Embattled Kenya Airways CEO Mbuvi Ngunze has announced that he will step down from the helm of the national carrier next year.
Mr Ngunze who has headed the troubled airline for the past two years as the CEO and group managing director will leave his current role in the first quarter of 2017.
“While I regret this decision, I respect his position Mbuvi will stay on until a successor is found, which is expected to take some months,” said KQ Chairman Michael Joseph in a statement.
The process of selecting a suitable CEO to replace Mr Ngunze, led by Mr Joseph along with the board and the nominations committee, is under way and is expected to take three months.
“As we look to the future, the operational turnaround must stay in focus, but so too the financial stability of the business. The key outcomes desired during this phase of the turnaround are an improvement in liquidity and the reduction of the overall debt,” said Mr Joseph.
Mr Ngunze had worked at the carrier for five years in different capacities, including chief operating officer before his promotion to CEO two years ago.
While taking office, Mr Joseph had indicated that Ngunze would not be exiting, since he was part of the turnaround strategy. It, however, seems that the chief executive has bowed to pressure from the unions to step down.
The Kenya Airline Pilots Association (Kalpa) had been calling for the resignation of the holders of the top seats at the airline — former chairman Dennis Awori and Mr Ngunze.
Mr Awori resigned after only 11 months, in a bid by Treasury and KLM, the majority shareholders of KQ, to appease employees.
The staff were promised that there would be changes in leadership after the pilots threatened to hold yet another strike, potentially crippling the national carrier.
Kalpa, which is made up of about 400 pilots, accused the leadership of mismanagement that has resulted in the airline posting record billion-shilling losses over the past few years.
Mr Ngunze had started restructuring the airline in a process that included the sale of assets, employee rationalisation as well as renegotiating long-term loans.
Kenya Airways released its half-year results last month, announcing a Sh4.8 billion loss, less than half what it had posted for the same period in 2015.
The carrier had, for the year ended March 2016, posted a Sh26.2 billion loss, a performance worsened by several forensic reports pointing to mismanagement at the publicly listed airline.