Expected Council Action
In June, the Council will hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous is expected to provide the briefing. The Council needs to renew the mandate of UNAMID, which expires on 30 June. Also during the month, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is expected to provide the semi-annual briefing to the Council on the Court’s work on Darfur. It further seems that Council members will meet with the AU’s Open-ended Ministerial Committee of Ministers of Foreign Affairs on the ICC. The ICC’s case against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir will probably be raised in this meeting.
Key Recent Developments
A referendum on the administrative status of Darfur was conducted between 11 and 13 April to determine whether the Darfur region would remain as five administrative units (i.e. North Darfur, South Darfur, East Darfur, West Darfur and Central Darfur) or become one administrative unit. On 24 April, the Darfur Referendum Commission announced the results, reporting that almost 98 percent of the participants chose the status quo (i.e. five states). Analysts have maintained that the Sudanese government prefers the status quo, as this enables it to continue to exert greater control over an administratively divided region. Opposition forces argued against holding the referendum, expressing concerns that ongoing fighting and displacement in the region would make participation difficult for many potential voters. The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the key Darfur rebel groups that boycotted the vote, refused to accept the results and called the poll fraudulent.
The 11th meeting of the Implementation Follow-up Commission of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) was convened on 9 May in Khartoum. During the meeting, Joint AU-UN Special Representative for Darfur Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi underscored the negative humanitarian impact of this year’s fighting in Darfur’s Jebel Marra region. Deputy Prime Minister of Qatar Ahmad bin Abdullah Al Mahmoud, who heads the Follow-up Commission, urged the movements that have not signed the DDPD to join the peace process. He said that inter-communal violence and the spread of arms remain obstacles to peace in Darfur.
The humanitarian crisis in South Sudan has continued to spill over into Sudan. Since late January, more than 55,500 refugees from South Sudan have fled to Sudan’s East Darfur, South Darfur and West Kordofan states “mainly due to conflict and reported food shortages in [South Sudan’s] Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap states”, according to OCHA. From the start of the civil war in South Sudan on 15 December 2013 through 31 March, more than 224,000 refugees have fled to Sudan from South Sudan.
Five civilians were killed and several others were wounded on 10 May when armed nomads opened fire near a site for internally displaced persons in Sortony, North Darfur. Marta Ruedas, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, said that the incident occurred “after a reported rise in tensions between displaced and armed tribesman over cattle raiding”. On 12 May, the violence was condemned in a joint statement issued by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
On 13 May, the Council received a note from the Secretariat regarding customs clearances for supply containers at Port Sudan to be shipped to UNAMID. While the note was confidential, it apparently said that customs clearances for several containers of food and equipment continued to be held up by Sudanese authorities.
On 19 May, Sudanese State Minister of Foreign Affairs Kamal Ismail reiterated his government’s position that UNAMID should withdraw from Darfur, claiming that the situation there was “stable.”
On 22 May, the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) in Sudan announced that the Sudanese government had decided not to renew the work permit of OCHA Head of Office Ivo Freijsen, which expires on 6 June. According to a HCT press statement, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has provided no official explanation in writing for this decision,” although Sudan’s Humanitarian Affairs Commission reportedly said that Freijsen had a “negative attitude towards the Sudanese government” and Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour complained about Freijsen’s reporting on the humanitarian situation in Darfur.
In February, Erastus Mwecha, the AU Commission’s Deputy Chairperson, sent a letter regarding the ICC to Ambassador Rafael Ramírez (Venezuela) in his capacity as President of the UN Security Council for that month. In the letter, Mwecha referred to decisions of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU that requested the suspension of ICC proceedings against President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and urged the Council to withdraw its referral of Sudan to the Court.
On 12 May, President Bashir attended the inauguration of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala. Uganda, a state party to the ICC, was obligated under the Rome Statute to arrest Bashir, who has been indicted by the court on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. During his inaugural address, however, Museveni disavowed his country’s support for the court, referring to the ICC as “a bunch of useless people”.
On 3 May, Ambassador Ramírez, chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, briefed Council members in consultations on the work of the Committee. During the meeting, it was noted that, because of holds by Russia on the final report of the 2015 Sudan Sanctions Committee Panel of Experts and on the proposed slate of candidates for the 2016 Panel, the 2015 report had yet to be released and the Panel of Experts had yet to be appointed for this year.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The independent expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, released a statement on 29 April, after his second mission to the country from 14 to 28 April, that urged the Sudanese government “to enable a conducive environment for a free and inclusive national dialogue by respecting the basic fundamental rights of Sudanese people, including the rights to freedoms of expression and association and of the press”. The statement expressed concern about a number of human rights problems in the country, such as arbitrary arrests, detention and ill-treatment of human rights defenders and political activists by security forces, including the National Intelligence and Security Service; ongoing censorship of newspapers; and increased restrictions on journalists. The statement also recalled that, in the preceding weeks, Sudanese government authorities had prevented four Sudanese human rights defenders from attending the pre-briefing session of the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva.
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 ongoing key issue is the limited level of cooperation that Sudan accords to the mission. Delays in issuing visas to mission staff and in providing customs clearances, as well as restrictions on the movement of UNAMID peacekeepers, have been a hindrance to UNAMID’s operations in recent months. As reflected by Foreign Minister Ismail’s recent statement, the government of Sudan has been outspoken in its calls to expedite the development of an exit strategy for UNAMID.
Another important issue is the continuing impasse in the Council with regard to the ICC’s work in Darfur and whether the Council can develop a strategy to overcome this stalemate.
The most likely option is for the Council to renew the mandate of UNAMID for an additional year. In doing so, the Council could:
- underscore the need for the government of Sudan to enhance cooperation with the mission, including by issuing visas to UNAMID personnel and providing customs clearances for food and supplies destined for the mission in a more expeditious manner;
- reiterate that the exit strategy for UNAMID is conditioned on the mission’s achievement of benchmarks (i.e. an inclusive peace process, the protection of civilians, unhindered humanitarian access and the prevention or mitigation of community conflict) and the government’s cooperation with UNAMID; and
- call on the three mediation tracks (the UNAMID Joint Special Representative, the AUHIP and the UN Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan) to coordinate their efforts to pursue a holistic strategy regarding the conflicts in Sudan.
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.
Regarding the ICC, the Council could hold an informal interactive dialogue meeting with the Office of the Prosecutor to constructively discuss next steps.
There have been different views among Council members on the UNAMID exit strategy that could resurface during the negotiations on this year’s mandate renewal. During last year’s negotiations on the UNAMID resolution, members such as France, the UK and the US underscored the conditionality of the exit strategy for UNAMID, noting that it must be firmly linked to significant progress on the mission’s benchmarks. Other members, including Angola and Russia, preferred not to emphasise the conditionality of the exit strategy.
Given the ongoing stalemate in the peace talks, some members continue to suggest that rebel groups in Darfur should be targeted for sanctions by the Council. Russia reiterated this position during consultations on the 1591 Sanctions Committee’s work on 3 May. Similarly, at the same meeting, Egypt reportedly expressed the view that the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid faction, which has engaged in heavy fighting with government forces in the Jebel Marra region this year, should be designated for sanctions.
Regarding the work of the ICC on Darfur, sharp divisions remain among Council members. Eight members of the Council are state parties to the Rome Statute (France, Japan, New Zealand, Senegal, Spain, the UK, Uruguay and Venezuela), although Venezuela shares the AU position that the Court’s work has been politicised. Seven countries (Angola, China, Egypt, Malaysia, Russia, Ukraine and the US) are not state parties; however, the US has been supportive of the Court’s work in Darfur.
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.|
|22 March 2016 S/2016/268||This was the UNAMID report.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|6 April 2016 S/PV.7666||This was a briefing on UNAMID.|