Expected Council Action
In January, the Council will receive a briefing, followed by consultations, on the Secretary-General’s quarterly report on the AU/UN Hybrid Operation for Darfur (UNAMID), which was expected to be released by 28 December.
The mandate of UNAMID expires on 30 June 2016.
Key Recent Developments
The security and humanitarian situations in Darfur continued to be dire in 2015, marked by fighting between government and rebel groups, intercommunal violence and widespread displacement. Government forces made significant advances against rebel movements during its “Decisive Summer” military campaign from December 2014 to June 2015. Fighting between the government and rebel groups has subsided since then, but there have been reports of clashes in recent months in east Jebel Marra between government forces and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW) rebel group. From September to November 2015, intercommunal conflict continued between nomadic and pastoral groups over access to land, cattle and water. The UN has confirmed that approximately 100,000 people were displaced during the year; reports that an additional 66,000 were displaced have not been confirmed. Overall, there are some 2.5 million internally displaced persons in Darfur.
From 19 to 23 November 2015, the AU High-Level Implementation Panel mediated peace talks in Addis Ababa between the government of Sudan and two Darfur rebel groups, the SLA-Minni Minnawi (SLA-MM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The talks ended unsuccessfully, as the government reiterated its position that the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) should be the basis for the negotiations while the SLA-MM and the JEM rejected this approach. As members of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a broad coalition of rebel groups in Sudan, the SLA-MM and the JEM have instead advocated an inclusive national dialogue process leading to meaningful democratic reform. Parallel talks between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), a rebel group based in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, also ended without success.
While addressing parliament on 24 November 2015, Sudanese Minister of Defence Awad Ibn Ouf said the military’s intention was to root out the remaining rebel resistance in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur. The speech focused as well on plans to defeat rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
On 28 October 2015, the Council received a briefing, followed by consultations, on UNAMID. Then Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet told the Council that the security situation in Darfur remained “precarious and unpredictable”. He emphasised the problem of ongoing access restrictions placed on UNAMID and humanitarian actors by the Sudanese government.
On 15 December 2015, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda gave her semi-annual briefing to the Council on the court’s work with regard to Darfur. She reiterated her frustration with the ongoing impunity in Darfur, noting that the Council’s resolutions on the issue over the past decade have amounted to an “empty promise” to the victims of crimes in the region.
Human Rights-Related Developments
Idriss Jazairy, the special rapporteur of the Human Rights Council (HRC) on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures (UCMs) on the enjoyment of human rights, visited the country from 23 to 30 November at the invitation of Sudan. In a 30 November press statement, Jazairy called for the limitation in scope and time of UCMs imposed against Sudan and for them to be linked to achieving specific purposes. He added that their comprehensive nature does not correspond to the Security Council’s practice of imposing targeted sanctions. He welcomed the exemptions introduced for vital supplies, but indicated that lifting constraints on financial transfers was needed to make the exemptions effective. He also suggested broadening the exemptions that preserve the enjoyment of fundamental human rights, including access to health, education and other basic services. The special rapporteur will present a report to the HRC in September.
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.
An additional important matter is the difficult relationship of host country Sudan with UNAMID. Ongoing challenges include restrictions imposed on the access and movement of UNAMID and its humanitarian partners and delays in issuing visas to mission personnel.
Another key issue is the apparent ineffectiveness of the sanctions regime, reflected in violations of the arms embargo and the travel ban.
One option would be to adopt a resolution or presidential statement that encourages a removal of bilateral sanctions on Sudan and debt relief for the government contingent on meaningful cooperation with UNAMID. From the government’s side, this cooperation would entail:
• ending access restrictions for the mission and its humanitarian partners;
• issuing visas for UN personnel and individuals from NGOs in a more timely fashion, and
• acknowledging that an exit strategy for the mission must be conditioned on significant progress in achieving UNAMID’s benchmarks (i.e. an inclusive peace process, protection of civilians and unhindered humanitarian access and prevention and mitigation of community conflict).
Another option would be to request 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.
The Council could also consider establishing a co-penholder system on Darfur whereby the current penholder, the UK, shares the pen with an African member of the Council, thus heightening African engagement on this issue in the Council and possibly bringing a fresh perspective to the matter.
Darfur remains a divisive issue in the Council. The P3 (France, the UK and the US) and others are very critical of Sudan for, among other things, human rights abuses, aerial bombardments, lack of compliance with the arms embargo and lack of cooperation with UNAMID. China and Russia, on the other hand, have a more sympathetic view of Sudan, maintaining that the government is doing what it can to promote stability in the region in the face of an ongoing insurgency. Russia has espoused debt forgiveness and an end to bilateral economic sanctions against Sudan as a means to help the country address economic challenges in Darfur, which it has argued are exacerbating the conflict.
Incoming Council members Egypt and Senegal will most likely be strongly engaged in the Council’s work on Darfur. Egypt, which shares a 1,273-kilometre border with Sudan, contributes approximately half of its more than 2,000 peacekeepers to UNAMID. Senegal also contributes peacekeepers to UNAMID.
While the UK holds the pen on Darfur, Venezuela is the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.
UN Documents on Darfur
|Security Council Resolutions|
|29 June 2015 S/RES/2228||This was a resolution renewing the mandate of UNAMID for an additional year.|
|12 February 2015 S/RES/2200||This resolution renewed the mandate of the Panel of Experts.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|15 December 2015 S/PV.7582||This was a briefing by the ICC prosecutor.|
|28 October 2015 S/PV.7545||This was a briefing on Darfur.|