Expected Council Action
In February, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the Panel of Experts of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, which expires on 12 March.
The mandate of the AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) expires on 30 June.
Key Recent Developments
In 2016, the government of Sudan achieved significant military gains against the one major rebel movement still fighting in Darfur, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army-Abdul Wahid (SLM/A-AW), in the Jebel Marra region. The other two Darfuri rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minnawi (SLA/MM), are now mainly based in Libya and South Sudan, “engaging in mercenary activities and, allegedly, in criminal activities (such as looting, kidnapping for ransom and trafficking)”, according to the final report of the Sudan Sanctions Committee Panel of Experts (S/2017/22). Although the government’s military campaign has largely eliminated the presence of rebels in Darfur, criminality and inter-communal violence over control of land and resources remain significant problems.
The humanitarian situation is dire. In total, there are approximately 2.6 million internally displaced people in Darfur. In 2016, the fighting in the Jebel Marra, which included aerial bombardments by government forces, displaced 97,000 people; in addition to this figure, the Secretary-General noted in his recent UNAMID report that “up to an additional 88,000 reported [displaced] people have not been verified owing to a lack of access [for humanitarian actors] to the relevant locations.”
The political process remains stalemated. The SLA/MM continues to refuse to engage in talks with the government, and it does not accept the mediation role played by Thabo Mbeki, the chair of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). Meanwhile, negotiations between the government and the SLA/MM and the JEM are at an impasse for a number of reasons, including that the rebels are unwilling to disclose the location of their remaining forces and that they want to open up the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur to further negotiations, something that the government is not willing to do. On 19 October and on 31 December 2016, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni met with SLA/MM and JEM leaders in Kampala as part of an informal mediation role that he has assumed since May 2016. It does not appear that these meetings moved the peace process forward.
On 12 January, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed the Council on UNAMID. Ladsous said that continued delays in customs clearances for contingency-owned equipment and delays in issuing visas (as well as denials of visa requests) for UNAMID’s human rights section continued to be problems for the mission. He added that while the joint working group on an exit strategy for UNAMID—consisting of representatives of Sudan, the AU and the UN—convened in October and November in Khartoum, they were unable “to reach a consensus on specific modalities for the reconfiguration of the mission”.
Council members engaged with Mbeki, who briefed via video teleconference, during an informal interactive dialogue following Ladsous’s briefing. Mbeki spoke about the political process in Darfur, which has been unsuccessful in ending a conflict now in its 14th year. He noted that the rebel groups continued to have objections to the Doha document. As noted in the Secretary-General’s most recent report on UNAMID, implementation of several of the provisions of the document—including those related to compensation, arms control and justice and reconciliation, among others—has not occurred. In press elements read out by Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden), the Council President in January, members underlined their support for Mbeki’s mediation efforts.
On 20 January, Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko (Ukraine), the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, provided the quarterly briefing on the Committee’s work, focusing on the Panel of Experts’ final report. The report noted that the “United Nations and its partners continue to face access restrictions in providing humanitarian assistance in different regions of Darfur, in particular in the areas of Jebel Marra affected by the 2016 crisis.”
The underlying issue is the continuing lack of progress on the political front, while the humanitarian and security environment in Darfur remains unstable.
Another important issue is the need for the members of the Panel of Experts to be provided visas to Sudan to conduct their work. The previous Panel, which was only appointed in October 2016, produced its final report without visiting Sudan because its members had not been granted visas.
A further issue for the Council is whether to renew the mandate of the Panel for the standard 12 months or for 18 months, as recommended in the Panel’s final report.
While the Panel of Experts has traditionally had a one-year mandate, the Council could consider lengthening it to 18 months. This would enable the Panel to conduct a thorough analysis of the situation in Darfur, given that the 2016 Panel of Experts only had three months to produce its final report because of its late appointment. In its final report, the Panel noted that “for it to carry out its mandate more effectively, the Panel requires a sufficiently extensive amount of time in the field, particularly in the Sudan and in neighbouring States. Given the time required to secure visas, plan and arrange travel and schedule and coordinate appointments with the relevant authorities…the Panel would benefit from a lengthier mandate”.
Another option is for the Council president to meet with the Sudanese Ambassador and emphasise on behalf of the Council the necessity for the government to provide visas and travel permits to Panel members in a timely fashion and to fully cooperate with them.
Some members, such as China and Russia, believe that the conflict has largely ended in Darfur and that the time has come to move forward with an exit strategy for the mission. Others, however, have been highly critical of the government and maintain a less optimistic view of the situation, pointing to human rights violations and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur. The US has traditionally been among this latter group. However, it announced on 13 January that it would lift bilateral sanctions against Sudan in 180 days, citing as positive developments Sudan’s cooperation on counter-terrorism issues and efforts to improve humanitarian access, among other steps.
There are differences on whether to extend the mandate of the Panel of Experts for 18 months, rather than 12 months. Given bureaucratic obstacles imposed on past panels in Sudan, some members are inclined to support the longer mandate. Several members, however, maintain that such an approach would be punitive, given their perception that the government is making an effort to bring peace to Darfur.
The UK is the penholder on Darfur, while Ukraine chairs the Sudan Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON DARFUR
|Security Council Resolutions|
|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 Records|
|12 January 2017 S/PV.7860||This was a UNAMID briefing.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|9 January 2017 S/2017/22||This was the Sudan Sanctions Committee final report.|