Expected Council Action
In October, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) ahead of its expiry on 31 October. Prior to this, the Council will receive a briefing on the special report of the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission, requested in resolution 2479, assessing the situation on the ground and providing recommendations on the drawdown of UNAMID as well as putting forward a joint AU-UN political strategy with options for a follow-on mechanism to UNAMID. 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 17 August, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the opposition alliance, the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), signed an agreement in Khartoum on the establishment of a new civilian-led transitional government and transitional institutions. Brokered with the involvement of the AU and Ethiopia, the agreement creates a joint military and civilian Sovereign Council to govern the country for just over three years, with elections to be held at the end of this period. The 11-member Sovereign Council is composed of five members selected by the TMC, five by the FFC, and one agreed upon by both sides. A military leader will head the council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18 months.
The agreement also provides for a 300-member legislative assembly to serve during the transitional period, with two-thirds of the members selected by the FFC and the rest by parties not members of the alliance. The FFC was also mandated to nominate a transitional prime minister and a cabinet of ministers, apart from the defence and interior ministers, who will be nominated by the military component of the Sovereign Council.
The members of the Sovereign Council were sworn in on 21 August, as was the FFC-nominated prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok. On 6 September, the AU Peace and Security Council issued a communiqué that lifted the suspension of Sudan’s participation in AU activities. On 8 September, an 18-member cabinet was sworn in.
Council members issued a press statement on 21 August welcoming the 17 August agreement as well as “the pledge of the parties to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms…[and] the commitment to create a national independent committee to investigate the violent acts committed on 3 June and other incidents of human rights violations and abuses”. Among other things, Council members “underscored that Sudan’s stability will depend on an inclusive approach to public life and government, and encouraged the full, effective and meaningful participation of women, youth and marginalized and rural communities” and “stressed the need to swiftly resume negotiations towards peaceful solutions to the conflicts in Darfur and South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and encouraged all parties to engage constructively, immediately and without preconditions in these discussions”.
On 26 August, the Council received an oral update on the issue, as requested in resolution 2479, from Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaїl Chergui. Lacroix noted that the security situation in Darfur remains largely unchanged, while intermittent clashes continue in the Jebel Marra area and intercommunal tensions have escalated during the current harvest season. “The remaining conflict drivers and armed groups outside the peace process still pose potential risks to sustainable peacebuilding”, he said. Following the formation of the new cabinet, “we will engage relevant interlocutors on a range of issues, including the drawdown of UNAMID, planning for a transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding, next steps for the Darfur peace process, and post-UNAMID engagement”, he added.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In her opening statement at the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) on 9 September, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet welcomed the signing of the 17 August agreement, “which includes many human rights references, notably the Bill of Rights and its commitment to establish a national investigation committee”. She welcomed “its explicit commitment ‘to facilitate OHCHR’s mission to work in Sudan’” and hoped that discussions would advance “for a fully mandated OHCHR office in the country”. She also emphasised the importance of addressing protection challenges, and supporting civil society and the national human rights institutions in this effort, including in Darfur, as UNAMID withdraws from the area. On 25 September, Bachelet signed an agreement with the government of Sudan to open a UN Human Rights Office in Khartoum and field offices in Darfur, Blue Nile, Southern Kordofan and East Sudan.
On 25 September, the HRC held an interactive dialogue with the independent expert on human rights in Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, and considered his report (A/HRC/42/63). On the situation in Darfur, the report, which covers 28 September 2018 to 30 June, said: “[E]ffective protection of vulnerable populations in Darfur requires urgent attention, especially in light of the planned withdrawal of [UNAMID] by June 2020. Due to security concerns, a substantial part of the population in Darfur require protection, while at least 2 million civilians need humanitarian assistance, with over 25 percent residing in 60 camps and gathering sites for internally displaced persons. Across Darfur, civilians continued to be subjected to killing, assault, abduction, conflict-related sexual violence and arbitrary arrest and detention. Human rights violations and abuses also persisted in localities with no active military operations, including in areas from which UNAMID withdrew in July 2018”. During the period under review, the independent expert was unable to conduct a field visit to Sudan as he did not receive permission from the Sudanese authorities. The HRC also adopted a resolution renewing the mandate of the independent expert.
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 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”. An option would be to continue the drawdown of UNAMID as planned. Another option would be to reconsider the mission’s timeline for withdrawal, given the significant developments in Sudan this year. A related option would be to extend the mandate for a shorter period of time to allow for further progress on the broader political situation.
A related issue is assessing the potential effect of further troop reductions on the security and human rights situations. These assessments will be informed by the findings and recommendations of the special report requested in resolution 2479, which members expect to receive by 10 October, following a 5 September letter requesting a ten-day extension for submission of the report.
A further issue is to assess progress 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 Secretary-General’s 30 May strategic assessment report recommended that the benchmarks and indicators be streamlined to serve as long-term progress indicators, beyond the departure of UNAMID, in three priority areas: developing an updated strategy on the Darfur peace process; strengthening Sudanese rule of law institutions; and long-term support for stabilisation, including durable solutions for internally displaced persons.
In statements following the briefing on 26 August, Council members welcomed the signing of the 17 August agreement as a positive development. The UK highlighted the need for “political support to the peace process, including implementation and monitoring of future peace agreements…human rights monitoring and capacity-building” as well as “humanitarian development support, particularly for Darfur’s almost two million internally displaced persons”. It added, “Such support may be best provided through a continued UN-AU presence in Darfur after UNAMID’s closure”. Germany referred to “huge challenges ahead for the new government in Khartoum regarding the unresolved conflicts in Darfur and the two Areas [South Kordofan and Blue Nile]” and suggested the option of “a special political mission, jointly led by the UN and the AU with a strong focus on peacebuilding and mediation” to follow UNAMID, while emphasising that the “withdrawal of UNAMID must not be rushed but conducted in a responsible and sustainable manner in order to avoid a security vacuum and, most importantly, a possible relapse into conflict”.
Several other members emphasised the need for the responsible exit of the mission. Russia again stressed it would be “against any attempts to change the mission’s exit plan”, adding that the “challenges facing Darfur today are of a peacebuilding, not a peacekeeping, nature.” Members such as Belgium, the Dominican Republic, France and South Africa stressed the need to address the root causes of the conflict in Darfur.
The UK and Germany are co-penholders on the issue; Poland chairs the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON DARFUR
|Security Council Resolution|
|27 June 2019S/RES/2479||This resolution extended the mandate of UNAMID until 31 October 2019.|
|30 May 2019S/2019/445||This was the special report of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and the Secretary-General on the strategic assessment of UNAMID.|
|Security Council Letter|
|5 September 2019S/2019/731||This was a letter from the Secretary-General that requested a ten-day extension for the submission of the special report requested in resolution 2479.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|26 August 2019S/PV.8603||This was a briefing on UNAMID.|
|27 June 2019S/PV.8566||This was the meeting to adopt resolution 2479.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|21 August 2019SC/13927||The Council members issued a press statement welcoming the 17 August agreement on the establishment of a new civilian-led transitional government and transitional institutions in Sudan.|