Tense moment as Babu Owino and Linda Ogutu sharply clash on air


Embakasi East MP Babu Owino was dared to leave a live TV set Wednesday after he refused to apologise for referring to former Kenya Airways (KQ) marketing director, Chris Diaz, as a “thief”.

Mr Owino and Mr Diaz, who was speaking on behalf of the East African Business Council, were guests on KTN News’s The Big Story.

The panelists were giving their opinion on the Kenya Airports Authority-KQ merge plan, when their schools of thought differed, resulting in Babu Owino calling Mr Diaz a “thief” following his [Diaz’s] stint at the troubled carrier.

The host, Linda Ogutu, asked Mr Owino to use “civilised” language on set, and avoid “insulting your fellow panelist”.

“If you can’t use civilised language, then you can leave the set,” Ms Ogutu told Babu Owino.

In a rather inappropriate tone, Mr Owino asked the host: “What do you know about civilisation?”

It was at that point that Ms Ogutu called for a commercial break, with all the subjects placed on split-screen.

Babu Owino was, thereafter, seen removing his microphone and throwing his hands up in the air in a bid to show he “did not care”.

The sharp clash trended on Twitter Wednesday night.

The lawmaker, however, did not leave the set despite having shown every sign he would.

Returning from commercial break, Linda Ogutu said: “The gentlemen have agreed to be nice to each other on air.”

Babu Owino said he doesn’t think merging KAA and KQ would be a lasting solution to salvaging the national carrier from collapsing.

“KLM is the biggest shareholder at KQ. The only salvation we can have is KAA taking over KQ and not KQ taking over KAA. It shouldn’t happen that way. KQ has been making losses year in-year out. The marriage between KQ and KAA is a stale marriage; a marriage that will not give us babies. Kenyans should not allow JKIA be taken over by KQ. It is fraudulent, immoral and illegal,” said Mr Owino.

Mr Diaz, on the other hand, proposed that KQ and KAA should work together to help KQ return to profitable ways.

“I don’t think that the proposed merger has been finalised, at least from what I hear from stakeholders. KQ needs to work on a right strategy that will return it to winning ways. The carrier also needs to ensure that a lot of private sector people fly on KQ. KQ management should also get the right partners to work with it,” said Mr Diaz.

Airport employees went on strike Wednesday following concern for their jobs in the proposed takeover of the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA).

The plan, contained in a Privately Initiated Investment Proposal that Kenya Airways (KQ) submitted to KAA in January, indicates that employees stationed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) will be engaged afresh by a newly formed entity through which KQ will manage the airport.

Employees also raised issues with KQ’s financial health, saying re-assigning employees would lead to loss of jobs.

Other grievances raised by the Kenya Airport Workers Union (KAWU) include failure to conduct a feasibility study to inform different financial and technical aspects of KQ’s proposal to KAA.

Last month, Members of Parliament suspended a proposed merger between KQ and KAA.

The Public Investments Committee (PIC) said the proposed merger would render the profitable aviation regulator, KAA, bankrupt.

A Cabinet paper prepared in May, 2018 had warned that KQ had less than one year to survive if the merger flopped and the carrier did not get a significant capital injection.

Documents tabled in Parliament by KAA managing director Johnny Andersen showed that the KAA board of directors was apprehensive of the Privately Initiated Investment Proposal (PIIP) tabled by KQ with the backing of the Cabinet.

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