Search

 

Cablegate: Rwandair Replaces Ceo - Cancels Flights To

VZCZCXRO8894
PP RUEHJO
DE RUEHLGB #0264/01 1011525
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 101525Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KIGALI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5231
INFO RUEHJB/AMEMBASSY BUJUMBURA 0283
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 1097
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1866
RUEHKI/AMEMBASSY KINSHASA 0418
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0205
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 1184
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0459
RUEHWD/AMEMBASSY WINDHOEK 0172
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 0084
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 0114
RUEHMT/AMCONSUL MONTREAL 0020
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0289

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KIGALI 000264

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR ECON EFIN EINV AMGT CASC RW
SUBJECT: RWANDAIR REPLACES CEO - CANCELS FLIGHTS TO
JOHANNESBURG, NAIROBI

REF: KIGALI 00202

1. (SBU) Summary. Former CEO of Rwandair, Manzi Kayihura,
was arrested March 28 on charges of abuse of office. Rwanda's
national airline has been battered recently by safety
concerns, poor customer service and financial woes (reftel).
Incoming CEO and former Board Chairman Gerald Zirimwabagabo
confirmed that the airline has been forced to cancel flights
to Johannesburg and Nairobi, but asserted that it was
continuing flights to Bujumbura, Entebbe and Kilimanjaro.
The new CEO admitted that the long-hoped for privatization
was unlikely to happen anytime soon because "Rawandair is too
weak to be privatized." Zirimwabagabo asserted the airline
is now looking at rebuilding its business plan and
restructuring operations. End Summary

2. (U) The March 28 arrest of former CEO Kayihura follows
months of erratic service, mechanical failures and safety
concerns on leased Boeing 737 aircraft that provided service
to Johannesburg and Nairobi for Rwandair (reftel). The local
press reported that Kayihura was arrested on charges of
"abuse of office." Kayihura has since been released from
police custody but reportedly continues to be under
investigation pending formal charges. New CEO Zirimwabagabo
told Econoff that Rwandair's problems were due to
mismanagement and admitted that the airline did not have a
good business plan, suffered from poor customer service and
lacked sufficient business to be profitable.

3. (SBU) Zirimwabagabo confirmed that Rwandair has been in
negotiation with Meridian Airlines and SN Brussels for
privatization. These negotiations are still ongoing, but the
CEO was doubtful of the outcome. The prospective buyers were
supposed to have submitted bids in January, but as of now the
parties are still tied up in due diligence and renegotiation
of the sale conditions, he said. Zirimwabagabo claimed that
the sale of the airline was poorly packaged from the
beginning and candidly stated "Rwandair is too weak to be
privatized."

4. (SBU) If the privatization fails, the airline's new
management will attempt to rebuild the business model and
restructure operations. Zirimwabagabo admitted he does not
have any aviation experience, so his first priority will be
to hire an aviation expert to advise the airline. The CEO
noted Rwandair will continue to fly its CRJ aircraft to
Entebbe, Bujumbura and Kilimanjaro and asserted these planes
were reliable and the routes profitable. However, the CRJ
aircraft have limited range and cargo capacity making them
impractical to use on the Nairobi and Johannesburg routes, he
said. In the interim, Rwandair is attempting to negotiate a
joint route agreement with one of three regional carriers
(Kenya Air, Jet Link and an airline based in Uganda) to cover
the Kigali-Nairobi run. Zirimwabagabo said he hoped to
conclude these negotiations within two weeks.

5. (SBU) Separately, the South African Ambassador told Charge
on April 7 that he raised the cancellation of service to
Johannesburg with South African Airways and asked SAA to
consider reinstating once-a-week service to Johannesburg.
SAA, however, did not appear to be interested. The
QSAA, however, did not appear to be interested. The
Ambassador noted there was a possibility that Namibia Air
might consider starting a Windhoek-J,burg-Kigali run in the
future, adding that SAA serviced Nambia Air,s planes in
South Africa so he was confident that the planes were safe.
With regard to Rwandair,s use of several South African-based
charters, the Ambassador noted that two of the charter
companies did not have good safety records and one
(Nation-wide) had in fact been grounded.

6. (SBU) Looking forward, Rwandair hopes to add cargo
capacity and expand its routes. Zirimwabagabo claimed that
Rwandair is interested in looking at a "lease to purchase" of
a used Boeing 737-300. This aircraft would provide Rwandair
with the capacity to service Nairobi and Johannesburg without
relying on the use of a wet lease aircraft and would also
offer the opportunity to explore new routes such as to Dubai.
He also said that Rwandair will need to focus on better
training of its customer service staff, establish stronger

KIGALI 00000264 002 OF 002


alliances with other regional airlines and market the airline
more effectively to travel agencies and tour groups.

7. (SBU) Comment: Rwandair appears to be confronting the
serious safety, management and financial issues that have
burdened the airline of late. The airline has been hoping
for a white knight to rescue it from its financial woes --
this does not now appear to be a viable option. While
management's recognition of the weaknesses confronting
Rwandair is a step towards resolving them, it is too soon to
say that the airline's problems are behind it. Much will
depend on the restructuring that airline management claims
are in the works, and the willingness of the Rwandan
Government to continue to fund an unprofitable business.
Reaching out to other regional airlines to pick up routes may
provide a short-term solution, but we anticipate that travel
on Rwandair to Nairobi and Johannesburg will continue to be
erratic at best.

SIM

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC