chairmen, parents and teachers attended the meeting.

“I requested the senators to intervene through education committees of the Senate and the National Assembly. Teachers are demoralised and the Ministry of Education is silent on the matter,” he said.

Omwaga said that he had earlier led a delegation to Sossion’s home to appeal to him to “allow sanity to prevail.”

“We have 110 branches across the country. These branches have not received any money in the last two months yet they have permanent staff and other bills to pay,” he lamented.

Omwaga regretted that branch activities had stalled and said that they have even advised their respective executive secretaries to close them down.

“We have bills to pay in our branches. In mine for example, I am yet to pay rent amounting to Sh70,000 and I have a bus loan which I am not servicing. I am supposed to pay the bank Sh150,000 every month,” he said.

He said the union is paralysed because the of the war between TSC and the secretary general.

“This seems to be a personal war and we cannot sit and watch as we go down the drain. We are requesting Sossion to take leave and rest since this is also too much for him,” he added.

The Central Organisation of Trade Unions Kenya secretary general Francis Atwoli has also waded into the matter and urged the officials to give dialogue a chance.

Knut has also sought the intervention of ODM leader Raila Odinga to help address the matter before it gets out of hand.

Knut was formed on December 4, 1957 with Stephen Kioni as the first secretary general.

The union held its first strike in 1963, soon before Kenyan independence.

Other major strikes have been held in 1966, 1969, 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2009.

Ambrose Adongo was elected Knut second secretary-general in December 1970 and was at the helm up to 2001.

Adongo's 30-year term is the longest by a single secretary-general. He led the 1997 teachers’ strike, which remains the most memorable to date, both for its intensity and the lasting impact it had.

Francis Ng’ang’a (2001-2008) had been Adongo’s deputy and was elected secretary-general of Knut in June 2001 following the death of his boss.

A vocal person, he kept the visibility of the union high. Ng’ang’a resigned in 2008, and Lawrence Majali assumed office before Osiany took over and held the position for three years.

(edited by O. Owino)

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