Expected Council Action
In November, Ambassador Rafael Ramírez (Venezuela), the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, is expected to provide the quarterly briefing to Council members on the Committee’s work. No outcome was anticipated at press time.
Key Recent Developments
Darfur remains mired in a security and humanitarian crisis, with ongoing inter-communal violence and widespread impunity and displacement. There are currently 2.6 million displaced people in the region. This includes 104,000 people who have been newly displaced this year, with “unconfirmed reports that an additional 69,000 persons have been displaced, most of whom are in inaccessible areas in and around the Jebel Marra,” according to the Secretary-General’s 25 September report.
On 27 September, unidentified assailants killed one AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (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.
Both the government of Sudan and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), an umbrella group of Sudanese rebel movements from the Darfur region and from South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, have recently indicated a willingness to cease hostilities. During a conference on Sudan’s “national dialogue”, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said on 10 October that his government would consider expanding a cessation of hostilities that he announced in September into a comprehensive ceasefire if the rebel groups “choose peace over war and…join the dialogue”. On 18 October, the SRF announced a unilateral cessation of hostilities for six months, beginning on 19 October. Despite their pronouncements, the level of commitment of both sides to stop hostilities remained unclear at press time.
High-level meetings on the exit strategy for UNAMID were recently held in New York. On 29 September, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, Deputy Chair of the AU Erastus Mwencha and Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour convened to discuss the exit strategy on the margins of the opening session of the General Assembly. On 2 October, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also met with Ghandour in New York. According to a UNAMID press release, Ban “looked forward to further discussions on the exit strategy…, under the guidance of the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council.”
It is unclear how much progress the recent discussions made, but there have been different perspectives regarding the exit strategy. On one hand, the government of Sudan has urged the development of a timetable for the mission’s withdrawal. On the other hand, the Secretary-General said in his May report 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”. Furthermore, in a 16 August press release, AU Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said that the “strategy should be conceived and implemented in a manner that does not jeopardize the gains made since the deployment” of UNAMID.
Talks between UN, AU and Sudanese government officials on the exit strategy are expected to continue in early November, according to Ali al-Sadiq, a spokesman for Sudan’s foreign ministry.
On 14 October, Council members received a briefing under “any other business” from Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, at the request of the UK, regarding obstacles imposed on UNAMID by the government of Sudan. Ladsous told members that Sudan continued to block the transport of 190 cargo containers of food and other supplies intended for UNAMID in Port Sudan, some for as long as 84 days. He further stated that because of Sudan’s delays in issuing visas there were high vacancy rates in certain sections of the mission, including those related to human rights (50 percent), protection of civilians (40 percent) and security posts (30 percent). He noted as well that the mission’s access to certain areas continued to be restricted.
Council members decided at the meeting that Ambassador Román Oyarzun of Spain, in his capacity as president of the Security Council, should meet with Sudan permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Omer Dahab Fadl Mohamed, and request that the containers be transported to Darfur. If the shipments were not commenced within three days, members determined that they should consider issuing a press statement, although some were less supportive of pursuing a statement than others.
Later that day, Oyarzun met with Mohamed and expressed the Council’s concerns. In a letter to the Council on 15 October, Mohamed said that “the competent Sudanese authorities [had] granted customs clearance for the UNAMID containers”. He reiterated the claim from his meeting with Oyarzun, namely that the “delay was caused by the failure of UNAMID to fulfil customs clearance requirements, including the prior submission of detailed lists of items…to be imported”.
On 28 October, the Council held a briefing, followed by consultations, on UNAMID. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet told the Council that the security situation in Darfur remained “precarious and unpredictable.” He said that a meeting between the government and the rebel groups on the cessation of hostilities is currently planned for 18-19 November in Addis Ababa under the auspices of the AUHIP.
The appointment of Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi (Nigeria) as Joint Special Representative for Darfur and head of UNAMID was announced on 27 October by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
On 26 August, Ramírez provided the most recent quarterly briefing to Council members on the Sudan Sanctions Committee’s work. He summarised the midterm update of the Panel of Experts. He noted that the Panel of Experts 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 identified 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
On 2 October, the Human Rights Council adopted without a vote a resolution on technical assistance and capacity-building to improve human rights in Sudan (A/HRC/RES/30/22). The resolution expresses serious concern at the excessive use of force, including the lethal shooting of demonstrators in September 2013 and March 2014, and calls on the government to institute an independent public inquiry and ensure accountability. Among other things, it also expresses concern at reports of the closure of some non-governmental organisations and restrictions on the media; condemns violations or abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law reported in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, including sexual and gender-based violence, the indiscriminate bombing of humanitarian facilities, and the killing of civilians and humanitarian aid workers; urges the government to investigate allegations of human rights violations in the camps for internally displaced persons; and renews the mandate of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan for one year.
One key issue for the Council is how to enhance the effectiveness of the Sudan sanctions regime, which is plagued by ongoing violations of the arms embargo and of the travel ban against designated individuals.
In terms of the Council’s working methods, another issue is how holding the briefings of the Sudan Sanctions Committee in a closed session (i.e., consultations) creates a lack of transparency in the Council’s work, inhibiting ideas from the wider membership and civil society for improving the effectiveness of the sanctions regime.
An important ongoing matter is the government-imposed restrictions on UNAMID’s access and movement, as well as delays and refusals in issuing visas to mission personnel.
A crucial issue is the future of UNAMID, given the different views about the mission’s exit strategy and timing.
Options for the Council with regard to the 1591 Sanctions Committee 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; and
- requesting the chair of the Sanctions Committee to undertake a visiting mission to the region and report back to the Committee with recommendations for strengthening the regime.
The chair of the Committee might also consider holding the briefing in an open session, rather than in closed consultations, to enhance the transparency of the Committee’s work. When Argentina chaired the Sudan Sanctions Committee in 2013-2014, it held its final quarterly briefing on the Committee’s work in a public meeting on 24 November 2014, before Council members discussed the issue in closed consultations. However, Venezuela, as committee chair, has reverted to having the quarterly briefings in a closed session.
Options for the Council on Darfur more generally include:
- demanding that the government of Sudan issue visas in a timely fashion to UNAMID staff 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.
During the 14 October meeting, there was widespread concern and disapproval within the Council regarding the government of Sudan’s delay in permitting food to be delivered to Darfur for UNAMID. However, some members were more critical of the Sudanese government than others. With regard to the delays in the delivery of food, the P3 argued that this represented a clear violation of the mission’s Status of Forces Agreement and that the Council should issue a press statement to send a clear message to Sudan, in addition to the meeting of the Sudanese ambassador with the Council president. However, Chad and Russia believed that issuing such a press statement would only worsen the situation. Russia also argued that the Council has not paid appropriate respect to the position of the government of Sudan with regard to UNAMID’s exit strategy.
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.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|28 October 2015 S/PV.7545||This was a briefing on Darfur.|
|Security Council Letter|
|16 October 2015 S/2015/796||This was a letter from the Permanent Representative of Sudan to the Council President regarding customs clearance for UNAMID containers.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|19 January 2015 S/2015/31||This was the final report of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts.|
|Human Rights Council Document|
|2 October 2015 A/HRC/RES/30/22||This was on the human rights situation in Sudan.|