Kenya Airways’ stands firm in face of attempts to apply political pressure

When Kenya Airways management recently, and rightly, ignored an illegal directive by the Prime Minister over the planned staff rationalization programme, Odinga, who had made himself a willing tool of the unions links with which is a long standing hallmark of his familys politics ended up with the proverbial egg over his face, prompting his loyalists to seek swift redress, or as others will see it, revenge on the national airline.
News have since emerged that attempts are now underway to use the slightly increased shareholding by the Kenyan government, risen after the share rights issue in April this year to just under 30 percent compared to KLMs 26.3 percent, to demand greater rights on the board of the airline, where both key partners have 2 directors seats.
Undoubtedly prompted by persistent rumours of the airlines Group Managing Director and CEO Dr. Titus Naikuni preparing himself for a political careers after serving for 10 years at the helm of Kenya Airways, and recording some of the most significant advances and successes the airline ever recorded in its history since privatization in the 90s, shareholders are keen to see this potential succession situation sorted out in good time. A potential successor could be sourced from outside the airline to bring in an aviation guru of top ranking, should a replacement become necessary. It is here that reportedly Odingas merry men seek to gain influence, demanding that government should have a greater say in the appointment of top executives from here on, reflecting their slightly risen shareholding, while regular aviation observers immediately tore through the charade calling it for what it truly was, a purely politically motivated and self serving act by an individual or his party rather than reflecting broader government consensus on the issue.
The man got his toes stepped on after he stuck them out too far when he took the side of his union buddies said a regular and often outspoken airline source from Nairobi before continuing Recruitment of a top executive should be left to the board of directors, directly or in conjunction with a head hunting company, and political considerations have to be left out of it. This is a publicly quoted company with a lot of private and institutional shareholders including the almost 10 percent stake by the IFC and they will absolutely disagree with the plans of one man or one group to inflict their revenge by trying to influence recruitment so that they can place a sycophant there. For me it is evident what troubles we would be in for. We have always advocated to bring in professionals into KCAA, into KAA instead of political appointments which for government bodies still seems normal, but aviation needs professional people who understand the sector. Government needs maybe reminding they are to create an enabling environment for business, but stay otherwise out of business, and not try to claw their way back in like it is apparent here. Aviation has no place for politicians any longer, because if they were in charge we all be broke by now. And remember, the staff adjustment programme had been sanctioned by the board of directors where Njiru and Kinyua represent government [Permanent Secretary Ministry of Transport Cyrus Njiru
and Permanent Secretary to the Treasury and Ministry of Finance Joseph
Kinyua] and surely accepted the rationale behind the decision. It should prove that this is an agenda by one man with a bruised ego, not the Kenya government per se.

Going by past records, the board of directors of Kenya Airways, which comprises a total of 11 members according to information at hand, is elected through the companys annual general meeting where periodically directors have to retire according to the memorandum and articles of association of the company, though can offer themselves for re-election as long as their main shareholding constituencies still back them. In the case of the Kenya government, it was long ago decided to have the two Permanent Secretaries of the ministries of Transport and Finance placed on the board to inject top level representation to the board, while the same applied to the two directors put forward by partner airline KLM. The companys financial year runs through March 31st 2013, to be followed by an AGM at a later stage when accounts are presented to shareholders and, as may be the case, elections for directors to be held again, well after the envisaged March 04th general elections in which a new government set up will be determined for the country and which could see new government representatives attached to the Kenya Airways board. But that will be then and we now need to watch the now and in between, so keep your eyes trained to this spot.