Eritrea’s Succession Plan: Mentoring Emerging Leadership to Build Civil Society
I was writing this article when the Lampedusa tragedy unfolded and I had to divert my attention and venting my frustration in my earlier article. Such tragic turn of events should jolt us out of slumber and complacency as many several writers stated it. The whole world has seen the misery of Eritreans exposing the cruelty and the survival scheme of the regime in power. I feel this is a timely to go back to this article because it is a lack of proper political and moral leadership that has created such catastrophe.
The political leadership has turned into seven-headed monster swallowing and spewing our youth; the future of our homeland. Lack of moral leadership is evident; the seven-headed monster has succeeded making them submissive or silent not to utter their prophetic voices challenging the evil and the evil doers. This might be true inside Eritrea; the Diaspora community is no in an enviable position either. The so called oppositions groups are infiltrated and infected to the core by the PFDJ virus. Therefore, the opposition groups’ failure of offering viable alternative to the tyranny is not to be passed without some critical assessment. The opposition groups continue to be sucked into a vacuum of their own creation. The lack of imagination and visioning as “thinking outside of the box;” they could not build a consensus offering an alternative plan to DIA.
In essence, the alphabet soup of opposition groups and PFDJ tend to operate from the same mentality our way of the highway; if we are not leading anyone else should do either. All live for the moment short of long term vision or succession plan. It is long overdue of discussing viable “succession plan.” We the current political environment, mentoring leaders for the future is absent from the “phraseology” of the opposition groups. It is in this context I would like to raise the mentor protégé relation as vision for “succession plan.” Let us all be real look ourselves in a mirror.
The majority of those in leadership or aspiring for it are in their 60s and 70s with increasingly failing health and chronic illness accelerated by stressful conditions. The latest pictures of the perennially teenage like DIA couldn’t hide that he too is ailing. In reality there is the phenomenon of “arrested development” defying the progression of their age and mortality less endowed by the wisdom of lived experience. As a result the younger generation, especially the “SAWA GENERATION” looks at these leaders with compt. A tension as a result of generational gap is normal anywhere, but in Eritrea it takes a different twist. It is not the older generation that looks at the younger as counter culture. The younger generation looks at the older, especially those in leadership as self-serving corrupt with no moral value. For example, the religious revival in the Eritrean Orthodox youth, the youth conversion to Pentecostal movement en masse, the Muslims resorting to more fundamental religious practice are some of the signals that the younger generation is trying to right the wrongs of the older.
In this context, it becomes very difficult to establish mentor protégé relationship. The generational gap has begun to show some fissures in the opposition groups; the younger generation looks at reality differently. The veteran leaders on the other hand, are accustomed to sense of entitlement to lead. Any challenge to their authoritative approach of leadership becomes the enemy labeled with any fitting derogatory adjectives. With such mentality of entitlement, change of leadership has been analogous to playing musical chairs. As for DIA, he has made sure that there is no more than one chair in sight; the one he is sitting on. Yet, time is the best equalizer; he too shall pass on like any mortal; especially like many dictators before him with reviled legacy. Does Isaias have any succession plan to his throne? It looks that this would be hidden from the all-knowing Divine though not sure from the devil. However, mortals wish and speculate.
Rumor has it that DIA has been bringing his son Abraham to the public eye as a hint of his “succession plan” to his dynasty. If this is true, then DIA is facing his own mortality. However, leaving his son would be the worst legacy he could pass on. Regardless how good a leader or nice a person Isaias’ might be; his fate will be sealed with his father like the sons of Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Mubarak and Assad. None of them survived when the inevitable came. The fate of Assad will not be any different after committing incalculable crimes against his own citizens. Will DIA usher his own son to the same fate? Since all dictators think and act alike, I won’t be surprised if the rumor would be true after all.
Dictators usher their own children to continue their legacy not out of love for public or to the benefit of the country. It is not even to protect the wealth they have accumulated; plundering the country as their private property. Dictators pass on power to their children out of selfishness; avoiding and evading personal accountability for their crimes against their very people, whom they subjugated in humiliation.
In the midst of so much a mess among Eritreans; in the motherland and in the Diaspora, it might be a pipe dream to entertain the idea of succession plan in leadership. However, sooner or later one has to confront with this question since time is of the essence. The self-deluded immortal leaders will too be subjected to the passage of time. If there is a vision for viability, sustainability and continuity, then we are forced to entertain the idea of succession plan. In order to achieve that there should be also mentor protégé relationship. How do we address this vision with level headed approach? How do bridge the generational gap with starts to be widening with the passage of time? This might need not a scholarly or political discussion; it is the reality of life. People of all walks of life sign “living will” when the inevitable comes, at least their house in order. Wouldn’t it far more important to think of a nation that way?
Let me pose some self-criticism first. Many of us are stack in the past in the form of “arrested development;” therefore, any attempt to make is in the present is met with futility. Yet, the majority of us have entered a stage of confusion that we cannot think clearly other than focusing on personalities and individuals as the roots and sources of all challenges we face. I would like to appeal to my generation, who we are already over the hump. If we are unable to start thinking about our legacy and pass it on to our posterity, we have a real problem at hand. This is not only in political sense but in the day to day life too. However, politically, we are the “problem child” that created havoc in our society. Though there might be enough stories of heroic actors within our generation standing as points of contradiction, prickling our conscience for introspection or teasing integrity to “do the right thing” but they are very few – far and in between. At the end of the day, the political solution to the Eritrean problem is completely tied to our generation; paving the way for peaceful future.
One cannot give of what he/she does not have. We lack political will, personal and organization integrity to see and envision beyond the haze of the moment. Most of us are “hell bent” to get even waiting for our time for the “sweet revenge” which in reality is a vicious cycle of chaos and confusion. There is a need for each of us to reconcile within in order to preach for peace and justice without. How? By let go of the bygone days of hurt, grievances, power, and authority. Most Eritreans, have unfulfilled dreams and aspirations but we cannot keep hostage for the next generation from fulfilling its dreams and aspirations – of “servant leadership,” peaceful and just society that invests in individual and national development. What is our personal and national succession plan? We have a whole lot to think about.