Tag Archives: Mediation

Korea, the Danger of Trump Talk, by Gabriel C Banda


Korea, the Danger of Trump Talk


Gabriel  C  Banda

TRUMP Talk or Trump Speak is threat to discussions and settlements on Korea. Trump Speak and Trump style are potential threats to parties getting to reach settlement over conflict in Korea.

Trump Talk, coming from Donald Trump and team members, affects the possibility of direct dialogue taking place. And if dialogue does happen, they also can affect the content of the discussion. Trump Talk affects outcomes.

The April 27, 2018 historic meeting of Korea’s North and South rulers Kim Jong-un and  Moon Jae-in, was pleasing to many in the world. Taking place at Panmunjom, on the South Korea side, here was chance for North and South to improve relations of this area, which arises from one people divided in 1945 by the actions of external forces.  They are ethnically, historically, and geographically one people.

One People

Many of us in various parts of the world observed there was friendliness and goodwill between the two parties. Truly North and South were one divided people and they could still be one people, border or no border between them.  Moon Jae-in had recently, in 2017, won elections with an attitude of reaching out to North Korea. Now, they pledged to work together on Korea’s issues and move towards peace.

As demonstrated recently at the Panmunjom meeting, left to themselves, the Korean rulers, North and South, are able to come to some settlement. The presence of external forces are big shapers of Korean relations.

The result of the Panmunjom meeting was also a chance for North Korea and USA, which is allied to South Korea or is in some ways the South’s godparent, to deal with their tensions.

Perhaps through facilitation by Moon Jae-in, a historic meeting was  scheduled for USA and North Korea rulers, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. Moon Jae-in has been a good facilitator. We do not know if Moon Jae-in has been influenced by the social teaching and anti-war stances of his Catholic faith following.

Knowing the Other

Our hope was that the planned Trump-Kim  meeting would first be about knowing each other at a personal level, actions which help to de-stigmatise the other parties. Such Know Your Opponent meeting need not immediately involve strong demands on the other. Such meeting, or series of meetings, should instead help build a relationship and confidence in each other.

The planned first Trump-Kim meeting that was welcomed by many in the world is now threatened by Trump Speak.  For many days now, one has been concerned that the Trump spirit may lead to disruption of process and progress over Korea.

One is concerned that some approaches that have had negative effects on others, even American citizens, may be used in delicate situations like that of Korea. We are concerned about Trump and team’s speeches and comments.

Trump Talk will affect the result and achievement of the attempt to meet parties in conflict over Korea. Trump Talk can affect the direction of relationships of parties involved over Korea.

Some aggressive, rude, insulting, intimidating, demeaning, insensitive, or harsh remarks by Trump and team members may evoke responses that will throw away the window that recently opened through the direct talks of North Korea and South Korea’s rulers.

Rough or tough talk that has come from the spirit of Trump, in Tweet or other platforms, will here be counter-productive. Trump has been belligerent in both tone of delivery and word content. Trump Speak vexes many at home and abroad, Americans and non-Americans.


Some remarks of his have been insensitive to others, under-rating others. He has taken actions whose effects on others, and him self, seem not to have been considered.

He seems not to realise or consider or care that some speeches, comments, and actions may have negative and profound effects on others and himself. He has unleashed things he cannot control. Yet these things unleashed, released, may destabilise the world and the integrity of life.

Through his speech and actions, Donald Trump has invoked actions that have unleashed negative results that are difficult to control and undo.

Trump sends messages that Force and Threat are currents to use. He may think about rough strategic moves rather than opening up to work with someone he must respect.


Over Korea, a key problem is that Trump and supporters are broadcasting that his method of toughness and threats have led to North Korea’s Kim accepting to go to the negotiating table.

That position, perhaps welcome to his fans, actually poses problems for potential talks. In fact, the reality may not have been that Trump’s tough or rough approach compelled Kim, but that Kim’s standing up to Trump through unrepentant missile and nuke tests, tests that damage our world, may have, using the law of the jungle, made Trump be careful about Kim and North Korea.

So, the reverse may have played a part, not that Kim feared Trump, but that Trump was influenced to negotiation by the challenge Kim made through nuclear technology development and missile tests.

In the jungle, the bully pushes around others it considers weak but yields to and leaves alone those who stand up to the bully.

Force and Violence

The use of threats and force creates many problems. Believing that they work, those who use them begin to make it a habit to do so. And those who are threatened begin to either yield to threats or instead build their capacities for force so that they reach a strong point where the bullies do not threaten them. As in the story of David and Goliath in scriptures, a bully cannot forever intimidate other human beings.

Often, aggression, force, and violence beget violence. Some persons respond well when the other party is polite and respecting and not bullying or disrespectful. Some persons may comply with being pushed around but will later, when strong, squarely face the bully. There is often reversed effect in the method of strong and aggressive approaches.

Some parties do not want to appear to have been forced into agreement. They want to get into dialogue and settlement of a situation through their own choice and commitment, not because they had been threatened.

Boasts, Threats

The more Trump and team give the impression that they are pushing Kim about the more it will be difficult to have the talks happen or, when they take place, reach a good result.

The boasts and threats of Trump and team may make others think that they should use threats and force to get others into agreement.

The method of threat and sanctions may not have worked on Kim. From evidence, Kim does not have fear of Donald Trump. While Trump may bully other rulers, and even fellow American citizens, Kim stands up to Trump.

As we have noted before, USA regimes’ actions for regime change over Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria have led to distrust of USA positions towards some rulers and administrations.

On Korea, there is also the painful experience of the killing, by American forces, of huge numbers of people during the Korea war of the early 1950s.

No Super Power

Now, the United Nations Organisation and international community, pledged to settling conflict, building peace, and avoiding war, have promoted dialogue based on respect and Goodwill towards fellow human beings, even when in conflict with them. It is inappropriate to treat some as lesser than others. Due to the nature of  life, there can not exist an eternal super-power in the world.

Perhaps Trump feels uneasy when things are about to harmonise, so he gets some compulsion to say or do something to disturb the emerging potential peace. Perhaps the Trump spirit finds mission in rough speak that disturbs the path towards settlement and peace. The spirit of Trump Speak can be threat to settling Korea.

It seems some habit of Donald Trump, and sometimes some members of his team,  to openly disrespect some persons.  Trump Speak often vexes other. His words can be demeaning and insulting to other persons and groups. Some people feel Trump is trampling on them.

With some local storms coming at him from many fronts and shaking his presidency, Donald Trump may turn and divert the attention towards external events like Korea.


There are cultural issues to be learnt. There are issues of the culture of negotiation itself. And the cultural backgrounds of parties involved may affect their attitudes and practices during negotiation and discussion. In some cultures, the one who shows tolerance, patience, and maturity comes out a respected person.

Like violence and force beget violence, threat begets tough responses. People respond well to those who respect them. In some cultures, many persons will do good business with those who show respect and politeness.

In some cultures, the one who threatens others gets declined credibility. One who appears not to be in control of them self is considered not well prepared. One who keeps cool is considered in control, respectable, and admirable.  You are respected for being very humane, not being bully.

In some cultures, threatening other parties is considered disrespectful. For good outcomes, there is need to understand the cultures of other parties and be very sensitive to them. There is need to understand the basic humanness that seeks, across all cultures, respect and dignity.

Fire and Fury disturb

Interstate relations should be influenced by what is fair and truth for all, not how big the weapon one has acquired and trailed on others.  Boasting about how big and destructive your weapon is is not honour. In some cultures and situations, fire and fury disturb dialogue. Fire and fury can burn many.

Some talk and actions may lead to instability that negatively affects all of us, members of the human family and the earth, all over the world, including the United States.

Although we belong to various states and jurisdictions, the essential fact that is paramount is that we are human beings belonging to a common life whose cooperation is beyond human-made borders. Trump is a member of the world and is not the judge and executioner of the world.

In talks, threat, toughness, and roughness may have reversed effect and disturb possible success. For progress, one must show respect to others before talks, during the talks, and after talks. It is possible for Trump and team to train themselves not to threaten others through the Trump kind of talk or tweet.

So, yes Folks, there are threats, there are potential dangers Folks, in the Trump spirit’s words and tweets.  Yes, Folks, Donald Trump’s talk can disturb the reaching of settlements and peace in conflicts like that in Korea.

*                    *                        *

The Author has been on the MA Peace Studies programme, University of Bradford.

  • GCB,  April/May 2018, LUSAKA.


**This piece was a general concern done many days before North Korea’s officials cancelled a planned session with the South Korea administration and before threats by US officials about a Libya Model.













Gabriel Banda Peace Notes, 11: Syria, Why Involve Assad

Why Involve Assad

(or “Why Assad Must Be Involved”)


Gabriel C Banda

WHETHER one likes him or not, the roles, with actions and reactions, of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad have great effect on present and future situations of Syria, the Middle East region, and the whole world.

I believe that the Syria war is such that neither the Assad administration nor the rebels, in their various formations, should expect to have a military victory and rule stably over the whole society. Defeat of other forces will not lead to acceptance of the conqueror as ruler.

Not all conquest is victory. Those opposed to the victor will not necessarily accept the rule of that victor. For no military victory can ensure acceptance and long support for the rule of the victor. No conqueror can rule for long without consent of others.

While key issues are unsettled, situations of parties may change and armed conflict may again rise, even in another generation.

The Assad and rebel forces both have significant local and external influence and support. The conflict is more than just about Bashar al-Assad and rebel commanders, but includes the various entities supporting the various parties to the conflict. Some influential supporters are offshore.

Whether they like each other or not, for long term stable agreement, the Geneva talks for Syria’s peace require the active involvement or presence of all key local and external parties in the conflict.

Key issue has been what role President Assad should play in a future Syria. Rebels and backers like governments of USA, Britain, and France have insisted that Bashar al-Assad should not be part of the next governance. The insistence of non-involvement of Assad creates seeds of later difficulties in concluding the talks and can complicate actual post- agreement governance and stability.

Assad’s current presidential term is scheduled to expire in 2014. I believe there are many reasons why Assad and his team should be allowed, if they wish, to participate in governance systems, processes, and practices that may come out of Geneva agreements. The population must be allowed to choose who they want to represent them.

A governance system must involve all members and representatives of a society. It must be inclusive and should not exclude and relegate to the margins some members of society.

Worldwide, issues like colour, religion and sect, language, ethnicity and cultures, location, origin, being male or female, health and disease, living with disability, and other factors are used to exclude or include some. But the excluded eventually want to assert their universal right to life and participation.

The talks on Syria’s future must not be about defeat and surrender but the building of paths and walks to peace. The great Truth and Reconciliation process of South Africa still allowed some who had been associated with the apartheid regime free to stand for elections.

Worldwide, members of societies must freely choose representatives. The constitution, governance systems, processes, and practices must be designed to lead to good and fair governance. Rulers must be committed and accountable to a just society that respects the humanity of all individuals arising from various backgrounds.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and even Egypt provide us with active examples of the effects of political exclusion of those coming from groups considered subdued by force.

A constant mistake in these conflict theatres was the exclusion of rulers and leaders who had significant support, local and external. This placed heavy weaknesses and gaps in transitions.

Vanquished or killed, there were no rulers and representatives available to negotiate agreement and future constitutions, systems, processes, and practices. A key weaknesses has been the belief and practice of hitting the shepherd and hoping the sheep will scatter.

Actually, killing rulers and symbols of groups has worsened situations. Supporters may be more resolved to fight when the leader they respect is humiliated or killed. Killing or excluding leaders also creates deep gaps.

In Iraq and Libya, the killing of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi in armed regime changes meant there was no ruler or leader available to negotiate with opponents and urge their own supporters to lay down weapons.

After Iraq’s regime change by invasion and occupation, the organised exclusion of Baath Party members from involvement in politics and governance contributed to the violence and war that continues over ten years after Saddam Hussein’s rule.

In Egypt, Mubarak had offered not to participate in elections scheduled September 2011 but be involved in transition processes. But the regime changers insisted on pushing him aside and on his non-involvement in the transition process. There had been a window of a few months, as time was approaching for Mubarak’s term to end, to have had government and opposition work out governance issues.

Egypt’s result was that although Mubarak was removed, there was no smooth transition. The Constitution, systems, processes, and governance practices were not agreed upon as Mubarak was pushed aside. Some results of Egypt’s poor transition are the current political difficulties in Egypt.

In Syria, even if it means offering to talk to very tough militants, including members of the determined al-Nusra group feared by some, parties involved in conflict must still offer discussion. The Syria government and rebels should not make conditions that exclude significant opponents they do not like.

All in Syria’s conflict, from President Assad to the rebels in various formations, must be involved in designing the way ahead.

The United Nations can rise above the tensions of the local and external warriors and help the parties to design some stable path towards ceasefire and peace. To work, Syria’s new governance must be actively inclusive of all members of society.

Without practices of deep prejudice, hatred, and exclusion, it is possible to talk and make advances benefitting all.

Geneva can be great opportunity. The United Nations and others supporting Good Will and Peace can help Syria’s government and opposition to put into place a governance system that enables inclusion, participation, and enjoyment of rights of all sections of the society.

                      –                       ginfinite@yahoo.com


                                   Based in Lusaka, Zambia, the author is involved in writing and the arts, social development, and peace issues. He holds an MA in Peace Studies, University of Bradford.


Gabriel Banda Peace Notes, 10: Syria and Peace Talks Issues

Syria and Peace Talks Dynamics


Gabriel C Banda

SYRIA provides great lessons about issues affecting armed conflict and its resolution. After slowdown by conditionalities and problems from various involved parties, the January 2014 Geneva II talks are finally here. That it could have been possible to hold the talks earlier and avoid deaths and hardship is saddening.

Still, in Geneva II there is some window to prevent further suffering that can deeply affect generations in Syria, neighbours, and the whole world.

As many of us believed quite early and warned, neither the Bashar al-Assad government nor the rebel forces could through military victory expect to rule for long. Military conquest could only be temporary as significant sections of Syria’s society will not expect and accept to be ruled for long by those they strongly oppose.

The forces for both Assad and the rebels, both groups backed by internal and external support, are so significant that no side can by military conquest hope to rule Syria. As in other places, there can be no military conquest that will hold over Syria. Clearly, eventually, there could only be political settlement.

Sadly, the delay to talks dragged on because fighting parties and backers seem to believe that military gains will provide them strength to have their way in talks. Some rebels said they would only go to talks if they have more weapons to tilt military balance in their favour.

In many conflicts in the world, some only come to talks when they have been put under pressure by opponents.  They go to talks because of a military stalemate. Sometimes persons may not want talks to succeed.

Sadly, this is based on the military strength and prowess of the victor and not on what is the best way to settle a conflict.

Yet conflict resolution and agreement should not depend on military victory and the weakening of an opponent. Agreement arrived at through the military strength or weakness of some parties will not last long. Even if it takes generations, military balances of opponents may change and fighting will resume. Violence begets violence

It is important to face the issues in a conflict. As Nelson Mandela’s South Africa showed the world, it is important to have healing, reconciliation, and fairness for all if a society has to work and strengthen towards harmony.

Some delays to Geneva II arose from deciding who comes to the talks. This question affected both government and rebels. The rebels had differences amongst themselves. Some did not want the talks as those rebels’ aim is to remove the Assad administration or take over office to become the rulers. Some do not recognise Assad’s administration as government.

Then there was the problem of which rebels could claim to be representatives of the rebellion. The rebels were many fighting groups that did not necessarily have similar background, vision, and views. There has been much rebel on rebel violence.

And some rebels did not want President Assad to be involved in the talks. Many rebels wanted Geneva to be a surrender meeting for Assad and colleagues. Some rebels did not recognise Assad as ruler. This attitude contributed to prolonged fighting and suffering.

Assad, expected to be under great military pressure, was expected to yield, leave office, and go into the uncertainty that has characterised rulers who have been deposed by armed rebellions that later dominate rule. But, learning from examples of Iraq, Libya, and even Egypt, Assad was more prepared for survival.

On the part of the Assad administration, it did not want to deal with some of the rebels. This was, I believe, an error as agreement should be made by reaching out to all fighting parties and their forces. Thus both the Assad government and rebels prolonged the armed conflict by insisting on who should attend or insisting on working only with those they got on well with.

But reaching agreement to solve a conflict requires that you even deal with those you do not like. What is important is to reach agreement that is fair for the rights and safety of all in a society.

Another problem was which external forces should be involved. Because of their own relationship issues generally unrelated to the internal Syria conflict, the United States and others were opposed to Syria neighbour Iran being involved in the talks. The US has been at Cold War with Iran.

Yet, for conflict to be settled, involved internal and external forces must be engaged. If we seek long term conflict resolution, there is no logical reason why Iran’s government should not be at Geneva II.

Iran, whose situation is more than just about being backers of Syria but also has to consider its own existence if Shiite linked regimes fall in the region, is important for settling Syria’s conflict. So too are Iraq. And others like Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, and all neighbours.

Besides Turkey, rebel backers like Saudi Arabia and Qatar are important part of the Syria quiz and its solution. So too are rebel backers like United States, Britain, France, and other offshore rebel supporters. These must be involved, in various roles and ways, in settlement issues at Geneva II.

Other important forces are Russia and China’s governments, who although may, like the western governments, have interests in the region, are also concerned about the spread of religious based armed rebellions to their own countries.

Deciding to include or exclude some internal and external parties has contributed to continuation of the Syria war. Violence begets violence.

We should open up and accept that other persons who may vary from us are also truly citizens and members of society and are entitled to actively participate. Opening up our minds, we should learn to let go of our own narrow, inflexible, and limited inflexible stances and consider the health of all.

From the poor and avoidable examples of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Egypt it is important that rulers of conflict countries be involved in designing transitions to provide environments of fair and good governance. When current rulers and opponents are involved, their local and external supporters will be more supportive of agreements made and systems designed.

It is important for all parties in a conflict to work together in designing and finding the constitutional, systems, structures, processes, elections, and governance practices that the renewal should have. Syria needs agreement as they go towards Assad’s presidential term end, scheduled to be in 2014.

Egypt’s poor management of the transition from Mubarak contributed to current problems and tension there.  A dispute is more likely to be solved if it involves all parties in a dispute. A conflict stands better chance of long term resolution if it covers persons in various situations, such as colour, ethnic link, language, culture, religious and spiritual path, geographical location, origin, political stance, and material and financial status.

The discussion must deal with the situations and interests of these persons and aim at fairly covering them. Talks and mediation must involve inside and outside forces closely related to a conflict.

The results of recent conflict places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Egypt show that exclusion of some members of society has led to building of conflict, some of it armed, and disharmony that is affecting stability of societies. Syria cannot succeed without involvement of key internal and external players involved in the conflict.

Yes, there is significant support for both Bashir al-Assad’s government and rebellion forces. Assad represents much more than himself. This is a conflict which neither the government nor the rebels, with its various formations, can win on the military field and hope to rule over others.

We can only hope fighting parties do not use Geneva II as a window to pause, reorganise, and rearm for further armed action.

Both internal and external forces have contributed to deep problems for Syria. Even when a ceasefire decision arises from Geneva II, there are other rebellion forces, some not even present in Geneva, that will not accept ceasefire but are determined only in military conquest.

Those who are participants or backers should not vet who comes for peace talks. For Syria and Geneva II, the United Nations should be more active and in the forefront. Talks are better facilitated by the United Nations organisation, in league with other organisations, and not controlled by those who have taken sides and are belligerents.

A primary purpose of the United Nations is not only to stop war but to put an end to war. That is, put an end to the practice of war.

Parties to a fight do not have to reach huge arms arsenals in order to be involved in negotiation. Even without weapons, committed persons and parties can reach agreement.

                                                                                           *          GCB, Lusaka, January 2014.



Based in Lusaka, Zambia, the author is involved in writing, social development, and peace issues.