April 2017 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 March 2017
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AFRICA

Sudan (Darfur)

Expected Council Action

In April, the Security Council will hold a briefing on the quarterly report of the Secretary-General on the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). The Acting Joint Special Representative, Jeremiah Mamabolo, is expected to brief. The quarterly briefing of the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko (Ukraine), on the work of the Committee is also expected in April in consultations.

The mandate of UNAMID expires on 30 June.

Key Recent Developments

The Sudanese government scored major military successes in 2016 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. According to the government, no more than 300 SLM/A-AW fighters were still in Darfur as of early 2017. The most recent final report of the Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts indicated that the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minnawi (SLA-MM) rebel group 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).” While fighting between government forces and rebels has not occurred in recent months in Darfur, attacks against internally displaced persons by militia and criminal groups remain a problem.

On 8 March, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir issued a decree pardoning 193 imprisoned Darfuri rebels and removing death sentences that had been imposed on 66 other rebel prisoners. In a press statement, UNAMID’s Acting Special Representative Mamabolo welcomed the decision, saying that “all parties to the conflict should capitalize on this gesture with a view to end hostilities and bring about a permanent and lasting peace for the people of Darfur”. The decree did not extend to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which has been engaged in conflict with the government since 2011 in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Notwithstanding these latest developments, the government continues to be criticised by human rights organisations for detaining and intimidating political prisoners.

The political process continues to falter. In recent months, the governments of Chad, Uganda and Qatar have engaged with the Sudanese government and Darfuri rebel groups in an effort to support the mediation by the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). The current impasse concerns the role of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) in the negotiations, with the government of Sudan insisting on using the DDPD as the basis for the talks and the rebels requesting further discussion of the DDPD’s provisions. (The DDPD focuses on seven areas: human rights; power-sharing; wealth sharing; justice and reconciliation; compensation of refugees and internally displaced persons; ceasefire and security arrangements; and internal dialogue and consultation.)

The Council was last briefed on UNAMID on 12 January. During the meeting, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous said that the joint working group on an exit strategy for UNAMID—consisting of representatives of Sudan, the AU and the UN—had met in October and November 2016 in Khartoum, although they were unable “to reach consensus on specific modalities for the reconfiguration of the mission”. Following Ladsous’ briefing, Thabo Mbeki, the chair of the AUHIP, spoke with members about the political process in Darfur, which has been unsuccessful in ending a conflict now in its 14th year. He said that fulfillment of several of the provisions of the DDPD—including those related to compensation 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 13-14 March, UNAMID, the UN Development Programme, Oxfam America and local officials held a conference in El Sereif, North Darfur, with members of the Beni Hussein, Northern Rezeigat and other communities to promote intercommunal reconciliation. According to UNAMID, “participants called for the establishment of joint mechanisms between Beni Hussein, northern Rezeigat, Zaghawa and Bediat tribes to manage pastoralists’ movement and shared natural resources in Abo-Jidad Area, and the need to establish early warning systems to prevent intercommunal conflicts”.

In March, a joint AU-UN team visited Darfur for one week, undertaking a strategic review of UNAMID that will be submitted to the Council in May.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 22 February, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, released a statement following his third mission to the country from 10 to 22 February in which he called on the Sudanese government to protect the rights of civilians in Darfur. Nononsi highlighted the “precarious” conditions of displaced people at Sorotony Camp in northern Darfur, with residents speaking of living in a state of insecurity due to “armed elements” and criminality in and outside the camp. Sexual and gender-based violence was also a serious concern in the camp. Nononsi urged the government to conduct investigations and bring perpetrators to justice, as well as to abide by the Security Council’s call for enhanced cooperation with UNAMID in efforts to protect civilians.

Key Issues

The key issue for the Council is to support efforts to break the ongoing impasse in the negotiations between the government and Darfuri rebel movements, leading to a durable cessation of hostilities and a final settlement.

Another issue is the need to promote intercommunal reconciliation, given the high levels of intercommunal fighting in Darfur in recent years.

Options

The Council could consider adopting a resolution or a presidential statement:

  • urging the SLM/A-AW—the one major rebel group that is not currently participating in the peace talks—to join the political process;
  • reiterating support for the mediation efforts of the AUHIP led by Mbeki and urging a return to negotiations;
  • welcoming Bashir’s pardoning of rebel figures while expressing concern about the regime’s detention of civil society activists; and
  • condemning recent attacks against internally displaced persons.

Another option moving forward is for the Council to consider seeking an African member as co-penholder on Darfur to share the pen with the current penholder, the UK, in order to enhance African involvement on this issue in the Council.

Regarding the Sudan Sanctions Committee, the chair of the Committee might consider holding the briefing in an open session, rather than in closed consultations, to enhance the transparency of the Committee’s work.

Council Dynamics

There is sharp division in the Council regarding Darfur. On the one hand, some members, notably China and Russia, tend to emphasise the importance of upholding the sovereignty of Sudan, point to improvements in the security situation in Darfur and refer to efforts by the government to bring peace to the region. These states are critical of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) work on Darfur, particularly its efforts to pursue President al-Bashir, whom the Court has indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Among the African members of the Council, while Senegal is a state party to the ICC, Egypt and Ethiopia are not, and Egypt has argued in the Council that ICC proceedings against President al-Bashir should be suspended.

On the other hand, other members of the Council—including the P3—have consistently been highly critical of the government of Sudan for committing human rights violations, for restricting the operations of UNAMID and for fostering a culture of impunity in Darfur.

The UK is the penholder on Darfur, while Ukraine chairs the Sudan Sanctions Committee.

UN DOCUMENTS ON DARFUR

Security Council Resolutions
8 February 2017 S/RES/2340 The Council renewed the mandate of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee Panel of Experts until 12 March 2018.
29 June 2016 S/RES/2296 The was a resolution that renewed UNAMID’s mandate for one year.
Secretary-General’s Report
23 March 2017 S/2017/250 This was a report on UNAMID.
Security Council Meeting Record
12 January 2017 S/PV.7860 This was a UNAMID briefing.
Sanctions Committee Document
9 January 2017 S/2017/22 This was the Sudan Sanctions Committee final report.