Expected Council Action
In October, the Council will receive a briefing, followed by consultations, on the Secretary-General’s quarterly report on the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet is expected to brief. At press time, no outcome was anticipated.
The mandate of UNAMID expires on 30 June 2016.
Key Recent Developments
Darfur remains mired in a security, humanitarian and political crisis, with ongoing inter-communal violence and widespread impunity and displacement. There are currently 2.6 million displaced people in the region, including 104,000 who have been displaced so far in 2015. While inter-communal violence this year has claimed several hundred lives and fighting has continued between government and rebel forces, progress on the political front remains elusive.
On 9 September, Human Rights Watch released a report titled “Men With No Mercy” on the activities of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a government militia formed in 2013 that has conducted brutal counter-insurgency operations in Darfur. Using research undertaken from May 2014 to July 2015, the report found that the RSF had committed “egregious abuses against civilians…[including]…torture, extrajudicial killings and mass rapes” in the region.
On 27 September, unidentified assailants killed one UNAMID peacekeeper and wounded four others in an attack near Mellit, North Darfur. Later that day, Council members condemned the attack in a press statement.
The content and direction of Sudan’s “national dialogue process”—announced in early April 2014 to “stop war and bring peace, free political society, fight against poverty and revitalise national identity” in the words of President Omar al-Bashir—continues to be contested by the government and the opposition. The government has maintained its commitment to the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) as the primary path toward peace in Darfur, but the rebel movements that have not signed the DDPD reject this approach, preferring that the peace process be pursued through a holistic, national process leading to Sudan’s democratic transformation.
On 14 September, the Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel alliance released its “road map on the way forward”, in which it called for “an inclusive National Constitutional Dialogue process” to be initiated with the holding of a pre-dialogue meeting in Addis Ababa. The meeting would discuss procedural elements of the dialogue involving its timeframe, participants, facilitators, observers and other issues. This position is in keeping with the AU Peace and Security Council (AU PSC) 25 August communiqué, which reiterated a call for “an urgent pre-National Dialogue meeting of all relevant parties, at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa”. However, the government has rejected the convening of such a meeting outside Sudan, apparently because of concerns about external interference in the process.
On 29 June, the Council adopted resolution 2228 renewing UNAMID for an additional year with the same force structure and the same core mandate, focusing in particular on protection of civilians, humanitarian access and support for the political process. The resolution stresses that any refinement of UNAMID should be based on “progress against…[its]…benchmarks and the conditions on the ground,” while being implemented in a “gradual, phased, flexible and reversible manner”.
On 26 August, Ambassador Rafael Ramírez (Venezuela), the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, provided the quarterly briefing to Council members on the Committee’s work. Ramírez summarised the midterm update of the Panel of Experts. He noted that the Panel had identified violations of the arms embargo, including the presence in Darfur of ammunition produced post-2005, the year the embargo was expanded to include all parties to the conflict. Ramírez recounted the Panel’s finding that two training bases had been spotted in South Sudan that belong to the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a Darfuri rebel group. He relayed the Panel’s concern that former Janjaweed commander Musa Hilal, who is subject to a travel ban, visited Egypt in July.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released on 21 August a report on impunity and accountability in Darfur. The report covers human rights violations and abuses documented by UNAMID in 2014 and highlights sources of widespread impunity. In 2014, UNAMID documented 411 cases of violations and abuses of the right to physical integrity affecting 980 individuals, committed by all parties to the conflict, of which very few were investigated or resulted in arrest. These included abductions, physical assaults and armed attacks against civilians, particularly internally displaced persons, causing injury or death. Of these, 127 involved the use of sexual violence. These 411 cases are illustrative of a much broader pattern of violence and impunity, the report states.
The Human Rights Council considered the report of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, during its 30th session (A/HRC/30/60).
The underlying issue for the Council is the continuing instability of the security and humanitarian environment in Darfur, with no progress on the political front. The evidence of JEM rebels operating out of South Sudan contributes to insecurity in the region, and exacerbates relations between Sudan and South Sudan.
Also a key issue is the future of UNAMID. According to resolution 2228, the Secretary-General is expected to provide recommendations on the exit strategy to the Council, which it will consider “in due course.” However, a complicating factor appears to be the differences of perspective between the UN and the AU, on the one hand, and the government of Sudan on the other hand, on the exit strategy. The government has tended to emphasise the need for a timely completion of the exit strategy, while the AU Chairperson and the UN Secretary-General have espoused a more cautious approach. In a 16 August press release, AU Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma stated that the “strategy should be conceived and implemented in a manner that does not jeopardize the gains made since the deployment” of UNAMID. In his 26 May report, UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon stated that the exit strategy would “require satisfactory security, humanitarian and early recovery arrangements for the protection of civilians,” as well as the need to “address intercommunal conflict.”
An additional important matter is the restrictions imposed on UNAMID’s access and movement, as well as delays and refusals in issuing visas to mission personnel.
Another key issue is the apparent ineffectiveness of the sanctions regime, reflected in ongoing violations of the arms embargo and the travel ban against designated individuals.
Options for the Council include:
- extending the arms embargo to all of Sudan, as arms and related materiel, appear to be entering the region from other parts of Sudan;
- demanding that the government of Sudan issue visas in a timely fashion and that all parties to the conflict end restrictions on humanitarian access; and
- requesting briefings from the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs on the human rights and humanitarian challenges in Darfur.
Given the poor performance of the 1591 sanctions regime, the chair of the Committee might consider undertaking a visiting mission to the region and reporting back to the Committee with recommendations for strengthening the regime.
The Council might also consider holding an informal interactive dialogue with the AU PSC to learn about its 19-23 August visiting mission to Khartoum and Darfur.
Darfur remains a divisive issue in the Council. Several members express concern at the humanitarian and security crisis, the attacks on civilians and the violations of the arms embargo. Among these members, the P3 and others are critical of Sudan for human rights abuses, lack of compliance with the arms embargo and aerial bombardments. China and Russia, on the other hand, tend to have a more sympathetic view of Sudan. They believe that international actors should forgive Sudan’s external debt so that it can more effectively address under-development in Darfur, which they argue is exacerbating the conflict.
Divisions likewise exist with regard to the exit strategy for UNAMID. When the Council negotiated the renewal of the mission’s mandate in June, the P3 wanted to note that the exit strategy is tied to the mission’s benchmarks, which focus on issues such as the protection of civilians, humanitarian access and the prevention and mitigation of communal conflict. However, Russia, supported by the African members of the Council, preferred not to emphasise the conditionality of the exit strategy, while also wanting to highlight the role of the tripartite Working Group on the exit strategy—consisting of the AU, the UN and the government of Sudan—in providing suggestions to inform the Secretary-General’s recommendations to the Council. As a compromise, resolution 2228 “looks forward to the Secretary-General’s recommendations, including by building on any agreed recommendations of the Joint Working Group”. In this way, the resolution emphasised the Secretary-General’s authority to provide recommendations on the exit strategy, while also noting that the Working Group has an important role to play in feeding into those recommendations.
The UK is the penholder on Darfur.
UN Documents on Darfur
|Security Council Resolution|
|29 June 2015 S/RES/2228||This was a resolution renewing the mandate of UNAMID for an additional year.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|27 September 2015 SC/12058||This press statement condemned an attack against a UNAMID convoy that resulted in the death of one peacekeeper.|
|25 September 2015 S/2015/729||This was a Secretary-General’s report on UNAMID.|