Expected Council Action
In April, 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), which was published in late March. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous is expected to brief.
The mandate of UNAMID expires on 30 June.
Key Recent Developments
Since mid-January, heavy fighting has been reported between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW) rebel movement in the Jebel Marra, a region that straddles North, South and Central Darfur. As of 10 March, more than 105,000 civilians had reportedly been displaced by this violence, according to OCHA. Government-imposed access restrictions have prevented the UN and its partners from attending to the needs of thousands of displaced persons in parts of the Jebel Marra in Central and South Darfur. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma issued a joint UN-AU press statement on 3 March expressing deep concern about the impact on civilians of the recent fighting between government forces and the SLA-AW.
Inter-communal clashes have continued to be reported in Darfur. On 9 January, an armed militia from the Beni-Halba ethnic group attacked Mouli village in West Darfur after finding the body of a member of their group in the vicinity. The attack caused the displacement of a significant number of the village’s inhabitants, who were largely from the Massalit community. 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.
Fighting between the Salamat and Falata ethnic groups broke out on 14 February in South Darfur’s Buram locality, resulting in some 20 people reportedly losing their lives. Violence has recurred between the two groups since a cattle-raiding incident in March 2015. Shortly after the 14 February incident, the Sudanese government arrested 32 leaders from the two groups.
The AU High-level Implementation Panel produced a roadmap agreement for peace in Sudan that was signed by the government on 21 March. The roadmap calls for a cessation of hostilities with rebel groups in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, with separate negotiations to ensue with the Darfur groups and with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) regarding South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The rebel groups—including the Justice and Equality Movement, the Sudan Liberation Army-Mini Minawi and SPLM-N— have yet to sign the roadmap. They are concerned that the government is attempting to include them in a national dialogue process that is designed to prop up the regime rather than initiate real political reform.
On 9 March, UNAMID personnel accompanying a humanitarian convoy were attacked by unidentified assailants in North Darfur, and one UNAMID peacekeeper was killed. Council members condemned the attack in a 10 March press statement.
On 25 January, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed the Council on UNAMID. Ladsous expressed concern about the impact of the renewed upsurge in fighting on civilians in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur. He described the difficulties in the political process between the government and the armed groups. He noted that visa denials by the government had resulted in a “high vacancy rate in key substantive sections” of UNAMID, including those relevant to the protection of civilians.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In a 5 February statement, the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, called for an immediate end to hostilities that have triggered new protection and humanitarian concerns in Darfur. He referred to the escalation of violence in the Jebel Marra area, noting that the government of Sudan has a duty to facilitate free, full and unhindered access to all conflict-affected areas by UNAMID, UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations. The statement indicated that ongoing hostilities between government forces and the SLA-AW have resulted in human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including destruction of civilian property, considerable displacement of civilians and an unspecified number of civilian casualties.
The underlying issue for the Council is the continuing instability of the security and humanitarian environment in Darfur, without 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.
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. On 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;
- stressing 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, unhindered humanitarian access and prevention and mitigation of community conflict).
The Council could give the government a time period within which to make progress on these issues, and indicate that it will consider additional measures (e.g. further sanctions) in case of a lack of cooperation.
The Council is divided with respect to Darfur. Some members tend to be critical of Sudan for human rights abuses, aerial bombardments, lack of compliance with the ICC and lack of cooperation with UNAMID. Others 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. Among this second group is Russia, which 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.
The UK holds the pen on Darfur, and Venezuela is the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.
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 Meeting Record|
|25 January 2016 S/PV.7608||The Council was briefed on UNAMID by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|10 March 2016 SC/12276||This statement condemned the 9 March attack on UNAMID peacekeepers in North Darfur.|