May 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 April 2008
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Expected Council Action
A strong Council focus on Darfur is expected in May, in particular in the lead up to the scheduled Council visit to the region at the end of the month.

Discussions in the Council are expected to continue on proposed action to apply pressure to the parties to make progress with reaching a ceasefire, resuming the political process, and cooperating with the deployment of the UN-AU Mission (UNAMID) and perhaps the International Criminal Court (ICC).

At press time elements of a draft presidential statement, which would set out Council expectations and provide a framework for assessing progress, were expected to emerge. In May, members will also work on the terms of reference for the Council visit to the region, which could potentially include this new framework if and when agreement is reached.

The midterm briefing of the Panel of Experts to the Sudan sanctions committee is expected in May, delayed from March.

(On the north-south issue, at press time members were also poised to renew the mandate of the UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) by 29 April.)

Key Recent Developments
In April the conflict in Darfur reached its fifth anniversary amidst unrelenting violence, banditry and worsening humanitarian conditions. Clashes between rebels and government forces persist, particularly in West Darfur. Humanitarian access has also been constrained by the presence of Chadian rebels. In a Council briefing on 22 April, Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes estimated that among Darfur’s six million people, 4.27 million have now been seriously affected by the conflict; 2.45 million are internally displaced, while 260,000 fled to neighbouring countries.

Attacks against aid workers and associated personnel are rising. Since January, 106 vehicles have been attacked. The World Food Programme (WFP) announced in April that deliveries had been severely affected and food rations would be halved. About 2.1 million civilians are currently assisted by WFP.

The situation between north and south Sudan also seems to have reached a key stage. After considerable delays and disagreement, the national census started on 22 April. (This is of critical importance for the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA—which provides a national political and economic framework for the entire Sudan—and, in particular, for the national elections set for 2009.) At press time, the south remained concerned and suspicious of the accuracy of forthcoming results.

There were reports that leading Darfur rebel commanders and some in displaced communities oppose the census. The argument seems to be that continuing insecurity prevented its meaningful completion, especially as some communities would be inaccessible, and refugees in Chad would not be included. (The current insecurity also poses significant challenges to the 2009 elections.)

The UN-AU mediation team held talks with rebel groups and government officials in April. This latest round was aimed at gauging prospects for negotiations on security arrangements, including a ceasefire or a cessation of hostilities. The team seems intent on continuing an all-inclusive approach with the main rebel groups, apparently bearing in mind the lessons from shortcomings faced by the former Abuja process regarding the risks of not having all main groups on board.

The parties reportedly agreed in principle to discussions on security arrangements, but suspicion, rebel fragmentation and fundamental issues of substance remain unresolved.

The team has reiterated that a meaningful solution to the conflict in Darfur would require parallel progress with normalising Chad-Sudan relations. However, progress on this front remained elusive as Khartoum and N’Djamena continued to trade accusations—including letters to the Council—of violations of the Dakar Agreement signed in March.

The Dakar Agreement Contact Group (comprising the Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Gabon, Libya and Senegal) met in Libreville in mid-April to discuss the Agreement’s implementation. Members agreed to reconvene in late April to negotiate the size and modalities for a Chad-Sudan border monitoring contingent.

In April the UK unveiled a proposal for peace talks in London between Khartoum and Darfur rebel groups. This seems to underline a broader high-level UK interest in progress in the political and peacekeeping tracks. Prospects for such talks remain unclear. At press time, it appeared that a government delegation was expected to go to London to discuss further details in late April.

US envoy Richard Williamson met rebel groups and government officials to discuss a future ceasefire and UNAMID’s deployment. Williamson also reportedly sent a letter to the Secretary-General in late March outlining US concerns with UNAMID’s progress, and urging the Secretariat to consider more flexible standards in order to accelerate the deployment of 3,600 peacekeepers by 1 June. (Some are concerned about the risks associated with any relaxing of operational standards.)

The 14 April report of the Secretary-General on UNAMID underscored the continuing challenges surrounding the mission’s deployment. The Secretary-General reiterated that it was imperative that contingents arrive in Darfur “adequately trained and fully self-sustaining in order to add value without overtaxing the mission’s capabilities.”

The report also noted that the mission lacked three medium utility helicopter units, four light tactical helicopters, one aerial reconnaissance unit, one medium transport unit, one heavy transport unit and one multi-role logistics unit. These contributions were deemed essential for protection, deterrence, surveillance, logistics and force sustainability.

On 22 April the Joint Special Representative and head of UNAMID, Rodolphe Adada, briefed the Council alongside Under Secretary-General Holmes. Adada said that the mission’s deployment had not increased substantially since taking over from the AU mission (AMIS) on 1 January. He noted that, in light of existing logistical challenges, the mission would need to re-evaluate deployment goals and work on a list of vital measures to implementation.

Units from Egypt, Bangladesh and Nigeria contributed as part of the earlier heavy support package for AMIS were expected in April and May, as well as two Ethiopian and Egyptian battalions as main UNAMID contingents. Units from Thailand and Nepal are expected to follow. Support from the “Friends of UNAMID” has continued, particularly with equipment, training and technical assistance to help troop contributors meet peacekeeping standards.

Options for the Council in May include:

  • increasing pressure on the parties by adopting a statement setting out Council expectations and establishing a framework for assessing progress with a ceasefire, peace talks and UNAMID’s deployment. (Some members prefer firm benchmarks and deadlines, others are looking at less prescriptive terminology);
  • adopting a statement with clear expectations but more flexible timelines for UNAMID’s deployment and progress in the political track, which could be revised in consultation with the Secretariat and the mediation team if and when the need arises;
  • adopting more specific language than in the past about possible measures if the parties do not cooperate;
  • including in the text a reminder to the parties of their obligations towards the ICC under resolution 1593, or, alternatively, including such obligations in the benchmarks above; and
  • using the framework as the basis for the terms of reference of the Council’s upcoming visiting mission to the region.

Other options include:

  • adopting a broader regional approach by including demands that Chad and Sudan implement the Dakar Agreement, and inviting the Contact Group and the AU for an exchange of views;
  • seeking regular exchanges with the mediation team, perhaps in an informal setting of meetings of experts; and
  • adopting a more proactive approach regarding UNAMID’s shortage of troop and asset contributions by mandating Council experts to meet regularly to discuss the issues with the Secretariat and potential contributors.

Another option, particularly if agreement is not found on setting benchmarks and deadlines, is continuing with the current wait-and-see approach leaving deployment issues to the Secretariat and the Friends of UNAMID.

Key Issues
Since the November 2006 agreement marking Khartoum’s acceptance of the hybrid operation, the key issue for the Council has been its implementation and how to promote progress with political reconciliation. Several interconnected factors have meant that progress has been painfully elusive:

  • Khartoum’s continued ambiguity towards UNAMID;
  • the parties’ apparent preference for military solutions, and the resulting escalation of fighting;
  • deteriorating Chad-Sudan relations;
  • rebel fragmentation and opposition to starting peace talks; and
  • the mission’s troop and asset shortages.

Improving security has emerged as the single most important aspect for enabling some progress with political reconciliation at this stage and, hopefully, a longer-term solution for the conflict. The consequential issues are:

  • securing UNAMID’s full deployment;
  • reaching a ceasefire; and
  • a sustainable Chad-Sudan Dakar Agreement.

The Council is preparing to enhance its involvement in these three aspects which will focus around an extended visit to Sudan at the end of May. In the lead up, an important issue is whether the Council will be able to find unity around a new strategy which sets out its expectations and establishes a framework for assessing progress in the security and political tracks.

Specifically, one issue is whether the Council will be able to find compromise around a balanced strategy that:

  • ensures that UNAMID is deployed orderly, as well as well-resourced and in accordance with peacekeeping standards;
  • leaves sufficient room for the work of the mediation team; and
  • is broad enough to recognise and meaningfully address the regionalisation of the Darfur problem.

An important underlying issue is whether and how the Council will address the potential for defiance from the parties.

Finally, the issue of justice and accountability remains alive. However, the issue is rarely discussed in the Council, even in the light of Sudan’s non-compliance with resolution 1593 and its lack of cooperation with the ICC.

Council and Wider Dynamics
US/UK activism on Darfur has resumed, driven by concern about the uncertain prospects for improvement in the political and security tracks.

In April the UK began consulting about a draft presidential statement to press the parties on their obligations on the political, security and justice and accountability tracks. It seems that there was interest even in annexing a chart detailing a timeline and benchmarks for the parties on the political process, UNAMID’s deployment and improving security, and justice and accountability. At press time, nothing formal had been circulated.

Some members are concerned about the term “benchmarks” and are uncomfortable with strict deadlines or numerically quantifying the exact number of UNAMID peacekeepers. This includes a concern about the need for quality and fear that being too prescriptive may not be feasible, given existing difficulties with logistics, as well as generation of troops and assets. There is also concern that benchmarks for the political process may not leave sufficient room for adaptation and compromise for the mediation team.

Russia and China, in particular, appear concerned that the term “benchmarks” may be a precursor to automatic sanctions, which they apparently believe would be unhelpful.

The US and Sudan appear to have started talks to normalise bilateral relations. However, prospects remain unclear. The move seems to have attracted some domestic criticism within the US and calls for more pressure over China.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

Latest Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2008/267 (22 April 2008) was the latest UNMIS report.
  • S/2008/249 (14 April 2008) was the latest UNAMID report.


  • S/PV.5872 (22 April 2008) was the most recent Secretariat briefing on UNAMID and the humanitarian situation in Darfur.
  • S/2008/255 (14 April 2008), 222 (1 April 2008), 217 (28 March 2008), 216 (31 March 2008), 212 and Corr. 1 (28 March 2008), 207 (28 March 2008), and 193 (24 March 2008) were letters from Sudan and Chad with mutual complaints of violations of the Dakar Agreement.
  • A/HRC/7/22 (3 March 2008) was the recent Sudan human rights report to the HRC.
  • S/2007/584 (2 October 2007) was the latest Panel of Experts’ report.

Other Relevant Facts

UNAMID: Joint AU-UN Special Representative for Darfur

Rodolphe Adada (Republic of Congo)

UN and AU Special Envoys

UN: Jan Eliasson (Sweden)
AU: Salim A. Salim (Tanzania)

UNAMID: Size, Composition and Cost

  • Maximum authorised strength: up to 19,555 military, 3,772 police and 19 formed police units
  • Strength as of 31 March 2008: 7,372 troops, 137 observers, 1,704 police, and one formed police unit
  • Main troop contributors: Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Senegal
  • Cost: 1 July 2007 – 30 June 2008: $1.28 billion

UNAMID: Duration

31 July 2007 to present; mandate expires 31 July 2008

UNMIS: Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Ashraf Qazi (Pakistan)

UNMIS: Size, Composition and Cost

  • Maximum authorised strength: up to 10,000 military and 715 police personnel
  • Strength as of 31 March 2008: 8,714 troops, 574 military observers, and 664 police
  • Main troop contributors: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh
  • Cost: 1 July 2007 – 30 June 2008: $887.33 million

UNMIS: Duration

24 March 2005 to present; mandate expires 30 April 2008

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