The mandate for the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) expires on 30 April. The Council is expected to renew the mandate.
A briefing and consultations are also expected in April on the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). Further discussions on the growing humanitarian crisis are likely. However, it is unclear to what extent these may be complicated as a result of the indictment of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
A briefing by the Sudan sanctions Panel of Experts, initially expected in March, may be further postponed given the Panel’s current difficulties entering Sudan.
An AU and Arab League delegation may visit New York to lobby for deferral of the ICC proceedings.
Key Recent Developments
In south Sudan, at least 57 people (including 26 civilians) were killed in late February during clashes between the northern Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Malakal. In early March around 400 were killed in heavy tribal clashes in Jonglei State.
Members of the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continue to attack villages in southern Sudan (and the Democratic Republic of the Congo). More than 36,000 southern Sudanese have been displaced and 16,000 Congolese have fled to southern Sudan. On 13 March, 13 southern Sudanese were killed in an attack by the LRA.
In Darfur, approximately 34,000 people have fled to Zam Zam camp, outside El Fasher (north Darfur), from Muhajeriya (south Darfur) following fighting in January and February between the rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the SAF.
In west Darfur, incidents of violence against UNAMID and banditry in 2009 have already exceeded numbers for all of 2008. In late February up to 5,000 Chadian rebels were reportedly massing inside Sudan’s border, possibly in preparation for an attack on N’Djamena. On 9 March four UNAMID peacekeepers were injured when attacked near El Geneina, west Darfur.
Attacks on aid workers and UNAMID staff, carjacking and other banditry continued to increase across Darfur. On 17 March a UNAMID peacekeeper was killed near Nyala, south Darfur. Five aid workers from Médecins Sans Frontières were kidnapped in north Darfur on 12 March. On 25 March a group of armed men, two in uniform, set fire to a makeshift displaced persons camp near El Geneina in west Darfur, killing two people and destroying hundreds of shelters, according to UNAMID.
On 4 March the pretrial chamber of the ICC issued an arrest warrant against President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Crimes of genocide were not included due to insufficient evidence. The Court said that his status neither excludes his criminal responsibility nor grants him immunity against prosecution before the ICC. Execution of the warrant requires cooperation from governments capable of arresting him. Security Council resolution 1593 which referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC, urges all states and regional organisations to cooperate with the ICC.
On 4 March the Council of the League of Arab States expressed regret the Council had not deferred ICC proceedings. On 6 March the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) issued a communiqué appealing to the Security Council to defer ICC proceedings.
The Sudanese government expelled 13 international NGOs, alleging they cooperated with the ICC. These organisations collectively handled 60 percent of humanitarian assistance in Darfur. Assets were confiscated and some aid workers reportedly harassed. UN agencies said it was not possible, in any reasonable timeframe, to replace the capacity and expertise of the expelled NGOs. Aid agencies in eastern Chad were reportedly planning for a potential influx of refugees from Darfur.
On 6 March the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) briefed the Council stressing that the NGO expulsions limit the provision of food, health care and safe drinking water to more than one million people in Darfur. OCHA warned this could lead to unrest in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and that rebel movements may take military action on behalf of the IDPs. Humanitarian operations in Abyei, Blue Nile State, southern Kordofan and eastern Sudan would also be affected. OCHA noted the action of the government contradicted previous undertakings to facilitate humanitarian assistance. On 20 and 26 March the Council received further briefings from OCHA.
On 24 March OCHA presented the results from a week-long UN and Sudanese joint technical assessment mission in Darfur to gauge the humanitarian impact of the expulsion of NGOs and assess the remaining capacity to meet emergency needs for food, health, water and emergency shelter. The report stressed that some 4.7 million people depended on humanitarian aid for survival and concluded that while some immediate gaps caused by the expulsion of the 13 humanitarian organisations have been plugged by the remaining groups, long term solutions were urgently needed.
The Secretary-General has repeatedly called on Sudan to reverse its decision to expel the humanitarian organisations. He said contact between senior UN officials and ICC indictees would be limited to what was necessary to facilitate UN activities in Sudan.
While several members expressed their alarm over the humanitarian situation, the Council could not reach a consensus on a presidential statement. But in a statement to the press on 26 March Council members took note of the joint report and appealed to the government to reconsider its decision regarding the humanitarian organisations.
On 26 March, the Council received its first briefing from Djibril Bassolé, the Joint AU-UN Chief Mediator for Darfur who took up the post in August. In a statement to the press the Council expressed its support for the mediator and the efforts of Qatar and encouraged the good offices of Libya and other states in the region.
On 15 March five Darfur rebel groups agreed to participate in the Qatar-sponsored Darfur peace talks in Doha as a united delegation with a common position. Abdul Wahid al-Nur (a key rebel leader given his popularity among IDPs) continues to oppose peace talks from his base in France. On 17 February the government and JEM signed the Agreement of Goodwill and Confidence-Building for the Settlement of the Problem in Darfur. The parties agreed to work towards an early framework agreement to lead to a cessation of hostilities and an end to the conflict within three months. Days after the signing, however, the two signatories clashed in northern Darfur, which resulted in deaths on both sides.
In early March the SPLM and the National Congress Party (NCP) submitted final arguments to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague regarding the boundaries of Abyei, a disputed area between the north and south. A final decision is expected late July. On 12 March the remaining SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) and government armed forces withdrew from the Abyei roadmap area eight months after the deadline. Abyei’s administrative budget continues to be withheld by Khartoum.
Both the SPLM and the NCP seem to remain willing to hold elections in July despite numerous outstanding problems. These include agreeing on census results, demarcating the north-south border, drawing boundaries for voter constituencies, nominating candidates, registering voters, voter education and implementing legal and institutional reforms. The National Elections Commission has approached the UN for electoral assistance.
On 10 February the Comprehensive Peace Agreement’s (CPA) disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme of former combatants commenced in Blue Nile State. One hundred and eighty thousand fighters in the north and south are expected to participate.
A key issue for the Council will continue to be the humanitarian situation in Sudan. There are also concerns that the region as a whole may further destabilise if the humanitarian situation worsens.
The ICC arrest warrant is another issue. A related question is whether Khartoum is prepared to make changes on Darfur that several members of the Council have been demanding.
A further issue is the continued deterioration in relations between Chad and Sudan and the rising tensions on their border.
Another issue is the limited operational impact of UNAMID due in part to the continued absence of key military assets, shortfalls in logistical equipment and the lack of preparedness and equipment of troop contributing countries.
On north-south issues, a key question is whether peace can be sustained under the CPA. There are continued tensions and a potential for violence exists, especially related to the expected announcement of the April 2008 census results, the physical demarcation of the border, the demarcation of electoral constituency boundaries and the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on Abyei’s boundaries.
Another issue is the relevance of the sanctions regime given the difficulties faced by the Panel of Experts in executing their mandate.
The most likely option is an extension of the mandate of UNMIS for a further 12 months.
Other options related to north-south issues include:
encouraging troop contributors to provide the additional 600 troops recommended in October following review of UNMIS military capabilities;
requesting more regular briefings by the Secretariat on CPA implementation given the number of outstanding CPA related tasks in 2009; and
reemphasising the Council’s request in resolution 1812 of 2008 for the Secretary-General to provide an assessment and recommendations on measures UNMIS might take to further support elections and to advance the peace process.
On Darfur, options include:
adopting a formal decision about the humanitarian situation;
holding an Arria-style meeting where key regional stakeholders, and those hosting figures key to the peace process, can brief the Council on their efforts to support inclusive peace talks;
adopting a decision on the ICC warrant, perhaps signalling a willingness to consider a suspension provided that benchmarks determined by the Council are met;
setting a timeframe for the investigation on the 8 July attacks against UNAMID (about which the Council said it was determined to take action);
considering a package of targeted sanctions against peace spoilers, violators of international humanitarian law, and those arming Chadian rebels in Darfur;
requiring that Sudan cooperate with the Sanction Committee’s Panel of Experts; and
encouraging the AU to share its recommendations following its visit to the region in October and November 2008 on the root causes of tension between Sudan and Chad.
There seems to be broad willingness for the UNMIS mandate to be renewed. However, there are concerns that negotiations on the resolution could be protracted due to Council divisions over the ICC arrest warrant against al-Bashir.
The Council has been divided on Darfur and has been unable to speak forcefully on several issues including the military action in February in Muhajeriya between the government and JEM and the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation following the expulsion of humanitarian groups.
It seems since the ICC indictment of al-Bashir, positions within the Council on the deferral of ICC action have become more entrenched.
Selected Security Council Resolutions
Selected Council Meeting Records
UNAMID: Joint AU-UN Special Representative for Darfur
Rodolphe Adada (Republic of Congo)
Joint AU-UN Chief Mediator
Djibrill Yipènè Bassolé (Burkina Faso)
UNAMID: Size, Composition and Cost
31 July 2007 to present; mandate expires 31 July 2009
UNMIS: Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission
Ashraf Qazi (Pakistan)
UNMIS: Size, Composition and Cost
24 March 2005 to present; mandate expires 30 April 2009