Ethiopian airlines past and present

By Nigussu

Among the different government organizations in Ethiopia; for the past 60 and 70 years; Ethiopian airlines is the best organization which has a continuous success story and hence has become the symbol and pride not only for Ethiopians but also for Africans.

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The organization has achieved its success mainly because off its highly committed staff and management who have worked diligently and in harmony in the execution of the company goals and objectives. Thepast success story of the airline wasnot achievedwithoutchallenges. Established during the emperor era with the support of America’s TWA;thecompany had great challenges both at the DERG era and since the EPRDF come to power.Among the different challenges at different times;disregarding the external factors the internal factors mainly the intervention made by the government in power at different time was paramount.Thanks to the highly determined and dedicated staff alongwith the highly professional; confidentand effective leaders across the different hierarchy of the organizational structure;the challenges had been overcame and the company has survived and achieved the marvelous results till the present date.

In this brief article two of the challenges shall be discussed; one at the DERG era and the other as the EPRDF came to power.

One of the challenge during the DERG era was the proposal forwarded to the management regarding the Boeing airplane which the company provides the service.The proposal made was for the airline to buy the soviet made airplanes for its commercial transport service.This decision by the government had created great resistance and opposition from the general staff and the management.The different attempt by the government to convince and implement the ideas could not be accepted and the government had to change its intention.The united stand of the general staff and the then management had rescued the company from the wrong direction.

24 years before as the EPRDF came in to power there were different challenges which had threatened the Ethiopian airlines survival. Among the different challenges the government’s decision for Ethiopian airlines to combine with smaller airlines including Eritrea and Djibouti had been very contentious.The then Ethiopian airlines board chairman called AtoSeyeAbrha had called the general staff for the meeting and explained the EPRDF decision about the fate of the airline.The general staff and the highly professional and confident management members of the time had opposed the government decision with concrete evidence.Following the government decision the then management personnel has challenged the TPLF decision .Althoughthe management have opposed this proposal the TPLF/EPRDF had become rigid and could not accept the opposition to the ill motive of the government. Subsequently about 25 directors and division heads of Ethiopian airlines at the different hierarchical positions have signed a petition rejecting the EPRDF decision and resigned from the company.Those management staff who have opposed this negative idea of the TPLF/EPRDF government have sacrificed their personal interest and benefit and have rescued the company from subsequent failurebankruptcy and shutdown. These are the type of leaders now the company and the nation at large lacks.

.In the latter periodsmost of those management members who have left the company had succeeded in getting top management positions both with in Africa and in the middle east and has contributed their part in making those airlines move forward.

In the latter period the unsuccessful and ill thinking attitude of the government and the challenges encountered by the general staff and the management memberscoupled with high source of foreign currency income to the government have made the government to change its mindand came with another strategy.This new strategy is to work on removing and sidelining those staff who the EPRDF thinks as not supporters of its ideology .At the same time employing and promoting the TPLF party members and cadreshavebecome the home work of the government for a very long period of time. In addition to the earlier ill motive; the Ethiopian flag logo at the tail section of all Ethiopian airplanes had made the TPLF unhappy and ordered the change of the Ethiopian airlineslogo .The latter intention of the TPLF/EPRDF was also opposed by the company staff and the general public.This great opposition from the general public has forced the TPLF led government to modify its original plan and has come with different shape but it has still maintained the Ethiopian flag color;thanks to the general public.

The plan to put EPRDF supporters at different position had started when the government appointedDr Ahmed Kello as a CEO and other EPRDF supporters at different executivepositions. Those appointed loyalists at different executive positions had noaviation experience and were unsuccessful and has incurred the company to unnecessary costs and losses to which no one was accountable. The failure of these loyalist executives has made the government to search for individuals who have rich experience on aviation .However this government strategy was not intended to keep those individuals for a long period of time ;rather it was a temporary action and until the TPLF and loyalists get the required experience to take over.Hence the experienced executives and directors had to take over the top position and TPLF symphatzers and loyalists had to work and learn along these experienced professionals .Mind you the majority of those TPLF cadres and loyalists were incapable ;immoral in a number of measurements compared to other staff who are very professionals ;well-disciplined and excellent work ethics but not party members.The later who are the most capable professionals with outstanding professionalism and experience were side lined and have systematically been attacked and forced to leave the company .The appointment of AtoGirma Wake as the CEO and the promotion of the TPLF member AtoTewolde to the top position to learn and get experience to take the CEO position was also part of this TPLF strategy.Despite this fact the appointment of AtoGirma Wake has made the company to achieve a significant milestones by all standards thanks to AtoGirma’s proficiency ; sound leadership and excellent professionalism. Under the excellent leadership of AtoGirma the company had contracted a consultant called Ernest and Young to plan a long term strategy in consultation and active participation of the general staff.Due to this decision the company has overpassed its vision 2010 strategy well ahead of time. Ingeneral during Ato Girma Wake tenure the company have progressed in all areas with impressive results which was admired not only by African professionals but also by different international aviation organizations. This is not only because of the significant achievement of theAtoGirma’s time but his achievements havealso put significant mile stones and paved the way for great achievements for the future which the TPLF appointed CEO now enjoys and boasts too much as if this is his plan and strategy .

In this article some of the achievements of AtoGirma Wake shall be mentioned.

1-In less than a year of his appointment the airline had achieved a growth of more than 20 % and have succeeded in more than 25% general growth in the following successive years.

2-During the start of his tenure; the airline had been transporting about 1.2 million passengers and at the end of his service period the number of passengers transported increased by three fold to 3.2 million.
3-The number of airplanes the company had also increased by three fold
4-Ethiopian airlines has also became the biggest airline in Africa next to South Africa and its profit had increased to more than fivefold during his period.

Besides the above facts and as stated earlierAtoGirma had given great emphasis for the airline long term strategy called vision 2025 so as to put the airline on strong positions not only for now but also for the future.
Unlike today throughout Ethiopian airlines history; employment and promotion on Ethiopian airlines was only on knowledge; proficiency and experience .Due to the past leaders keen interest on knowledge; proficiency and experience; incompetent personalities like the ones who are now at different positions of the company structures by empty talks; party membership and chauvinism had no any place within the company.Besides this One ethnic dominancy and party membership to get an employment and promotion with in Ethiopian airlines which is now being exercised by the TPLF agent AtoTewolde G/M had no place in the history of Ethiopian airlines.

As has been noted earlier throughout the tenure of AtoGirma the TPLF agent AtoTewolde had been assigned by the TPLF to be coached by AtoGirma and take the position of the CEO.

After the departure of AtoGirmathe company has continued its growth thanks to the long term plan and strategy of AtoGirma.However ;with the appointment of the TPLF agent AtoTewolde G/M per the earlier government plan the TPLF is exercising its vested interest on the company through AtoTewolde and some of its appointees .Most of AtoTewolde’s appointees are incompetent for the position and assigned only based in their ethnicity ;party membership and loyalty to the TPLF.They are appointed only to execute what has been planned by the TPLF through its agent CEO AtoTewoldewithout any hesitation .One has also to note that most of those appointees by the CEO at different positions are individuals who have only greedy self-interest and has no any self-integrity or self-stand on any issues. Besides this some of those individuals are highly corrupted and have a record of poor moral; work ethics and discipline. Under normal circumstances; some of those individuals are not capable and in aposition to be employed in such organization let alone to be appointed at different managerial or director positions. These personnel at different hierarchical positions are also promised different rewards for the execution of the TPLF hidden interest under the pretext of company interest.

In general after the departure of AtoGirma and with the appointment of AtoTewolde the hidden agenda of the TPLF on the company man power structure has become very clear.

Hence the employment or recruitment and also appointment and promotion with in Ethiopian airlines is now not based on the modern company rules and procedures as used to be throughout Ethiopian airlines history during both the emperor and also the Military .

Now employment;recruitment;appointment and promotion during the EPRDF period through the appointment of the TPLF agent AtoTewolde is done only in favor of one ethnic group; calledtigreans and with some other EPRDF party members in some areas.

.Thus after thedeparture of AtoGirma Wake and with the assignment of the AtoTewolde the main focus on the company man power distribution has become assigning EPRDF members among those 90 % as tigreans at different company man power structure from the lowest level up to different managerial and directors positions.
Unlike the emperor and military period during which employment in Ethiopian airlines was only based on being an Ethiopian and being competitive ;The EPRDF era under the TPLF agent CEO has made the recruitment criteria based on ethnicity and partymembership disregarding being an Ethiopian and being competitive.As an example in the period of 2015 alone the company has recruited and employed about 700 EPRDF party members of whom about 95%are the minority tigreans at different structure of the organization without the formal recruitment process as used to be in Ethiopian airlines history.

In addition to the above malpractice the company under AtoTewolde time attacks well experienced and professional personnel who have made great contribution to the success of the company but are not TPLF or EPRDF loyalists
Because of this management malpractices and partiality for the dominancy of one ethnic group or partymany well experienced staff in all specialties have left the company not to be part of this evil processand a lot of company property and billions of dollars of Ethiopians people property is being wasted for the lack of knowledge;proficiency and experience.Though there is a great loss of the public money and property with this reckless management malpractices no one has become accountable so far
Because of the partiality in favor of the minority TPLF members and other loyalists; grievances to the company trade union and court has increased significantly since AtoTewolde has appointed as the CEO.The company trade union has also approached and tried to discuss with the CEO about some of the minor issues or complaints from the trade union members. In most of the cases the response and behavior by the CEO is very discouraging and bullying. Some of the cases had been raised up to the level of labor minister .The response of the later was also very disappointing. According to the minister no one has the right to challenge the CEO and the minister has accused the trade union members as members of the opposition party and threatened them to take to the court and sentence them in jail for several years.

Finally Ethiopian airlines is the property of the general public. The company has reached today with great effort and sacrifice of the general staff who have joined the company from all over the country without any discrimination and the support of the different governments at different periods.However to date the company leadership is at the wrong hand andhas forgotten the company as the general Ethiopian property. In other words it looks that the company is not the property of the general Ethiopian public; rather it is only for one ethnic group. Recruitment; appointment and company benefit has become only infavorof one ethnic group and some to other EPRDF party members .This practice will have un intended consequences both for the general staff; theEthiopian public and the image of the company. Hence the government in power needs to reconsider its action from the wrong direction which is being practiced now and take correction of this management malpractices on Ethiopian public property.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Electric power was shut down across the country to show that the drought was caused by shortage of rainfall and electric dams have also faced shortage water and that caused power shut down . What a propaganda !

  2. this articles is a little bit wired it is talking about the transformation of Ethiopian airlines and the talks about the bad policy of EPRDF then it talks about the poor performance of the minority ethnic and the membership of EPRDF who has been CEO then it talk about the impressive achievement of Ethiopian air lines

    how in the world a bad tree bears a good fruit

  3. Gross accusation based on hatred. I agree the lion share contribution of the well respected Ato Girma Wake’s leadership takes EAL to-date achievement or business success. For the sake of political motive, The writer did not want to analyse or telling us all EAL General managers ups and down facing during their management period. Due to incompleteness of facts, he mentioned three GM personality only in his writing. A good analogy for this writing: In rely running if the one who took the stick from the previous best performed athlete did not run well, will ruin all the good effort made by his predecessors otherwise share the prize together. He can write a lot of problem for different government company or institute but it is unnecessary or untimely to write about EAL pitfall this time. I wish if the writer is an expert on airlines business and write positive suggestion or feedback or analysis that helps EAL to grow more than it has now. EAL is Ethiopian before , now , and in future.

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