Expected Council Action
The Council will continue to focus on the planned transition from the AU Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) in Darfur to the UN. The Council is also likely to be paying close attention to the beginning of the implementation of the UN package of assistance to AMIS, which resolution 1706 sets as the start of a phased transition. A report or a briefing on the implementation of the assistance package seems likely.
Members will also need to renew the mandate of the UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), which expires on 8 October.
The Council is also likely to continue to explore both diplomatic talks and public pressure, but there is an increasing sense that the Council needs to develop an alternative plan. Some members have been frustrated with Sudan’s opposition to UN deployment and will possibly start serious thinking on ways to step up pressure on Sudan and key regional players, perhaps along with a package of incentives for Khartoum. But others seem to be increasingly comfortable with accepting UN assistance to AMIS as the sole possible option.
The regional dimension is also expected to surface. A Secretariat briefing on Chad in early October and perhaps a report by the end of the month seem likely.
Members will be paying attention to the deployment of an assessment mission in Chad and possibly in the Central African Republic perhaps in October.
Key Recent Developments
The Council on 31 August created a mandate for an approximately 23,000-strong UNMIS operation in Darfur, “inviting” Sudan’s consent. Resolution 1706 also envisaged the transition as a gradual process beginning with UN assistance to AMIS from 1 October. China, Russia and Qatar abstained from the vote.
The resolution also mandated UNMIS to monitor cross-border rebel activity and to establish a multidimensional presence in key locations in Chad and, if possible, in the Central African Republic, and to contribute to the implementation of the Tripoli Peace Agreement that Sudan and Chad signed in February. It further requested a Secretary-General’s report on civilian protection in Chad and improving security on the Chadian side of the border.
The flurry of diplomatic and civil society activity to secure Sudan’s consent continued in September, in particular during the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement and the General Assembly. At the General Assembly, US President George W. Bush stated that “if the Sudanese government does not approve this peacekeeping force quickly, the United Nations must act”. And, at the time of writing, US congressmen seemed to be considering legislation barring companies with businesses in Sudan from US government contracts.
Also at the General Assembly, Khartoum seems to have indicated an opening to an incentives package by underlining the need for debt relief and the lifting of economic measures against Sudan. While rejecting the transition, it also expressed support for UN assistance to AMIS.
Bilateral contacts with Khartoum and public pressure were accompanied by a Council debate on Sudan, an Arria formula meeting with celebrity speakers, a briefing from Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, and a ministerial meeting sponsored by the US and Denmark with the AU, the UN, Council members and regional players (ministers are expected to meet again in October to take stock of the efforts made on consent).
The Secretary-General continued to emphasise the need for consent, but also stressed that the government could be held individually and collectively responsible for the consequences of its current attitude.
Considerable nervousness surrounded the renewal of AMIS’ mandate on 20 September, as Sudan continued to reject the transition. An AMIS withdrawal was seen as the worst possible outcome. After intense consultations with the Sudanese government, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) eventually renewed the AMIS mandate until 31 December with UN assistance, reiterated its intention to impose targeted measures, acquiesced to Arab League funding and indicated the need for detailed consultations involving Sudan, the UN and the AU on the transition. The PSC is expected to reconvene at the level of heads of state and government in November.
The PSC also approved a new concept of operations for AMIS, increasing the troop ceiling to 11,000. Additional troops are expected to come from current contributors.
The Council adopted a two-week rollover of UNMIS to take stock of the current diplomatic initiatives and to study the PSC decision.
Meanwhile, Khartoum has started a major military offensive in Darfur, with reports of ongoing air strikes and an impending humanitarian catastrophe. Khartoum has portrayed its action as part of its plan to stabilise Darfur and implement the peace agreement, but some observers argue that the accord has become a cover for the elimination of rebel groups and attacks against civilians.
In late August, the Secretariat sent a letter to the Sudanese government with a preliminary analysis of the government’s plan. The plan envisages the deployment of about 26,500 Sudanese troops and does not mention the transition. The assessment, inter alia, notes concern that the deployments are a violation of the peace agreement and of the arms embargo, and that the UN cannot provide support for elements of the plan that are belligerent or inconsistent with international norms. The Council was not able to reach consensus on a presidential statement in mid-September that denounced the plan and supported the PSC’s decision in advance.
Another major military offensive began in Chad, with the government targeting key rebel positions in the east.
The first one is to step up pressure on Khartoum. This could include economic and targeted sanctions as well as a no-fly zone under resolution 1591. Those actions could also be taken by member states unilaterally. Measures could also include stepping up the activities of the International Criminal Court.
But it is unclear whether the importance Khartoum attaches to Darfur would lead it to harden its position, rather than give consent. It is also unclear whether Chad, or any of Sudan’s neighbouring countries, would allow the use of its territory.
Difficulties may also arise from the possibility that, even with pressured (and probably hesitant) consent, Khartoum could create practical, debilitating limitations to UNMIS’ ability to discharge its mandate.
An emerging option is to agree on a package of incentives for consent to be combined with a set of sticks.
Some observers have argued that the Council should focus instead on bolstering AMIS with UN assets as an alternative to the transition, perhaps under UN-assessed contributions. This combination would be unprecedented, and its implications in terms of command and control, management and budget are large and unclear.
A likely additional option in the immediate future is to concentrate efforts on guaranteeing that the full package of UN assistance to AMIS recommended by the Secretary-General is quickly implemented.
A further option would be to focus on achieving a truce in Darfur and on revamping negotiations with the non-signatories to the peace agreement, with a view to ceasing the hostilities and creating conditions for the implementation of an eventual agreement as AMIS is boosted with UN assets. This option carries the difficulty of selecting an effective mediator, the likely option being the AU.
How best to obtain Sudan’s consent continues to be the central question on Darfur. So far, the approach has been to engage the government and has involved a spectrum of positions ranging from overt pressure to quiet diplomacy. However, there has been an incompatibility between pressuring Khartoum on the one hand, and conceding on the other that transition will not take place without consent.
As to what strategy Council members will adopt, two opposite conclusions have emerged:
for some Council members, the issue is how best to step up pressure on Khartoum, perhaps with a carrot-and-stick approach; and
for others, the issue is exploring an alternative to consent and transition, perhaps through the provision of increased UN assistance to AMIS.
However, there is awareness that the situation on the ground is now much closer to open conflict. This raises huge questions as to the risks involved in deploying a peacekeeping operation to implement a peace agreement that is consistently violated. And this is complicated by the possibility that any consent may be hesitant and half-hearted.
Another issue is the implementation of other key provisions of resolution 1706, such as the assistance package for AMIS.
On the regional dimension, members are aware that the establishment of a UN presence in Chad-which N’Djamena seems to support-would likely create uneasiness in Khartoum.
For some, the real issue is then how to achieve progress on the political track, which seems to have been abandoned since May. This poses difficult questions as to who could mediate a second peace agreement, given the difficulties with progress in the Abuja peace talks.
Time itself is an issue. For practical reasons, the Secretariat is already working with the scenario that transition would only take place in the first quarter of 2007. Given the current Sudanese military offensive, even with UN assistance, the position of AMIS may become untenable.
But some members have displayed increasing frustration and impatience with Khartoum’s opposition, in particular at Sudan’s posture vis-à-vis the renewal of AMIS. Frustration has also increased with the lack of consensus to adopt a statement denouncing the government’s plan. Members such as China do not seem to have been comfortable with the language proposed.
Western members have also faced increasing domestic pressure to avert a catastrophe in Darfur. Among these members, there is great interest in continuing to pressure states with closer ties to Khartoum, such as China and Arab states.
There is an interest in the use of carrots and sticks, such as the forthcoming package of proposals that British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced in mid-September along with the plan for a summit on Darfur.
Some members-the US in particular-insist on the transition and have been uncomfortable with any alternative plans, especially with the prospect of increasing UN assistance to AMIS in lieu of a transition which China, Russia and Qatar seem to support.
Among African members of the Council, and within the AU PSC, there is a high degree of frustration with Khartoum’s tough position but also with a perceived lack of consultations with the AU prior to the adoption of resolution 1706, particularly on management of the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation. There is also concern with the maintenance of an African character in eventual UNMIS contingents in Darfur.
The next steps will include the implementation of the UN assistance package for AMIS. It will consist of about 45 civilian staff, 105 military staff officers and 23 police advisors, plus assets such as global positioning system devices and possibly armoured personal carriers. The aim is to assist with command and control, mobility, communications and air control, inter alia. Arrangements are also expected to be made with UNMIS troop contributors from non-Western countries to transfer personnel under the package. But the second, more resource-intensive package would be contingent on consent to the transition and could thus face the government’s opposition.
|Selected Security Council Resolutions|
|Selected Meeting Records|
|Selected Secretary-General’s Reports|
|Latest Panel of Experts’ Report|
|20 September 2006||
The AU extended AMIS until 31 December.
|31 August 2006||The Council adopted resolution 1706.|
|29 August 2006||The new government offensive in Darfur began.|
|UNMIS: Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission|
|Jan Pronk (Netherlands)|
|UNMIS: Size, Composition and Cost of Mission|
|24 March 2005 to present, mandate expires 8 October 2006|
|Head of AMIS|
|Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe (Nigeria)|
|AMIS: Size and Composition of Mission|
25 May 2004 to present, mandate expires 31 December 2006