In April 1966, an organization called the University College Academic Staff Association was registered with the Registrar of Societies. The association was very much a social organization which welcomed and sent off expatriate staff as they joined and left college.

Prior to 1972, most lecturers at the University of Nairobi were members of the University Staff Association, which was provided for in the University of Nairobi Act (1970).The staff association was entitled to representation in the University Council.

 The Association was transformed into a Union due to inability to access certain information crucial to staff welfare. Some Dons had rejected membership of this body which they regarded as part of the government machinery to curb academic freedom. For this reason, they took the initiative of registering UASU.

The move was unpopular with the University Council because the Union Constitution provided the strike action as a last resort. The association members decided to form a trade union which could make certain demands with the backing of the law.

Although there was a lot of lobbying from Council and certain Senate members to association members to reconsider their decisions and revert to association, the pressure that came with being unrepresented in Council and its committees, members in 1972 voted overwhelmingly to remain in a trade union.


(a) University Staff are workers who sell their services for a price all the same.

(b) Workers need to negotiate the terms on which they are hired- salary, housing, medical and retirement benefits with workers.

(c) That's it's an open secret that any group of workers who are not organized always end up getting a raw deal especially in a free market economy like Kenya.


Union may drag University into " Trade Union Politics " especially if the Union was to be affiliated to COTU. If a plantation worker was to go on strike, a university professor would be asked to go on sympathy strike.


In 1972, the University Academic Staff Union(UASU) was formed by a group of academics who identified with Marxist Socialist ideologies including Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Al-Amin Mazrui, Kamonji Wachira, Maina Wa  Kinyatti and Willy Mutunga.It  was duly registered by the government to cater for members of University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University College. Some sources have referred to the Union as University Staff Union (USU) and not UASU.

Unlike the University Staff Association which was basically a welfare organization for staff members, UASU was founded with a larger mandate of improving terms of service, as well as to relations between its members, the university council and students.

Although the Union was registered in 1972, it operated up to 1975 without the University Council's recognition. In 1976, the official's resigned unconstitutionally through pressure from university authorities.

From February 1976 to 1979, the Union was dormant. During this period there was infringement on the academic freedom of members of academic staff.

In 1978, Professor Ngugi wa Thiong'o, the Chairman of the Department of Literature and a member of UASU was arrested and later detained. Students agitated for his release but academic members of staff and university authorities kept silent on the matter.

On 12th December 1978, Professor Ngugi was released from detention. There were mass student meetings organized to call for Professor's resumption to duty but UASU remained silent.

On 28th February, 1979 UASU took a step towards fate of colleague. A special conference of UASU took place and former officials’ resignations were constitutionally accepted. A new executive was elected by the special conference to deal with Prof. Ngugi wa Thiong'o' s issue and terms and conditions of service for academic staff.

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