Expected Council Action
While there are no formal requirements for meetings on Sudan in May, the Council is visiting Africa, which includes meetings with the AU in Addis Ababa in May. Sudan seems certain to be discussed along with the humanitarian situation. A briefing to the Council is possible following an expected visit to the country in May by John Holmes, the Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Discussion on Sudan’s revocation of licences of 16 humanitarian and human rights NGOs in the Three Protocol Areas in the north-south border zone is also possible at this time.
It is unclear whether the midterm briefing by the Sudan sanctions Panel of Experts, initially expected in March, will be provided in May. Restrictions imposed by the UN/AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) due to security concerns have prevented their entry into Darfur. UNAMID lifted these restrictions in April, and the experts are hoping to travel to Darfur in May. But it is unclear whether visas will be granted for all the experts.
Key Recent Developments
Unless new measures are introduced, it seems likely the humanitarian situation in Darfur will deteriorate over the coming months as a result of the expulsion and revocation of licences of 16 humanitarian and human rights NGOs on 4 March. The joint assessment conducted by the UN and the Sudanese government in Darfur determined the World Food Programme required experienced partners by May in order to sustain food distribution to more than one million people. Major water shortages could develop if fuel, financial support for technicians and spare parts are not continuously provided. By mid-April, only 30 percent of the 650,000 people without healthcare since 4 March had received some form of assistance. The risk to public health is high ahead of the rainy season. A sustainable solution is also needed to distribute shelter materials beforehand.
The overall security situation in Darfur remains of concern with continuing threats of armed clashes between the government and rebel movements, tribal fighting and tension along the Chad-Sudan border. Chadian armed opposition groups continue to consolidate in western Darfur and joint convoys of the Sudanese government forces and Chadian armed groups are reportedly patrolling the border. Chadian government forces have strengthened positions in eastern Chad in anticipation of a rebel offensive.
Banditry continues to pose the greatest threat to the UN and UN associated personnel. In a worrying recent development, two international aid workers from Aide Médicale International were kidnapped in south Darfur on 4 April. An earlier kidnapping of five staff members of Médicins Sans Frontiéres-Belgium on 11 March was the first known incident of its kind in Darfur.
During his statement to the Council in closed consultations on 26 March, AU-UN Joint Chief Mediator Djibril Bassolé said mediation in Darfur was complicated by three factors: the deterioration of Chad-Sudan relations, the splintering of Darfurian armed movements and the indictment of President Omar Al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC). He said the mediation process was currently blocked by the intransigent positions of the warring parties following the ICC decision and a political solution to the crisis was slowed and even compromised.
During his statement to the Council on 27 April, Joint AU-UN Special Representative for Darfur, Rodolphe Adada said the political process in Darfur was frozen, in particular following the decision of the ICC. He said the ICC decision had “weakened the position of those in the Sudan who have been working for compromise and consensus and has encouraged militant sentiment on both sides”.
After withdrawing from peace talks on 20 March, the Darfurian rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) continues to refuse participation until the government implements provisions of the confidence-building agreement signed on 17 February. JEM considers the expulsion of humanitarian organisations as a direct breach of the agreement. In early April several Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) factions announced their merger with JEM. Key SLM Commander Abdul Wahid Al-Nur continues to refuse to participate in peace talks.
On 26 March, Under Secretary-General Holmes briefed the Council in closed consultations on the joint Sudanese government-UN assessment mission to Darfur. While the Sudanese government committed to fill the gaps in humanitarian assistance, Holmes expressed concern at the sustainability of such assistance and the availability of the necessary expertise. The UN continues to pursue a three-track approach following the expulsion of humanitarian organisations: persuading the government to reverse its decision, mitigating immediate risks that could create a crisis and redesigning the aid architecture in northern Sudan to ensure long-term continuity of services.
The final communiqué of the Arab League Summit held on 30 March called on the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC to annul its decision to issue an arrest warrant against Al-Bashir.The communiqué was notably stronger than that of the AU Peace and Security Council, which on 5 March appealed to the Security Council to defer ICC proceedings. On 27 March the Organisation of the Islamic Conference Executive Committee met in New York and also called on the Security Council to suspend ICC proceedings. A meeting of the thirty African countries party to the Rome Statute is scheduled in June to discuss the work of the ICC in Africa in light of the indictment of Al-Bashir.
An AU high-level panel on Darfur led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki concluded its first visit to Sudan on 5 April. It is expected to also visit Chad, Libya, Eritrea, Egypt and Saudi Arabia and to submit recommendations on peace, reconciliation and justice in Darfur at the AU Summit in July.
Meanwhile in southern Sudan, up to 300 were feared killed in a major intertribal clash in Jonglei State in mid April. Heavy intertribal fighting there in early March resulted in the deaths of more than 450 civilians and the displacement of more than 5,000. Since December, activities by northern Ugandan rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have displaced around 37,000 people in southern Sudan. Moreover, 17,695 Congolese have fled to southern Sudan.
A joint assessment of the humanitarian impact of the expulsion and revocation of licences of 16 NGOs (including five of the largest international aid agencies) in the Three Protocol Areas was conducted by the UN, the Sudanese Humanitarian Aid Commission and the Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission in mid-April. (The three areas in the north-south border zone comprise of Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.) The report is expected in late April.
On 2 April the National Elections Commission announced elections (for presidency and parliament, south Sudanese presidency, state governors, southern parliament and state assemblies) would be postponed until February 2010. Under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), elections were to be held no later than 9 July 2009. The final report on border demarcation, due last November, and the results of the April 2008 census remain outstanding as the parties continue negotiations.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague commenced oral hearings on the disputed boundaries of Abyei on 18 April. A final decision is expected in July. Abyei’s administrative budget continues to be withheld by Khartoum in contravention of the Abyei Roadmap Agreement. The National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) agreed in June that the presidency would financially support the Abyei Area Administration.
On 10 February the Sudan Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme was launched in Blue Nile state. As of 31 March, 1,592 troops had been demobilised.
Following his visit to Sudan in mid-April, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry announced leaders from the NCP and the SPLM had committed to enter into tripartite talks with President Obama’s Special Envoy to Sudan, General Scott Gration, to reengage in talks on implementing the CPA.
Little progress has been made in implementing the March 2008 Dakar Agreement on measures to normalise relations between Chad and Sudan. The Dakar Contact Group last met in N’Djamena on 15 November 2008. Sudan and Chad continue to accuse each other of supporting armed opposition groups within their territories.
A central issue is the need for a ceasefire between the warring parties in Darfur and a political solution to the conflict. Lack of rebel group participation and compromise by the Khartoum government are key problems.
An immediate issue is the humanitarian situation in Darfur and the Three Protocol Areas (Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile). There are concerns that the region as a whole may further destabilise if the humanitarian situation worsens. Related issues in Darfur are bureaucratic obstacles to humanitarian access, inconsistencies between state and federal systems, the government’s negative media messaging and the security situation. A major concern is whether the erosion of humanitarian principles in Sudan will encourage other countries to take similar action against NGOs.
Disrupted humanitarian assistance may also increase tension among internally displaced persons (IDP) and lead to violence in the IDP camps and their environs, thereby placing additional pressure on the under-resourced UNAMID to perform its protection mandate. Significant population movements within Darfur or into Chad would further challenge UNAMID and humanitarian relief.
An enduring issue is the full deployment and operational impact of UNAMID which is still short of key assets. According to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UNAMID will not meet its deployment targets unless troop and police contributors, with the support of donor countries, accelerate preparations and readiness to deploy.
The security of UN and humanitarian personnel in Darfur has become a critical issue. The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan, Ameerah Haq, has warned that unless conditions improve, remaining international NGO staff may be forced to leave or reduce programming.
The ICC arrest warrant against Al-Bashir remains an issue. A related question is whether Khartoum is prepared to make changes in its approach to Darfur that several Council members have been demanding.
The regional context remains a major dimension of the problem. The continued deterioration in relations between Chad and Sudan and the rising tensions on their border are not being addressed in any effective manner.
Finally, ensuring progress on the implementation of the CPA and maintaining the ceasefire between north and south Sudan remain key concerns. There is a potential for increased tension and violence given the still pending release of the April 2008 census results, the physical demarcation of the north-south border and electoral constituency boundaries—and the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on Abyei’s boundaries.
Council members seem likely to be focussed on Darfur during the visit to Addis Ababa in May, but action seems unlikely given their divisions and the bleak prospects that any of the protagonists will be amenable to compromise.
But the Council could:
hold an Arria-style meeting in an effort to introduce new energy and momentum and invite key regional stakeholders, and those hosting figures key to the peace process;
support the AU’s condemnation of gross human rights violations in Darfur and its call for the Sudanese government to take immediate and concrete steps to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice;
discuss the ICC warrant and perhaps signal a willingness to consider a suspension provided that benchmarks determined by the Council are met;
consider a serious package of targeted sanctions against peace spoilers, violators of international humanitarian law and those arming Chadian rebels in Darfur; and
appoint a panel of experts to expose the sources of materials and financial support for the LRA.
There is broad support for the peace process but some anxiety about Bassolé’s performance to date. Members agree that rebel groups should not be using the ICC decision as an excuse not to participate in peace talks. There seems to be little expectation on the work of the Mbeki-led panel.
Following the briefings by the Secretariat on the outcomes of the joint assessment mission to Darfur, the Council seemed more united in its concern about the humanitarian situation. This was evidenced by the remarks made to the press on 26 March by Libya, which held the presidency, calling for the Sudanese government to reconsider its decision to suspend the activities of some NGOs. The Council remains seized of the matter, however, while a major humanitarian crisis following the expulsions is still feared, most members seem to be bereft of new ideas.
At press time, negotiations on the text of a resolution renewing the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) mandate were continuing. As was the case during negotiations to renew UNAMID, the major sticking point is making reference to the AU position on the ICC issue. It seems that proposed language on the negative impact of the expulsion of humanitarian NGOs may be altered in order to reach a compromise.
It seems some positions within the Council on deferral of ICC action have become more entrenched since the expulsion of humanitarian NGOs. Some members are hoping agreement on a set of concessions will be made between Khartoum and the US, the UK and France. Others question whether the Sudanese government would agree to or implement any concessions.
Selected Security Council Resolutions
Selected Council Meeting Records
UNAMID: Joint AU-UN Special Representative for Darfur
Rodolphe Adada (Republic of the Congo)
Joint AU-UN Chief Mediator
Djibril 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