Egerton University Celebrates Life of Muga Kolale, a Champion of Workers' Rights and Integrity
Egerton University is celebrating the life of its don Muga K’Olale, former lecturer at the department Philosophy, History and Religious Studies and the immediate former National Chairman of the Universities’Academic Staff Union (UASU), who also served in the Union as National Secretary General between 2006 and 2016. His long service to the union made him synonymous with the union, therefore making him regarded as the NATIONAL FACE OF UASU.
Kolale had been a renowned philosopher and lecturer who had tirelessly championed workers' rights and advocated for integrity, transparency, accountability, and incorruptibility. He had been receiving treatment at the Matata Nursing Home in his rural Oyugis town, Homa Bay County, where he passed away after a long illness. He retired from Egerton University in 2021.
As an employer, Egerton University is deeply saddened by the loss of Muga K’Olale, who served the institution as a lecturer. He was one of the Founder Members of Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU), the First (1st) National Deputy Secretary General and the Egerton University Chapter Secretary of the University Academic Staff Union (UASU). He then rose to become the National Secretary General for the period 2006-2016 and The National Chairman between 2016 and 2021. He had established 31 UASU chapters in Kenya, saving jobs in past industrial actions and members in several disciplinary cases. His contributions to the institution and the trade union movement at large will forever be remembered.
He had always been an advocate for workers' rights, and he had consistently negotiated for better terms and conditions of service for university workers, popularly known as the Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs). His expertise in International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Law, Trade Union leadership, negotiations, advocacy, arbitration, labor administration, labor legislation, labor management, labor economics, economic diplomacy, and international affairs had made him a formidable force in the trade union movement in the Kenya and the World. His mentor and role model has been COTU Secretary General, Mr Francis Atwoli.
Kolale was an indefatigable crusader of workers’ rights. He was a man of great virtue and valour always pursued honesty, transparency and integrity, which made it impossible to compromise him. He negotiated and signed many Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) in furtherance of workers better working conditions and terms of service. His unmatched experience in human rights activism and advocacy, made him a formidable force in the trade union movement in the Kenya and beyond.
President Kibaki Appointment to National Economic and Social Council
Muga was appointed by President Mwai Kibaki in October 2004 to be a member of the National Economic and Social Council(NESK) to head and offer advice on the labour segment to accelerate social and economic development. He also was a member of the Ministry of Education Task Forces in Realigning Education and The Kenya Constitution 2010, Member of COTU Governing Council, Board Member of The Productivity Council of Kenya, Board Member of Trade Unions Congress of Kenya (TUC) among many others. His role was to head and offer advice on the labor union segment to Accelerate Social and Economic Development.
Despite his efforts, Kolale had often come into conflict with the government, and on during his academic carrier and fighting of Academic and human rights, he was at one time arrested and charged with sedition. He had been accused of actively participating in the planning and execution of a coup plot, and although he pleaded guilty, many believed that the charges were politically motivated, and he was being punished for his activism. He had received a ten-year jail sentence, but even in prison, he had continued to fight for workers' rights.
Upon his release, he had resumed his leadership role in UASU, serving as the national chairman until his death. He had lobbied for the review of pension schemes, medical schemes, enhanced capitation, quicker reviews and promotions, digitization of the union, and proper facilitation of the women caucus. His legacy as a tireless champion of workers' rights and an advocate for integrity, transparency, accountability, and incorruptibility is well-known, and his unwavering commitment to the cause will forever be remembered.
Stepped Down As UASU Chairman
In 2005, he became the Secretary General of Uasu and retained the position in subsequent elections. In 2016, the Industrial Court nullified earlier Uasu elections held on July 22, 2016, in Kisumu. Despite this setback, K’Olale remained committed to his cause and continued to fight for the rights of the academic staff in public universities. He is known for his unwavering dedication to the union's vision of promoting academic excellence and ensuring a fair and just working environment for university teaching staff.
However, it is worth noting that K'Olale had resigned from his position as a university lecturer's union chairman and had stepped down from vying for the position of the Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU) few days to national elections. The reason behind his resignation was the contested co-option of his position into the union, which had been contested in court by some officials from his UASU Egerton University chapter.
According to the UASU election bylaws, for one to contest for a national position, they must either have been elected in the chapter elections or have been co-opted by the incumbent elected chapter election he had served UASU for a long period before a transition in the union leadership took place, which saw Grace Nyongesa of Kisii University take over from him in July 2021.
Re-elected As UASU Chairman
He was elected as the Uasu chairman in December 2022 after repeat polls. His leadership style was characterized by a no-nonsense approach to the exploitation of university teaching staff.
The passing of Muga Kolale has undoubtedly left a significant void in the trade union movement and the academia. However, his legacy will continue to inspire future generations to fight for workers' rights and to stand up for what they believe in. His unwavering commitment to the cause of workers' rights and his advocacy for integrity, transparency, accountability, and incorruptibility will forever be remembered.
As a former employer, Egerton University mourns his passing and acknowledges his immense contributions to the university and the trade union movement as a whole. His passion for workers' rights and dedication to improving the working conditions of university staff is an inspiration to us all. His legacy will continue to motivate us to strive for excellence and to make a positive impact in our community.
The pursuit of justice and equality
Egerton University recognizes the critical role that trades unions play in advocating for workers' rights and promoting a fair and just workplace. We are committed to working with UASU and other trade unions to ensure that our employees are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness. We believe that every employee deserves to work in an environment that is safe, healthy, and conducive to their personal and professional growth.
We also acknowledge the challenges that come with being a trade union leader, especially in a highly politicized environment. We salute Prof. Kolale for his courage and commitment in standing up for what he believed in, even in the face of adversity. His life is a reminder that we must never give up in the pursuit of justice and equality.
In honor of his legacy, Egerton University is committed to continuing the work that he started. This is by working closely with UASU and other stakeholders to address the pressing issues facing university staff, including job security, salary reviews, and pension schemes. The University fraternity will also continue to promote a culture of integrity, transparency, and accountability within the university, guided by Prof. Kolale's example.
Muga Kolale will be remembered for his life as a shining example of dedication, commitment, and service. Let us continue to work towards the betterment of our community and society, inspired by his legacy of fighting for workers' rights and advocating for integrity, transparency, and accountability.
K’Olale's leadership has been instrumental in the growth and success of Uasu. Under his guidance, the union has become a formidable force in the fight for the rights of academic staff in public universities. His commitment to the cause and fearless approach to speaking his mind has earned him respect and admiration from many within and outside the union. Prof K’Olale is an inspiration to many, and his legacy will continue to shape the future of the union and academic staff in public universities for years to come.
He was a strict disciplinarian to students and at the same time he was their best advisor, an inspirer, and an undisputable role model. Sociable and approachable, he gave the students easy time during his lectures.
To the Egerton University Community, K’Olale' will forever remain a beacon of light and a Champion of Workers' Rights and Integrity.
May his Soul Rest in Peace.