Expected Council Action
In October, the Council will hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the report of the Secretary-General on the UN/AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), whose mandate expires on 30 June 2017. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous is expected to brief. No outcome was anticipated at press time.
Key Recent Developments
A dire humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by fighting in the Jebel Marra region and by refugees fleeing the conflict in South Sudan, continues to unfold in Darfur, amid limited progress on the political front. There are now approximately 2.6 million displaced persons in Darfur. Between 1 January and 31 July, fighting in Jebel Marra displaced more than 158,000 people. Between 1 January and 4 September, more than 90,000 refugees crossed into Darfur from South Sudan.
On 8 August, several rebel groups in Sudan—the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minawi (SLA-MM) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N)—and the opposition National Umma Party signed the “Roadmap for Ending the Conflict in Sudan”. The roadmap calls for a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access and a more inclusive national dialogue process. When the government signed the roadmap on 21 March, the rebel groups had refrained from signing out of concerns about government control over the national dialogue process. In a press statement issued on 11 August, Council members welcomed the signing of the roadmap by the opposition groups and commended the government of Sudan for having signed it earlier this year.
Soon after signing the document, the opposition groups met with government representatives in Addis Ababa from 9 to 14 August. These talks failed to make progress, however, as they were mired in disagreements over security arrangements in Darfur and humanitarian access in the Two Areas (Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan states). With regard to Darfur, the government wanted information on the location of rebel forces as a precondition to a cessation of hostilities; the rebels were reluctant to provide this information. At press time, the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), responsible for mediating the conflict, was engaging with both sides in the hope of reconvening them, but no date had been confirmed for further negotiations.
On 12 September, Abdul Wahid Mohamed el-Nur, the leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement-Abdul Wahid (SLM-AW) rebel group, announced that his group would continue its efforts to overthrow the regime. The SLM-AW, which engaged in heavy fighting with government forces earlier this year, did not participate in the recent negotiations with the government. In his 12 September statement, Wahid Mohamed el-Nur asserted that previous efforts to negotiate with the regime had been unsuccessful because it had not adhered to its agreements. In recent months, intermittent low-intensity fighting has been reported between government forces and the SLM-AW in the Jebel Marra region.
On 14 June, Under-Secretary-General Ladsous briefed the Council on UNAMID. Ladsous described the lack of progress in finding a political resolution to the Darfur conflict, while underscoring that intercommunal clashes remain “a major cause of insecurity in Darfur”. He emphasised that continued government restrictions on access and freedom of movement significantly hampered UNAMID’s operations. The Council adopted resolution 2296 on 29 June, renewing the mandate of UNAMID for one year.
On 27 September, Ambassador Rafael Ramírez (Venezuela), the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, provided the quarterly briefing to Council members on the Committee’s work. He reported that a new panel of experts had been appointed and that the final report of the 2015 panel of experts had been published. Both the appointment of the panel and the publication of last year’s final report had been held up for several months by Russia. Ramírez further conveyed the contents of the 8 July briefing to the Sanctions Committee by Zainab Bangura, the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, who expressed concern at the high rate of sexual violence in Darfur.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The Human Rights Council (HRC) considered the report of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan during its 33rd session in September (A/HRC/33/65). The report, covering October 2015 to June 2016, concluded that major human rights challenges persist and that, notwithstanding the ongoing national dialogue, there is growing concern about the pervasive actions of the National Intelligence and Security Service and its impact on the exercise of civil and political rights in the country, including widespread reports of arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detention. The report found that the human rights situation in Darfur and in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states remains precarious, with continuing fighting and breaches of human rights and international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict. Hundreds of thousands of civilians continue to suffer the effects of the armed conflict through direct attacks, displacement and limited access to humanitarian assistance, and the peace process continues to face significant challenges without the active participation of some major armed movements, the report said.
The HRC also considered the report of the special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, on his mission to Sudan (A/HRC/33/48/Add.1). The report gave an overview of the unilateral coercive measures imposed on the Sudan by different states and their impact on basic human rights, including the rights to life, health, education and food, affecting in particular the poorest and most vulnerable. The report found that unilateral coercive measures targeting Sudan should be limited in time and be phased out in accordance with the fulfilment by Sudan of clear objectives. It proposed a step-by-step approach to removing these measures, starting with those with the most severe impact on the enjoyment of human rights.
The underlying issue for the Council is the continuing instability of the security and humanitarian environment in Darfur, with limited progress on the political front.
An ongoing key issue is the limited level of cooperation that Sudan accords to the mission. Restrictions on the movement of peacekeepers and delays in the shipment of equipment to the mission continue to hinder UNAMID’s operations.
A further important issue is what future steps will be taken regarding an exit strategy for the mission, especially given divergent views on this issue in the Council. The joint working group on the exit strategy—consisting of representatives of the AU, the UN and the government of Sudan—is expected to convene in October.
One option is for the Council to request a briefing on the work of UNAMID from Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi—the Joint AU-UN Special Representative for Darfur, the head of UNAMID and the Joint Chief Mediator. Uhomoibhi has been in his post since October 2015 and has yet to brief the Council, as Under-Secretary-General Ladsous generally provides UNAMID briefings.
Members might also request an informal interactive dialogue with Thabo Mbeki, chair of the AUHIP, on the status of the peace talks between the government and the opposition groups.
A demarche by the Council president to the Sudanese permanent representative regarding the importance of removing impediments on the movement of peacekeepers and the shipment of equipment to UNAMID could be a useful option.
An additional option is to issue a presidential statement that:
- urges the government to eliminate restrictions on the freedom of movement of UNAMID personnel and on the shipment of equipment to the mission;
- encourages continued negotiations between the government and the opposition forces; and
- urges donors to support the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan for Sudan, which was only 41 percent funded at press time.
Perceptions of the government of Sudan and the situation in Darfur vary widely among Council members. France, the UK and the US have tended to be critical of the government of Sudan for contributing to the instability in Darfur, referring to human rights violations committed by government forces, the impunity for these violations and the government’s lack of cooperation with UNAMID. These states have emphasised the difficult security and humanitarian environment in Darfur. Given this view, the US argued during its explanation of vote on resolution 2296 on 29 June, which renewed the UNAMID mandate, that “any calls for the mission to leave the Sudan are woefully premature” and must be linked to the achievement of specific benchmarks related to an inclusive peace process and the protection of civilians, among other factors.
Other Council members, including China, Egypt and Russia, stress the importance of Sudan’s sovereignty and maintain that the government is making a good faith effort to bring peace to Darfur. These member states have urged that a clear exit strategy for the mission be developed sooner rather than later.
The UK is the penholder on Darfur, while Venezuela chairs the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.
UN Documents on Darfur
|Security Council Resolution|
|29 June 2016 S/RES/2296||The was a resolution that renewed UNAMID’s mandate for one year.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|29 June 2016 S/PV.7728||This was the meeting at which resolution 2296 was adopted and included explanations of vote by China, Egypt, Russia, the UK, the US and Venezuela.|
|14 June 2016 S/PV.7716||This was a briefing on the special report of the UN Secretary-General and the AU Commission Chairperson on UNAMID.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|11 August 2016 SC/12474||This was a press statement welcoming the signing on 8 August of the Roadmap Agreement by opposition groups and commending the government of Sudan for having signed the agreement on 16 March.|
|Human Rights Council Documents|
|4 August 2016 A/HRC/33/48/Add.1||This was the report of the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, on his mission to the Sudan.|
|28 July 2016 A/HRC/33/65||This was the report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan.|