By Patronilla Goren
Newly appointed Chairman of the KEMRI Board of Directors, Dr. Abdullahi Ali has pledged to do what it takes to elevate the standards of KEMRI not just nationally, but globally, including “knocking at every door and doing what it takes to ensure staff and the Institute are comfortable to deliver on the mandate of KEMRI”.
Speaking on Monday 20th February 2023 afternoon shortly after taking the leadership reins from Dr. Daniel Mbinda following a handing- over ceremony witnessed by Members of the Board and Senior Management staff at the Institute’s Headquarters, Dr. Ali expressed his commitment in providing leadership to the Institute noting that he is equal to the task. “I assure you of all my support and I am prepared to serve this great Institute to the best of my ability,” he pledged.
President William Ruto has appointed Dr. Ali for a period of three years with effect from Friday, 17th, February, 2023 which was exactly two years when Dr. Mbinda assumed the office.
The President, in exercise of powers conferred to him by section 6 (1) (a) of the KEMRI Order, as read together with section 51 (1) of interpretation and General Provisions Act and communicated in the Kenya Gazette dated 17th, February, 2023 as a gazette notice number 1901.
The new Board Chairman is a Medical doctor by profession and holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees from the University of Nairobi and an Executive MBA from Moi University. Dr. Ali has seven years’ experience in the medical field and has served as the Member of Parliament for Wajir North constituency for two terms , and five years as a Senator Wajir County.
He brings to KEMRI rich leadership experience having previously served in the Board of Parliamentary Service Commission(PSC), National Aids Control Council(NACC), and the Kenya Tourism Board(KTB).
Dr. Ali’s appointment was communicated to members of the staff through an internal memo by Acting Director General Prof. Sam Kariuki, who welcomed Dr. Ali to the Institute and wished him well as he takes over the leadership mantle of the Institute. Prof. Kariuki also praised the immediate Chairman, Dr. Mbinda for his dedication, leadership and commitment towards the Institute for the period he served.
Speaking at the same event, the outgoing Chairman Dr. Mbinda, thanked all the staff members for being diligent in dispensing their duties during his leadership. He further stated that serving at the institute was seamless because of the support he received from the KEMRI fraternity. Dr. Mbinda welcomed Dr. Abdullahi saying that the Institute will benefit tremendously from his leadership owing to the vast experience he has.
The changes at the Board of Directors, came barely a day after Dr. Mbinda announced that his Board had appointed the current Director of Research Capacity Building, Prof. Elijah Songok to the position of Acting Director General’s replacing Prof. Kariuki from 4th, March 2023.
Prof. Kariuki will be proceeding on a one-year sabbatical leave after serving the Institute’s highest management position for the last two years.
Prof. Songok is a seasoned research scientist with over 37 years of research experience. His first assignment was with the Ministry of Health as a parasitologist in 1986 before moving to the Institute’s Centre for Virus Research (CVR) as an Assistant Research Officer in 1990. He then rose through the ranks to Chief Research Officer-the highest level a research scientist could attain.
Prof. Songok boasts of decorated academic credentials. He has served as a Professor at Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Manitoba Canada, and Professor at Department of Viral Infections, Kanazawa University Japan. Over 20 young scientists including those from the Institute and Africa have been mentored by Prof. Songok to PhD level in research and development. Majority of the mentees are holding leadership positions in research and teaching in Kenya, Africa and the diaspora. In 2018, he left his position at the University of Manitoba to return to Kenya on a full-time basis to take over the leadership at the KEMRI Graduate School.
On Prof. Songok’s collar are more than 100 research articles in peer-reviewed journals, two international patents and a start-up company to commercialize one of his patents. His research and innovation funding portfolio has been supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, USAID, the Toyota Foundation, the Foundation for Innovative Diagnostics (FIND), Glaxo-Smith-Kline (GSK), the Third World Academy of Science, and the Africa Academy of Science among others.
Congratulations to Dr. Ali and Prof. Songok and best wishes in your new leadership roles at KEMRI.