June 2017 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 May 2017
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AFRICA

Sudan (Darfur)

Expected Council Action

In June, the Council is expected to renew the mandate for the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), prior to its expiry on 30 June. The Council will also hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on UNAMID. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is expected to provide the briefing. The Council further expects to receive the semi-annual briefing of the ICC Prosecutor related to the court’s work on Darfur. 

Key Recent Developments

Sudanese government forces now dominate Darfur and occupy most of the territory previously controlled by rebel groups. The unilateral ceasefire, declared by the government of Sudan in mid-2016 and extended for a further six months in January, reportedly continues to be largely observed. The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) has also declared a ceasefire, having largely withdrawn from Darfur. While the Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi (SLA/MM) had declared a ceasefire, on 19 May it claimed that it had clashed with government forces in a number of locations across Darfur. Elements of the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA/AW) remain active in the Jebel Marra region. The overall security situation is improving, but without a full cessation of hostilities and with intercommunal and criminal violence remaining widespread, an environment of instability persists.

The new Joint Special Representative for Darfur and head of UNAMID, Jeremiah Mamabolo, briefed the Council for the first time on 4 April. Mamabolo described Darfur as being “a very different place from what the region was in 2003”. However, the improving security situation in Darfur has not yet resulted in significant advances in efforts to reach a long-term political resolution.

There have been no reports of major displacements in 2017, but existing groups of internally displaced persons (IDPs) continue to require significant protection and humanitarian assistance. The return of IDPs has been impeded by the reported occupation of villages and land by armed militia previously associated with government forces, particularly in Jebel Marra, as well as by general lawlessness.   

The Sudanese government appears to be reducing impediments to the effectiveness of UNAMID, including restrictions on the mission’s movements. There are broader signs of improving cooperation between UNAMID and the government, though its slow clearance of mission equipment and supplies remains a point of contention.

During the week of 15 May, a delegation from the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) visited Darfur and met with Sudanese government representatives. The delegation welcomed the improvements in the overall situation in Darfur and the cooperation between the government and the PSC.

A strategic review of UNAMID was presented to the Council in May and will be considered as part of the mandate renewal in June.

Human Rights-Related Developments

In a statement on 31 March, the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed regret that Jordan, a state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, had allowed Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to enter the country to participate in the Arab League summit. Recalling the ICC’s arrest warrant for Al-Bashir, the High Commissioner said that Jordan was “failing the ICC and weakening the global struggle against impunity, and for justice”.

The Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, undertook his fourth mission to the country from 11 to 21 May. Nononsi is set to present his findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council at its 36th session in September 2017. At a press conference on 21 May, Nononsi expressed concern over detentions of civil society activists, harassment of media, and oppression of religious minorities.

Key Issues

The key issue for the Council is what modifications to make to the mandate and force structure of UNAMID to better reflect the current realities and challenges facing the mission.

A related issue is how 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 most likely option is for the Council to renew the mandate of UNAMID for an additional year. In doing so the Council may:

  • acknowledge the increased cooperation by the government of Sudan and emphasise the need to end ongoing delays in issuing visas to UNAMID personnel and providing customs clearances for food and supplies destined for the mission;
  • urge the SLA/AW to join the political process;
  • ensure the mandate has the flexibility to allow the redeployment of UNAMID personnel and resources to reflect the improved security situation in some areas and the ongoing threats to peace and security in others, including the possible creation of a quick reaction force in recognition that recent improvements to stability could be reversed;
  • reduce the UNAMID personnel ceiling to reflect the new requirements for the ongoing implementation of UNAMID’s mandate, possibly with a “snap back” mechanism allowing the ceiling to be raised again if requested by the Secretary-General; and
  • reiterate that the exit strategy for UNAMID remains conditioned on the mission’s achievement of benchmarks (that is 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.

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.

Council Dynamics

There is longstanding division in the Council regarding Darfur. 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. Other members of the Council—including the P3—have consistently been highly critical of the government of Sudan for committing human rights violations, restricting the operations of UNAMID, and fostering a culture of impunity in Darfur.

Nevertheless, the improvements in stability in many parts of Darfur over the past year have created an opportunity for agreement amongst Council members on a redeployment of mission resources to match the current security situation. The US is expected to seek a reduction in the personnel ceiling in line with its current approach to mandate renewals of proposing drawdowns where it believes that is appropriate.  

The UK is the penholder on Darfur, while Ukraine chairs the 1591 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 Reports
23 March 2017 S/2017/250 This was a report on UNAMID.
Security Council Meeting Records
4 April 2017 S/PV.7912 This was a briefing on UNAMID.
Sanctions Committee Documents
9 January 2017 S/2017/22 This was the Sudan Sanctions Committee final report.