Coaching the Eritrean Democratic transition

By Fesseha Nair

How can popular uprisings win the dictatorship or how can one organize the winner?  Many leaders of the modern waves of democratic transition turned to Professor Gene Sharp’s books on transition to democracy and how to struggle the dictatorship. Winning the dictatorship and building democracy requires control of the mental process to use your available resources in a productive way. The Eritrean pro-democracy lack the skills to prepare mentally and use all its available resources against the dictatorship but are wasting their time on discussions on what kinds of methods of struggle. (Violent versus peaceful) There is no empirical evidence that the two are separable but are complementary. All resistance against oppression are peaceful but defend themselves from the oppression to run a resistance every organizations uses its human and material resources. It is not the forces for democratic change that uses violence but the oppressor therefore the oppressed is obliged to resist by all means available. ( Look what is going in Libya, Syria, Yemen…………..etc)

In his studies,( 32 books) Gene Sharp never says that peaceful method is without bloodshed.

Reading the books of Gene helps one to increase the capacity to create the requirements for winning dictatorship. In this article, I would like to engage on the properties of good leadership under the title,

 “ Coaching the Eritrean democratic Transition.”

What is coaching? The term, “ Coach” , is a concept used in the language of sports. It is the leader of the team in sports. Coaching is now used in the modern management or leadership. A coach is a trainer with the total responsibility for the team and the individual player’s development in sports. The main task of the coach is to create the best possible result without taking the play by himself.

A coach has the following responsibilities:

–         Sets up the trainings program

–         Guides the players

–         Gives instructions in the play field

–         Directs the relations of the players

–         Treats each individual after his strong and weak sides

–         Gives comments

–          Boosts the spirit and harmony of the play

–          Works hard in building self-confidence

The coach does not play the game but the result of winning depends on his preceding expert work.

Can the Eritrean forces for democratic change learn from this new concept of leadership? I think, they can if they have the will. Leading a democratic transition is the same way as leading a football team. The top leaders of the pro democracy forces must have the skills of coaching for the development of the need broad national organization. Today’s youth will be the future coaches/leaders. Is that possible to change leadership on this way? Is leadership built purely on personal experience or is born with you? Let me discuss little to illustrate on some factors on good leadership but at the same time I would like to emphasize that leadership can depend on behaviour as well as personal characteristics but behaviour can change with age. We don’t have an ideal picture on who is the best leader. Each one has his way of affording knowledge and skills on oneself and through this one can strengthen his positive sides and change or eliminate the negative ones.

I can show below, what I mean with a positive and negative sides of leadership.

A good leader/ Coach:

–         Knows himself/herslef and knows how his/her behaviour influence his/ her environment.

–         Prepares before changes in the organization and adjust the groups’ behaviour with the changed demands that are legitimate.

–         Accomplishes many different roles and uses time for planning.

–          Develops internal affinity and the feeling of win –win attitude.

–         Accepts and understand his colleagues instead prejudging them.

–         Believes on them despite risks.

–         Negotiates despite uncertainty.

–         Gives information and thus take the colleagues feeling seriously.

–         Builds up self-confidence.

–         Delegates the work.

–         Is flexible and transparent for different views and adjust to the various situations.

–         Discusses the objectives of the work with the colleagues and supports them to put their own objectives.

–         Strengthens the positive side and eliminates the negative.

–         Creates the, “ I and You” relationship not  the , “ I and them” relationship.

–         Must be active conflict manager.

–         Props up adversity and is positive and encouraging.

–         Is attentive on the signals of change and ensures that it is homogenous.

–         Involves in the problem and search solutions in the present or in the future not waste his time in the past history.

–         Gives quick respond

–         Gives clear signals on the values.

–         Builds a positive given culture.

–         Proves himself / herself.

Do you recognize these points in your leadership? No one is perfect but one tries always to improve or show a way to change the behaviour of doing things. What I want to say here that to show a way towards a new way of behaviour to change by obtaining skills and realize that we need a will for change.

Today, our leadership is characterized by the following problems:

–         Mistrust

–         Suspicion

–         Closed/ Non-transparent

–         Interest conflict

–         Conflicts

–         Imbalances

–         Bad communication

The negative side of the leadership are:

–         Control, centralised power and responsibility.

–         No vision and strategy.

–         Long ways of decision making, no flexibility and adjusting with current situations.

–         Conformity and conservatism exists, their work is based on the past instead on the present and future.

–         Bad cooperation and isolation.

–         Lack of motivation and engagement

Those organizations with control are not fit to run democratic transition.

Our discussions should not be on methods but functionality and values. It is easy to criticise but is difficult to bring an alternative to the existing. The Eritrean pro-democracy forces need alternative to control organizations identified by freedom, engagement and responsibility. 

The pro-democracy forces must build model characterized by the following properties:

–         All members must feel responsibility.

–         Short decision making

–         Better flexibility

–         Better adjustment of capacity

–         Organization fits with current situation not the situation

–         People are persons not roles

–         Great sense of freedom and action skills

–         Less conformity

–         Great will and capacity to change

–         Great confidence

These are some advantages but the model must be based on human rights, norms and values. The indicators of the model are,

–         Independence, responsibility and opportunities to own development.

–         Leadership responsibility should be limited.

–         All are equally valued

–         Confidence

–         Transparency

–         Colleagues are important and valuable

–         Limitations exist on the individual no on the system.

The national congress that will be hold must consider on the model of organization. An organization characterized by its functionalities and values is the demand of our people. The old type model during the liberation period does not function.

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