November 2017 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 October 2017
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Sudan (Darfur)

Expected Council Action

In November, the Security Council will hold a briefing on the 60-day report of the Secretary-General on the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). The mandate of UNAMID expires on 30 June 2018.

Key Recent Developments

The level of armed hostilities in Darfur has continued to be significantly lower than in previous years, and Sudanese government forces have re-taken most of the territory previously controlled by rebel groups and now control Darfur. The unilateral ceasefire, declared by the government of Sudan in mid-2016 and most recently extended until 31 December, reportedly continues to be largely observed. While the overall security situation is improving, the region remains fragile, and an environment of instability persists in the presence of intercommunal violence, the proliferation of arms and human rights violations.

In accordance with resolution 2363, UNAMID continues its two-pronged approach. In the Jebel Marra area, it focuses on military protection, clearing explosive remnants of war and providing emergency relief. In other areas of Darfur it focuses on stabilising the situation, supporting the police, helping to build rule of law institutions, mediating intercommunal conflict, and following up on security sector reform-related issues. Phase one of the mission’s reconfiguration, to be completed before 1 January 2018, includes the closure of 11 team sites and a reduction of military personnel strength from 15,845 to 11,395 and police personnel strength from 3,403 to 2,888. All 11 team sites were closed as of 21 October, while discussions with the government over the establishment of a temporary operating base in Golo, Central Darfur for the Jebel Marra Task Force are ongoing.

Existing groups of internally displaced persons (IDPs) continue to require significant protection and humanitarian assistance. There are an estimated 2.3 million vulnerable IDPs who need humanitarian assistance across Sudan, including 2.1 million in Darfur and about 240,000 in Blue Nile, South and West Kordofan states, according to OCHA. While over 13,000 IDPs in West Darfur recently returned to their homes, the reported occupation of villages and land by armed militia previously associated with government forces, particularly in Jebel Marra, and general lawlessness remain an impediment to the return of IDPs. On 22 September, government forces reportedly clashed with IDPs residing at Kalma camp, South Darfur, leading to the death of at least three IDPs and injuries to some 26 others.

The political process continues to falter. Efforts by the AU High-level Implementation Panel for a cessation-of-hostilities agreement and the resumption of direct negotiations towards an inclusive peace agreement have so far remained inconclusive. The role of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), adopted in 2011, remains contentious, with the government of Sudan insisting on using the DDPD as the basis for talks and rebel groups requesting further discussion of the DDPD’s provisions.

The Council was last briefed on UNAMID on 14 September, by Joint Special Representative for UNAMID Jeremiah Mamabolo, who said that cooperation with the government has noticeably improved in relation to humanitarian access and restrictions on UNAMID’s movements. There is an urgent need for the government, with the support of the international community, to find sustainable solutions that would enable the IDPs to return to their homes voluntarily, he said, adding that the cooperation of the government on the reconfiguration of UNAMID, particularly the establishment of a temporary operating base in Golo, is a matter of priority.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 27 September, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, and considered his report (A/HRC/36/63). The report found incidents of harassment, arrest, torture and prolonged detention of civil society actors by National Security Service officers. In the Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile regions, the report found that despite a decline in military operations, the prevalence of armed groups, including government-backed militias and other armed actors, continued to pose a serious threat to the protection of civilians and human rights. On 29 September, the HRC adopted a resolution, without a vote, that renewed the mandate of the Independent Expert for a period of one year and requested the Independent Expert to present a report at the HRC’s 39th session (A/HRC/RES/36/26). 

In a 9 October press statement, the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Idriss Jazairy, praised the decision of the US to lift sanctions on Sudan, which have had a major effect on vulnerable population groups, he said, adding that the move “opens new perspectives for progress in Sudan and for the reduction of poverty in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda”.

Key Issues and Options

A key issue that Council members will want to follow closely is the effect of the troop reduction on the security situation.

Another key issue 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. 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 rebel groups.

The Council may also need to tackle the underlying causes of the conflict and how to promote intercommunal reconciliation, given the high levels of intercommunal fighting in Darfur. An option could be to request Mamabolo to brief on the issue.

Council Dynamics

In a departure from previous years, and within a context of longstanding divisions in the Council regarding Darfur, improvements in stability in many parts of the region have created an opportunity for apparent unity amongst Council members on certain issues. These include recognising improvements in the overall security situation and the government’s efforts to improve humanitarian access and agreeing on troop reductions. Traditionally, some Council members, notably China and Russia, have tended to emphasise the importance of upholding the sovereignty of Sudan and improvements in the security situation in Darfur. Other members of the Council, such as France, Italy, Sweden, the UK, Ukraine, Uruguay and the US, have been critical of the government for committing human rights violations, restricting the operations of UNAMID, and fostering a culture of impunity. While concerns remain, a number of these states have expressed the view that the government is making an effort to improve humanitarian access to the region and have welcomed reduced violence in Darfur.

On 12 October, longstanding US economic sanctions against Sudan were lifted “in recognition of the government of Sudan’s sustained positive actions to maintain a cessation of hostilities in conflict areas in Sudan, improve humanitarian access throughout Sudan, and maintain cooperation with the US on addressing regional conflicts and the threat of terrorism”, according to the US Department of State.

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

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UN Documents on Darfur

Security Council Resolution
29 June 2017 S/RES/2363 This was a resolution renewing the mandate of UNAMID for an additional year.
Secretary-General’s Reports
30 August 2017 S/2017/747 This was the Secretary-General’s assessment of the status of implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur.
30 August 2017 S/2017/746 This was the 60-day report of the Secretary-General on UNAMID.
Security Council Meeting Record
14 September 2017 S/PV.8050 This was a briefing by the Joint Special Representative for UNAMID, Jeremiah Mamabolo, on the Secretary-General’s latest report on UNAMID.
Security Council Letter
17 October 2017 S/2017/876 This was a letter from the government of Sudan conveying its decision to extend the unilateral ceasefire until 31 December 2017.