Expected Council Action
In June, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) ahead of its expiry on 30 June. Prior to the adoption of the resolution, Council members expect to receive a strategic review of the mission by the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Commission. The Council will also receive a briefing on UNAMID, followed by consultations, as well as the semi-annual briefing of the ICC Prosecutor related to the court’s work on Darfur. Ambassador Joanna Wronecka (Poland), chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, is expected to provide the quarterly briefing to Council members on the Committee’s work.
Key Recent Developments
On 11 April, President Omar al-Bashir was ousted by the Sudanese military following ongoing protests in many parts of the country calling on al-Bashir, who has ruled Sudan for nearly three decades, to step down. The protests, which began in December 2018, were sparked by food and fuel shortages and culminated on 6 April when thousands of protesters gathered outside al-Bashir’s residence in Khartoum. On 11 April, Sudan’s Defence Minister, General Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, said to be an al-Bashir ally, appeared on state television and announced the military’s detention of al-Bashir, the suspension of the constitution, and the start of a two-year transitional period to be overseen by the military and followed by elections. However, protests continued and on the following day Ibn Auf stepped down and Lieutenant General Abdel-Fattah Burhan assumed power.
On 15 April, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) adopted a communiqué that strongly condemned the “coup d’État” and demanded that the Sudanese military hand over power to a transitional civilian-led political authority within 15 days, failing which the PSC would suspend Sudan’s participation in all AU activities. On 22 April, the AU PSC adopted another communiqué extending the deadline by 60 days and outlining further steps to be taken.
The military has said it does not intend to extradite al-Bashir, despite the ICC arrest warrants issued against him in 2009 and 2010. On 13 May, Sudan’s public prosecutor announced charges against al-Bashir and others for “inciting and criminal complicity” in the deaths of demonstrators. The announcement came as unidentified forces, allegedly wearing uniforms of the Sudanese Armed Forces/Rapid Support Forces, reportedly used live ammunition at protests in Khartoum, killing six people, including an army officer, and wounding about 100 others. On 15 May, the Transitional Military Council and the opposition alliance, called the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces, announced they had agreed on a three-year transition to civilian rule. However, key differences on issues such as the composition of the transitional body remained unresolved at press time.
According to the Secretary-General’s most recent report, covering 4 January to 3 April, UNAMID’s reconfiguration is proceeding as scheduled in accordance with resolution 2429, in which the Council decided to reduce the troop ceiling from 8,735 to 4,050 military personnel over the course of the mandate period while maintaining the authorised police personnel at 2,500. The report only covers the situation in Darfur through 3 April (that is, prior to al-Bashir’s ouster), but it observed that the overall security situation in Darfur remained relatively stable except for intermittent clashes between government forces and the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid in the Jebel Marra area. Intercommunal clashes remained low despite a slight increase since the last reporting period, but the report said that “[o]ngoing human rights violations, in particular sexual and gender-based violence, including those violations reportedly perpetrated by Government security personnel, continue to be of grave concern and an obstacle to lasting peace”.
More than 1.6 million internally displaced persons are still living in camps throughout Darfur. The report noted that “ongoing political and economic uncertainty pose a number of challenges for a responsible exit of the peacekeeping mission and a transition to peacebuilding, including the question of interlocutors at the national and local levels of the government for joint planning and oversight, which will be critical for the national ownership and sustainability of the process…[as will] the mobilization of resources for a seamless transition”.
On 21 May, the Council issued a press statement strongly condemning the looting of the West Darfur Headquarters of UNAMID on 14 May and calling on the Sudanese authorities to facilitate the responsible handover of UNAMID sites. The Council was last briefed on UNAMID on 17 April.
Key Issues and Options
The key issue for the Council is what modifications to make to the UNAMID mandate, force structure and troop levels to reflect the current realities facing the mission, in particular in the context of its reconfiguration and drawdown as set out in resolution 2429, which referred to the mission’s exit in June 2020 “provided that there is no significant change in the security situation in Darfur”. A related issue is assessing the potential effect of further troop reductions on the security and human rights situations. An option is for such assessments to be informed by the findings and recommendations of the strategic review, which members expect to receive by 1 June. A possible option is a shorter term rollover of the mission’s mandate given the current uncertainties around the political situation.
A further issue is to assess progress made on the benchmarks and indicators of achievement for the exit of the mission set out in the Secretary-General’s report of 12 October 2018. The Council took note of these in its 11 December 2018 presidential statement and asked the Secretary-General to prioritise reporting on progress against the benchmarks and indicators “to help guide the Security Council’s considerations on the future of UNAMID’s mandate”.
There continue to be differences amongst Council members on the situation in Darfur, as was again apparent during the discussion following the 17 April briefing. Germany said that “decisions on the future of UNAMID must be shaped by developments on the ground” and emphasised the need “to take a close look” at the timeline. The UK said the “latest political developments have a direct impact on Darfur” and called for “a gradual and sensible approach, guided by the situation on the ground”. Other members such as Belgium, France and Peru expressed similar positions. The US expressed concern over “the impact of the events in Khartoum on the security and stability of Darfur” and stressed the need for “measurable and sustainable progress on prioritized benchmarks, in particular, demonstrating the government’s ability and capacity to protect and provide for the Darfur people and addressing the root causes of the conflict”. Absent such progress, the US said it “is supportive of the Council considering all options”.
However, Kuwait expressed the need for the Council “to continue the implementation of UNAMID’s exit strategy”, saying that “what is happening in the Sudan is a domestic affair that should not be interfered with”. Russia said that the Council “has no mandate to discuss the evolving political processes in that country” and that UNAMID’s withdrawal should progress; China similarly called for “non-interference in the internal affairs of states”.
The UK and Germany are co-penholders on the issue; Poland chairs the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.
UN Documents on Darfur
|Security Council Resolution|
|13 July 2018S/RES/2429||This was a resolution, adopted unanimously, extending until 30 June 2019 the mandate of UNAMID. The resolution decided to reduce, over the course of the mandate renewal period, the troop ceiling to 4,050 personnel and authorised the deployment of the necessary police force, not exceeding 2,500 personnel.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|11 December 2018S/PRST/2018/19||This was a presidential statement on the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur.|
|10 April 2019S/2019/305||This was the 90-day report of the Secretary-General on UNAMID.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|17 April 2019S/PV.8513||This was a briefing on UNAMID.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|21 May 2019SC/13817||This was a press statement that condemned the looting of the West Darfur Headquarters of UNAMID.|