Expected Council Action
In January 2018, 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) and the written assessment from the Secretary-General and the chairperson of the AU Commission on the reconfiguration of UNAMID, as requested in resolution 2363. The mandate of UNAMID expires on 30 June 2018.
Key Recent Developments
With a reduction in the intensity of the armed conflict and improvements in humanitarian access over the past year, the situation in Darfur provides reasons for some cautious optimism, but it has not yet normalised. Security issues, unlawful killings, and human rights violations make the conditions volatile, along with continued reports of sexual violence. Improvements in the overall security situation have also not led to the voluntary and sustainable return of Darfur’s 2.1 million internally displaced persons. While disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration is essential, there are concerns that the government’s ongoing disarmament campaign is leading to increased tensions and armed confrontations that threaten to undermine recent improvements in the security situation.
In accordance with resolution 2363, phase one of UNAMID’s reconfiguration, to be completed before 1 January 2018, includes the closure of 11 team sites and reductions in military personnel from 15,845 to 11,395 and in police personnel from 3,403 to 2,888. While all 11 team sites were closed in October 2017, the allocation of land by the Sudanese government for a temporary operating base for the Jebel Marra Task Force in Golo, Central Darfur is still pending. The written assessment from the Secretary-General and the chairperson of the AU Commission, requested in resolution 2363, is expected to address progress in implementing phase one of UNAMID’s reconfiguration; the impact of the phase one reductions on areas that UNAMID has withdrawn from; the government’s cooperation with the mission; the removal of bureaucratic obstacles to the mission; and the question as to whether conditions on the ground are conducive for further reductions. With the findings of the assessment, the Council can then decide whether to adjust the scope and pace of UNAMID’s reduction ahead of phase two of the mission’s reconfiguration, to begin on 31 January 2018.
On 12 December 2017, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda provided the semi-annual Council briefing on the ICC’s work with regard to Darfur, saying the ICC’s entire judicial machinery could be frustrated unless the suspects it had indicted appeared before it. Bensouda noted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s most recent travels to South Africa, Jordan, Uganda, Chad and Russia and requested that the Council take action to respond to ongoing instances of non-compliance or non-cooperation relating to the situation in Darfur and outstanding arrest warrants. Al-Bashir has been indicted by the ICC on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
On 7 December 2017, the Chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko (Ukraine), briefed the Council on the Committee’s work from 25 July to 7 December 2017, including the first joint meeting of the Sudan (1591), Libya (1970) and South Sudan (2206) Sanctions Committees on Darfuri rebel groups’ activities in South Sudan and Libya, which took place on 10 November 2017. The informal meeting was held to discuss the spread of Darfuri armed groups into Libya and South Sudan and seek to develop common approaches to addressing the problem. Yelchenko also spoke at an 8 December 2017 briefing by the outgoing chairs of subsidiary bodies of the Security Council. He said that a sanctions committee could be paralysed by its politicisation and by what he described as an “abuse of the consensus rule”, such as the fact that in recent years the Committee had been unable to present its 90-day report in an open format. He noted that his briefing in the open chamber the previous day broke with this trend. He also expressed hope that this practice of public briefings will continue by default. The Committee met at the end of December 2017 to discuss the recommendations contained in the final report of the Panel of Experts.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 21 November 2017, UNAMID released a joint report with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The report, covering the period from January 2014 to December 2016, notes that despite a ceasefire between the government and various armed opposition groups, which has largely held since June 2016, violence against internally displaced people continues to be widespread and impunity for human rights violations persists. It calls on the Sudanese government to pursue effective, transparent and durable policies to enable internally displaced persons to return home voluntarily or to reintegrate into host communities. During the reporting period, UNAMID documented 1,286 allegations of human rights abuses and violations against 3,358 victims, including 2,108 women and 299 children. In a 21 November 2017 statement, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged the government to address “fundamental issues that are preventing the return of displaced people, such as continued violence, including from armed militias, which raise continuing and justifiable fears for their safety and the lack of basic services that leave them dependent on aid”.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for Council members to consider is whether any adjustments to the scope and pace of UNAMID’s reduction are necessary, taking into account the assessment by the Secretary-General and the chairperson of the AU Commission as well as other UN reports from the ground. An option in this context would be to invite the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide an update on the human rights 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.
The Council may also need to tackle how to promote intercommunal reconciliation, given the high levels of intercommunal fighting in Darfur in recent years. An option for the Council would be to request the Joint Special Representative for Darfur and head of UNAMID, Jeremiah Mamabolo, to brief on the issue. Another option would be to organise an Arria-formula meeting with experts on intercommunal violence to discuss its root causes and ways to bring opposing parties together.
Improvements in stability in the region have created an opportunity for a degree of unity amongst Council members on several issues, including 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.
During the 12 December 2017 briefing, the UK welcomed the progress that UNAMID has made in completing the first phase of its reconfiguration and the government’s improved cooperation with the mission. However, it urged the government to agree formally to the opening of the temporary operating base in Golo, without further delay. The UK also added that as UNAMID’s reconfiguration continues, it is crucial that the mission and the Security Council closely monitor the impact of the reconfiguration on the situation on the ground, as well as the government’s cooperation. Ethiopia, France, Sweden and the UK emphasised the need to address the root causes of the conflict in Darfur in their statements on 12 December 2017.
The UK is the penholder on Darfur; Ukraine chairs the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee. New Council member Poland will succeed Ukraine as chair in January 2018.
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.|
|27 October 2017 S/2017/907||This was the Secretary-General’s 60-day report on UNAMID.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|12 December 2017 S/PV.8132||This was the semi-annual briefing by the ICC Prosecutor.|
|8 December 2017 S/PV.8127||This was a briefings by the chairs of subsidiary bodies of the Security Council.|
|7 December 2017 S/PV.8124||This was a briefing on South Sudan by Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations; Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; and Ismail Wais, IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan.|