February 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 January 2015
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Sudan (Darfur)

Expected Council Action

In February, the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Rafael Ramírez of Venezuela, is expected to provide the quarterly briefing on the Committee’s work to Council members in consultations. It is also expected that the Council will renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts, which expires on 13 March, during February.

A report on the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) is expected to be released in late February and include “recommendations for the future mandate, composition, configuration and exit strategy of UNAMID” as per resolution 2173 of 27 August 2014. However, this report is not likely to be considered by the Council until March.

The mandate of UNAMID expires on 30 June.    

Key Recent Developments

There has been no improvement in the dire security, humanitarian and political situation in Darfur in recent months. Heavy fighting was reported in January in North and Central Darfur between the government forces and rebel groups. On 4-5 January, clashes occurred in Tawila locality in North Darfur. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) referred to local reports indicating that 15 villages had been razed and an additional thirty abandoned in the midst of this fighting, with community leaders estimating that as many as 37,000 people were displaced. In Central Darfur, fighting also erupted in northern Jebel Marra in early January, with community leaders estimating 50,000 were displaced as a consequence of the violence. OCHA estimates that there are currently 2.4 million internally displaced persons in Darfur. 

On 21 January, Farhan Haq, associate spokesman for the Secretary-General, referred to OCHA reports that 2,200 displaced civilians were seeking refuge from violence near a UN base in Um Baru, North Darfur, and that additional civilians were making their way toward the base. 

Negotiations between Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi, two Darfur rebel groups, were convened in Addis Ababa on 24 November 2014, with mediation from AU High-level Implementation Panel Chair Thabo Mbeki. However, Mbeki temporarily postponed the talks on 4 December 2014, as the two sides could not agree on the negotiating agenda. The Sudanese government insisted that the talks focus on ceasefire and security measures, but the rebels wanted to broaden the agenda to include political and economic issues. At press time, the parties had not reconvened for further negotiations. 

In late December and January, a rift developed within the leadership of the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), the former rebel movement that has signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD). Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, the Secretary-General of the LJM, alleged that LJM Chairman Tijani el-Sissi had failed to make adequate progress in the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process of former LJM combatants, thus hindering the LJM’s ability to register as a political party in the lead-up to Sudan’s national elections in April. Supporters of Abu Garda also accused el-Sissi of mismanaging the Darfur Regional Authority, which is responsible for administering the provisions of the DDPD. On 18 January, media reports indicated that the rift had caused the LJM to splinter into two separate groups, one led by Abu Garda and the other by el-Sissi. 

The Council was last briefed on the work of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee on 24 November 2014 in an open session, followed by consultations. Ambassador María Cristina Perceval (Argentina), the Committee chair at the time, said that she was briefing in an open session to promote the transparency of the Committee’s work. She gave an overview of the 13 November Committee meeting, which was attended by Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Libya, Sudan and South Sudan, in addition to Council members. Perceval noted that the representative of Sudan referred to the establishment of border-monitoring mechanisms with Chad and Libya to stem the flow of illicit weapons into Darfur. However, she added that one Council member affirmed that the real issue is that there are weapons flowing between the other parts of Sudan and Darfur. (The 2013 final Panel of Experts report, released in February 2014, found that Sudan was responsible for violations of the arms embargo.)

The 2014 final Panel of Experts report was distributed to Council members on 16 December 2014 and made public in mid-January 2015. The report found that Sudan continues to violate the arms embargo imposed on it by the Council.   

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed the Council on 4 December 2014 on the quarterly UNAMID report and the situation in Darfur. Ladsous stated that Sudan has publicly called for the departure of the UNAMID, although he indicated that Sudan “has clearly established that this is not about leaving tomorrow” and that an exit strategy needs to be developed. Ladsous noted that the government had also submitted a note verbale to the Secretariat “directing us not to deal further with any Sudanese body without first turning to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”. Also on 4 December, Philip Cooper, who headed the review team that investigated allegations that UNAMID’s reporting had been manipulated to conceal evidence of crimes against civilians and peacekeepers, reported to Council members on the findings of the review under “any other business.”      

On 12 December 2014, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda provided the semi-annual briefing to the Council on the Court’s work in Sudan. “In the almost 10 years that my Office has been reporting to the Council, no strategic recommendation has ever been provided to my Office, and neither have there been any discussions resulting in concrete solutions to the problems we face in the Darfur situation,” she said. Consequently, she declared, the ICC was suspending its investigations in Darfur and would apply its limited resources elsewhere.  

Sudan announced its decision to expel UNDP Country Director Yvonne Helle (Netherlands) and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Ali al-Zaatari (Jordan) on 24 and 25 December 2014, respectively. In announcing Helle’s expulsion, Sudan claimed that she was “arrogant” and had not properly consulted with the government prior to halting “financial and technical support to a number of programs and strategic projects with developmental, political and economic yield to Sudan”. With regard to al-Zaatari, the government alleged that he had insulted President Omar al-Bashir and the Sudanese people in an interview in early December with a Norwegian newspaper, Bistandsaktuelt. He was quoted as saying that the country relied on humanitarian assistance and making comments on Bashir’s authoritarian leadership style. Al-Zaatari denied making these statements in the interview, alleging that his remarks were distorted. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement on 25 December calling on Sudan to reverse immediately its decision to expel both officials, but Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti said that the decision would stand. 

On 30 December 2014, at the request of the UK, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson briefed Council members in consultations on the expulsions. Eliasson extolled the competence of Helle and Zaatari and noted that this was a difficult period for relations between the UN and Sudan. 

Human Rights-Related Developments

From 11 to 13 January, the Human Rights Section of UNAMID, in collaboration with the National Commission for Human Rights and UNDP, organised a workshop in Khartoum, in preparation for the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review on Sudan, scheduled for April. Various human rights bodies, human rights activists, members of civil society and government representatives attended. The objective was to discuss and assess the country’s existing mechanisms as well as those being developed to protect and promote human rights. Recommendations from Sudan’s first review in 2011, calling for enhancement and active implementation of human rights for women, children and the disabled were discussed by the participants.

Key Issues

The underlying issue is the on-going security and humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur, which is marked by widespread violence, impunity and displacement and shows no signs of improving, despite the fact that UNAMID has been deployed for more than seven years.

Given the political, logistical and financial challenges of the hybrid peacekeeping model in Darfur, a related issue is whether and how this model can be improved. 

Another key issue is what approach the Council should take regarding the strained relations between UNAMID (as well as the UN system more broadly) and the government of Sudan, evidenced by the government’s recent expulsion of key UN officials and its request that the mission develop an exit strategy.

Also a key (and on-going) issue is what can be done by the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee to curtail violations of the arms embargo.


Renewing the mandate of the Panel of Experts for an additional year is the most basic option for the Council. In adopting the resolution, the Council could also consider:

  • imposing targeted sanctions (i.e. travel ban and assets freeze) against additional individuals who commit atrocities or hinder the peace process;
  • expanding the arms embargo to all of Sudan; and
  • condemning human rights violations committed by parties to the conflict.
Council Dynamics

Strong divisions remain on the Council regarding the appropriate approach to Darfur.  Some members view the recent expulsions of high-level UN officials as part of a consistent pattern of antagonistic behaviour on the part of Sudan toward the UN presence in the country. These members also tend to be highly critical of Sudan for the plight of civilians in Darfur, while being concerned about Sudan’s calls for the mission to make preparations to depart the country, given current conditions on the ground. Other members tend to be more sympathetic to Sudan’s sovereign prerogative to call for the mission to develop an exit strategy, especially in light of resolution 2173, which calls for the Secretary-General to recommend such a strategy as part of his analysis of the implementation of the mission’s strategic review. Moreover, while finding Sudan’s declaration of UN officials as personae non gratae regrettable, these members argued at the 30 December 2014 consultations that the expulsion of UN staff is not a matter of international peace and security and therefore should not have been the focus of a Council meeting. 

The UK is the penholder on Darfur, while Venezuela is the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.  

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UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions
27 August 2014 S/RES/2173 This was a resolution renewing the mandate of UNAMID for 10 months.
13 February 2014 S/RES/2138 This resolution renewed the mandate of the Panel of Experts for 13 months.
Security Council Meeting Records
12 December 2014 S/PV.7337 This was a semi-annual briefing by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on the Court’s work in Darfur.
4 December 2014 S/PV.7326 This was a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous presenting the quarterly UNAMID report and that Sudan had publicly called for UNAMID’s departure.
Secretary-General’s Report
26 November 2014 S/2014/852 This was the Secretary-General’s quarterly UNAMID report
Sanctions Committee Document
19 January 2015 S/2015/31 This was the final report of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts.

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