Expected Council Action
In January, the Council will receive a briefing, and hold consultations, on the Secretary-General’s report on 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. While unconfirmed at press time, it is possible that an AU representative may brief as well. No outcome is expected.
Also in January, Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko (Ukraine), the new chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, will provide the quarterly briefing on the Committee’s work, which is expected to focus on the final report of the Panel of Experts.
Key Recent Developments
The political process in Darfur continues to falter. In late November, representatives of the government and two Darfur rebel groups—the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minnawi (SLA-MM)—convened in Addis Ababa for peace talks. However, the continued reluctance of the rebels to provide information on the location of their forces has stalled the negotiations.
In spite of the failed talks, there has been progress in alleviating the fighting between the government and rebel forces. On 10 October 2016, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir declared a two month unilateral cessation of hostilities against rebels in the country. Shortly thereafter, on 31 October 2016, three Sudanese rebel groups—the JEM, the SLA-MM and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N)—announced a six-month unilateral cessation of hostilities. The one major rebel group that did not commit to the cessation of hostilities—and that has also failed to participate in recent negotiations with the government—is the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW).
While fighting between the government and rebel groups has subsided in Darfur, inter-communal violence, criminal activity and high-levels of displacement are key features of the difficult security and humanitarian environment. Between January and November 2016, OCHA has reported that over 97,000 people were newly displaced, although unverified reports suggest that tens of thousands of additional people may have been displaced as well.
On 9 October 2016, participants in Sudan’s National Dialogue Conference—including the government of Sudan and some armed and political opposition groups—endorsed a national document providing broad recommendations on the structure of government (for example, it calls for additional seats in the parliament). Key rebel groups and opposition parties have boycotted the national dialogue process, dubious of the government’s commitment to genuine reform.
The Council received a briefing, followed by consultations, on UNAMID on 4 October 2016 from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous. Ladsous said that heavy fighting had been reported since 17 September in the Jebel Marra region between government and the SLA-AW forces, but that the mission had been unable to verify the reports because of access restrictions imposed on UNAMID by the government. Ladsous urged Sudan to cooperate with any OPCW investigation regarding claims made in a 29 September 2016 Amnesty International report that it had used chemical weapons in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur in 2016. However, the government has denied the claims, and on 22 October, in his first public response to the report, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir called the claims “empty lies” in a speech given to members of the ruling National Congress Party.
On 27 September 2016, Ambassador Rafael Ramírez Carreño of Venezuela, then chair of the 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 in September 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 also 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.
The Sudan Sanctions Committee met with the newly appointed Panel of Experts on 28 October. During the meeting, the Panel presented its programme of work and underscored its commitment to provide the Committee with impartial and balanced reporting.
The underlying issues for the Council are the continuing instability of the security and humanitarian environment in Darfur and the lack of progress on the political front.
Another serious issue is the continuation of impediments on UNAMID’s operations. In recent months, there have been delays in customs clearances for the shipment of military and police equipment to the mission and denials of visas for civilian staff, particularly those in the Human Rights section. Furthermore, UNAMID continues to experience restrictions to its freedom of movement.
One option is to invite Thabo Mbeki, chair of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel, to address the Council on his efforts to reinvigorate the negotiations between the government and the rebel groups. Mbeki was in Khartoum on 20 December 2016 where he met with President Omar al-Bashir about the political process and could share his views on next steps in the mediation.
A demarche by the Council president to the Sudanese permanent representative regarding the importance of removing impediments on the shipment of equipment to UNAMID could be a useful option.
Another option would be for the Council to adopt a resolution or presidential statement that:
- encourages negotiations between the government and the opposition forces and calls on SLA-AW to join the talks; and
- urges the government to eliminate restrictions on the shipment of equipment to the mission.
Views of Council members on the situation in Darfur vary widely. Some states, including France, the UK and the US, tend 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 2016, which renewed the UNAMID mandate, that “any calls for the mission to leave the Sudan are woefully premature” and would have to 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 argued that a clear exit strategy for the mission should be developed sooner rather than later.
Like Egypt, incoming member Ethiopia is a key regional player, with peacekeepers in Darfur, that will most likely take keen interest in this issue on the Council.
The UK is the penholder on Darfur, while Ukraine chairs the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.
UN Documents on Darfur
|Security Council Resolutions|
|29 June 2016 S/RES/2296||The was a resolution that renewed UNAMID’s mandate for one year.|
|10 February 2016 S/RES/2265||This was a resolution renewing the mandate of the Panel of Experts until 12 March 2017.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|4 October 2016 S/PV.7781||This was a briefing on UNAMID.|