Expected Council Action
In February, Ambassador Rafael Ramírez (Venezuela), the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, will provide the quarterly briefing to the Council on the Committee’s work. At press time, the format of the meeting (i.e. whether there will be a public briefing or just consultations) remained unclear. The Council is also expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the Panel of Experts, which expires on 12 February.
Key Recent Developments
The security and humanitarian situation in Darfur remains dire. There are now approximately 2.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur, and some 233,000 were displaced in 2015 alone. The Secretary-General’s 24 December 2015 report on the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), covering the period 25 September to 15 December 2015, said that “incidents of attack, harassment and intimidation of civilians, including IDPs, increased, especially in North and West Darfur”, and that in most cases, those responsible were reportedly “armed men associated with nomadic Arab tribes”. Inter-communal violence and fighting between government and rebel forces continues, although the UNAMID report states that the number of these clashes had decreased in the reporting period.
On 9 January, an unidentified militia descended on Mouli, a village in West Darfur, causing the displacement of a significant number of the village’s inhabitants. The displaced civilians made their way to the nearby capital of West Darfur, El Geneina, demonstrating at the governor’s office on 10 January. Media reports indicate that the protestors set fire to government facilities and clashed with Sudanese security personnel, who fired on them with live ammunition. Several people reportedly died in this incident and in clashes with government security forces during a funeral for the initial victims on 11 January.
On 17 January, UNAMID released a press statement in which it expressed deep concern about clashes near its Neriti team site, in Central Darfur, between Sudanese government forces and armed groups. The mission also reported aerial bombardments in the area.
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 Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minnawi (SLA-MM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The talks ended unsuccessfully, as the government reiterated its position that the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur should be the basis for the negotiations while the SLA-MM and the JEM rejected this approach. As members of the Sudan Revolutionary Front, 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.
Informal talks were held between the government of Sudan and the SLA-MM and the JEM in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia, from 23 to 25 January. While it does not appear that progress was made in these discussions, the parties agreed to continue their dialogue to resolve their differences.
On 25 January, the Council was briefed on UNAMID by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous. Ladsous expressed concern with the impact of the renewed upsurge in fighting on civilians in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur. He emphasised the difficulties in the political process between the government and the armed groups.
On 18 December 2015, the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts briefed the Committee on its final report. The Panel apparently said that small arms and light weapons continued to enter Darfur in violation of the arms embargo. Panel members noted that while there continued to be aerial attacks in Darfur through the first ten months of 2015, the number of attacks had decreased in comparison with the same period in 2014. The Panel reportedly emphasised that gold from the Jebel Amer mine was being used to support the activities of the pro-government Abbala militia.
The underlying issue for the Council is the continuing instability of the security and humanitarian environment in Darfur, without progress on the political front.
Another key issue is the apparent ineffectiveness of the sanctions regime, reflected in violations of the arms embargo and the travel ban.
One option for the Council is to adopt a resolution renewing the Panel of Experts without significant changes to the language of resolution 2200 (last year’s resolution authorising the Panel of Experts).
Another option would be to modify the sanctions regime by:
- requesting the government of Sudan to develop mechanisms to ensure that the profits derived from the sale of minerals, including gold, mined in Darfur are not used to fuel the conflict;
- adding an additional designation criterion focused on individuals and entities that use income generated from natural resources to undermine security in Darfur; and
- urging the government of Sudan to investigate violations of international humanitarian law committed by pro-government forces (for example, the Rapid Support Forces) during 2015.
Darfur remains a divisive issue within the Council. The US and others are very critical of Sudan for 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.
There are also different views regarding the Panel of Experts and its recent report. Several members are supportive of the Panel’s work and think that the report was thorough and informative. However, one permanent member maintains that the report was not balanced and that the Panel was biased against the government.
Venezuela has been considering holding the meeting on the work of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee in February in a public session. This would represent the first time since November 2014 that the briefing on the committee’s work has been held publicly. However, while several members seemed to support the public format, it appeared that there was some resistance from others.
While Venezuela chairs the 1591 Sanctions Committee, the UK is the penholder on Darfur.
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.|
|29 January 2016 S/2015/1027||This was a UNAMID report.|