Skip to main content
Gobena Mikael Imiru-the aviation legend passes away
Late Gobena Mikael

Gobena Mikael Imiru-the aviation legend passes away

The African airline industry this week lost an iconic personality who served the continent for more than 34 years-Gobena Mikael Imiru. Gobena served Ethiopian Airlines for 27 years and RwandAir for six years. He was loved and respected by his colleagues at Ethiopian Airlines who affectionately call him “Gena”.  Gobena joined Ethiopian at a young age of 25. He also earned a due recognition from Kigali where he served the national carrier RwandAir since 2014.  

Gobena was one of the founding member and a senior partner of AFRI Aviation Plc, an aviation consultancy firm based in Addis Ababa.  

Gobena passed away on Monday September 21, 2020 at the age of 58 in Kigali where he was hospitalised for few days. The management and employees of RwandAir paid tributes to him before sending his body home on Tuesday.September 22, 2020. A large number of senior staff of Ethiopian Airlines, his family, relatives and friends received his body at Bole International Airport and laid him to rest on Wednesday September 23, 2020 at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Church.          

Born to his father Lej Mikael Imiru, a close relative of Emperor Hailesillassie and was the last prime minister of the imperial regime, and his mother Almaz Teklehawariat, Gobena Mikael attended the American Community School in Addis Ababa and graduated from the Addis Ababa University with a BSc degree in Mathematics. Gobena holds a diploma in Airline Marketing and Finance, an MSC degree in Information Science. Gobena has been serving with RwandAir in Kigali as General Manager Commercial/chief commercial officer.

Prior to joining RwandAir, Gobena served Ethiopian Airlines with distinction in various positions for 27 years. During his long service with Ethiopian Airlines, he held the positions of Manager Pricing, Manager Sales Development, Manager Marketing Automation and Project Manager Marketing Support Systems. Gobena was then promoted to the positions of Director of Marketing Information Systems, Area Manager of France based in Paris, Regional Director of Southern Europe based in Rome, Regional Director of North & South America based in Washington DC.

After completing his outstation assignments, Gobena returned to Ethiopia and was assigned to spear-head the massive change management program in Ethiopian Airlines as Sr. Director Change Management. Having completed this assignment, Gobena joined the Ethiopian Airlines executive management team as Senior Vice President of Global Sales and finally as the Chief Commercial Officer of the airline.


As a seasoned aviation expert, Gobena had represented Ethiopian Airlines on numerous forums and addressed several meetings and conferences.

His long time friend and colleague Girma Wake, former CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, remembers Gobena as a young hard working man at Ethiopian Airlines in the early 1980s. “He joined Ethiopian after he graduated from the Addis Ababa University. I knew him while he was working in the space control department. He was a dedicated hard working young man,” Girma said. “He does not get satisfied easily. He was detail oriented,” he added. 

Girma who was board chairman of RwandAir worked with Gobena in Kigali for three years. “He won the hearts and minds of our Rwandese brothers and sisters with a short period of time. He was disciplined and God fearing person. Above all what amazes me most is his willingness to share his knowledge of the airline business.” 

Gobena liked the people of Rwanda and the country. The Rwandese people showed their high regard and respect to him during the tribute ceremony held at the headquarters of RwandAir.   

“We lost such a good person who was also a plat of RwandAir and it will never be the same without him. We will all miss him immensely. He was a big brother more than a colleague,” Yvonne Manzi Makolo CEO of RwandAir stated.

Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Tewolde Gebremriam said Gobena’s sudden death was very shocking and sad. In a statement sent to The Reporter Tewolde said he knew Gobena for the last 34 years. “He was friendly, straight forward and direct person who speaks his mind at all times,” Tewolde said. “We missed him a lot. May God bless his soul and give the strength to his loved ones to manage the pain and grief of his death,” he added.

Over the years Gobena had established a strong network in the African airline industry and become a credible source of information for industry players and aviation journalists.   

Prof Wolfgang H. Thome, a renowned aviation and tourism writer, said Gobena was a reliable source of information. “This is a very sad day. He had become a good friend over the years and a reliable source on aviation news from across Africa. I express my deepest sympathy and sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.”

Ethiopia’s Ambassador to France Henok Teferra Shawl said Gobena was a good person and a great professional. “It was an honor to serve with him at Ethiopian. My sincere condolences to his family, who are in our prayers and thoughts,” Henok said.

Gobena was in Addis Ababa last March to attend the Aviation Africa Conference which attracted more than 900 delegates at Ethiopian Skylight Hotel. He is survived by his son and wife.