Expected Council Action
In May, the Security Council is expected to make a decision regarding the drawdown and exit of the UN/AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). In accordance with resolution 2495 and following the 30 March adoption of resolution 2517, which maintained UNAMID’s current troop and police ceilings until 31 May, the Council is likely to adopt a resolution establishing a follow-on presence to UNAMID. The adoption is expected to take place at the end of May under procedures put in place in March in light of COVID-19 and the Council’s updated working methods.
Key Recent Developments
On 31 October 2019, the Security Council adopted resolution 2495, extending the mandate of UNAMID until 31 October. Notwithstanding that mandate expiry, the resolution set 31 March as the date by which the Council should decide on the mission’s troop and police ceiling and take the necessary steps to establish a follow-on presence to UNAMID. Resolution 2495 also requested the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission to provide the Council with a special report. The report, which was initially due no later than 31 January, was to provide an assessment of the situation on the ground, an update on the peace process, recommendations on the appropriate course of action regarding the drawdown of UNAMID, and options for a follow-on UN presence. In a letter to the Council on 31 December 2019, the Secretary-General asked for a one-month extension from 31 January to 28 February for the submission of the report to allow for further high-level consultations with AU and Sudanese officials. The report was circulated on 12 March.
The report provides updates on political developments in Sudan as well as the peace process. The overall security situation in most parts of Darfur remains unchanged, while “intercommunal tensions… can escalate to a significant level of violence, far beyond the capacity of the Sudanese rule of law institutions to respond”. Security incidents in Khartoum and West Darfur, according to the report, “underscored the fragility of the transition period”. Human rights abuses, including some by uniformed personnel, are still widespread while nearly two million persons remain displaced. The report takes account of the 27 January letter from Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to the Secretary-General, calling for the establishment of a Chapter VI peace support operation in the form of a special political mission, and assesses a second letter from Hamdok, dated 27 February, as “aligned with the strategic objectives outlined” in the special report.
As for options for a follow-on presence, the report sets out four core objectives for UNAMID’s successor: support for the achievement of political benchmarks in the Constitutional Declaration, including the Constitution and elections; implementation of peace agreements in the conflict-affected areas; strengthening human rights and rule of law institutions and scaling-up support for recovery and development to build resilience and mitigate protection risks; and facilitating international support for economic reform with a path to sustainable development. The recommended option for the follow-on presence, the reports notes, is “the establishment of a political and peacebuilding integrated support presence, headquartered in Khartoum, with responsibility for all of the Sudan, taking into account the request expressed by the Sudanese authorities.”
Coupled with COVID-19’s impact on the work of the Council, delays in the Council’s receiving the special report contributed to the postponement of a Council meeting on UNAMID that had initially been scheduled for 18 March. This, in turn, led to the penholders’ determination that a two-month extension of the deadline for deciding on the drawdown and exit of UNAMID and the establishment of a follow-on presence was necessary. Council members supported this approach. On 30 March, the Council adopted resolution 2517, which called for the mission’s troop and police ceilings and its team sites to be maintained and extended until 31 May to allow the Council to decide on “courses of action regarding the responsible drawdown and exit of UNAMID…[and]…adopt a new resolution… to establishing a follow-on presence to UNAMID”. (See our What’s In Blue story of 27 March.)
The delayed meeting was eventually held on 24 April as an open video teleconference (VTC) followed by a closed VTC. It focused on the operations and drawdown of UNAMID and a discussion about the follow-on mission. The impact of COVID–19 on both the mission’s current operations and the timeline for UNAMID’s transition was also raised, with Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix noting that UNAMID’s drawdown would likely be delayed by several months. While all Council members agreed on the need for a drawdown of UNAMID and a successor presence with a Sudan-wide mandate, the meeting also highlighted differences on contentious issues, such as whether military and/or police components should remain in Darfur and what role a successor mission might play on protection of civilians, human rights, security sector reform, and other issues. (See our What’s In Blue story of 27 April.)
On 30 March, the chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1591 (2005) concerning the Sudan transmitted his report covering the period of 12 December 2019 to 25 March 2020 to the president of the Security Council. As the chair was unable to deliver the quarterly briefing to the Council as planned owing to the changes in the Council’s working methods due to COVID-19, he asked that his written report be circulated to the Council. The report notes that the Panel of Experts conducted a visit to Sudan in February in order to gather “important information pertaining to the peace process and the military and financial capabilities of the Darfurian armed groups in Darfur and the region, as well as the regional dynamics and security issues”. The panel reported good cooperation from the Sudanese government and noted that it was able to gain access to previously unauthorised areas. The report also noted that the sanctions committee chair’s planned trip to Sudan in April had been postponed due to COVID-19 precautions.
Key Issues and Options
The Council will need to assess several key issues—including the overall situation in Darfur and the impact of the broader political situation in the country as well as future tasks and mandate—to establish a successor presence to UNAMID. One option would be for the Council’s determinations to be based on the findings and recommendations of the 12 March report. Council members are expected also to take into account the views presented by Prime Minister Hamdok in his two letters to the Council, including an initial request for a special political mission. The role of the AU will also need to be assessed, given UNAMID’s hybrid nature.
The impact that COVID-19 is having, and may continue to have, on Sudan will also be an important issue for the Council to consider in the context of Sudan’s current situation as well as the effect it will have on the future mission. Given that the Secretary-General has suspended troop rotations until 30 June and that Port Sudan and Sudan’s airports remain closed, the timelines for establishing any follow-on mission are likely to be delayed by several months.
The scope and pace of UNAMID’s drawdown, reconfiguration, and eventual exit have been contentious among Council members in the past. More recent negotiations, including on resolution 2495 in October 2019, were relatively smooth, notably because of the 22 October 2019 letter from Hamdok requesting the mission’s extension.
Despite consensus on the need for a follow-on mission to UNAMID, Council members continue to hold divergent positions about the situation in Darfur. Some members, such as co-penholder Germany, have cautioned that any transition has to be informed by the conditions on the ground while others, such as China, assert that the situation in Darfur remains largely stable. Russia has argued that the situation in Darfur is “steadily normalizing” and, as such, the Council “should respect the leadership of Sudan on the question of Darfur [and]… strengthen communication and coordination with the government of the Sudan”. The US has noted that it “supports a follow-on UN mission with a countrywide mandate to continue assistance to the new Sudanese government”.
Council members have also disagreed on the impact of UNAMID’s drawdown in Darfur and some of the core elements of the follow-on mission’s work. Some members, such as co-penholder the UK, have raised concerns about the potential effect police reductions will have on the security and human rights situations in Darfur while others, such as South Africa, have questioned the efficacy of having a small contingent of formed police units in a successor mission. Other issues, such as what role the follow-on mission will have in human rights and security sector reform, are also contentious areas. While there appears to be agreement that a follow-on mission need not be of a hybrid nature, several Council members will be keen to find ways to ensure that the UN and AU work together after UNAMID’s transition.
The UK and Germany are co-penholders on Sudan. Ambassador Sven Jürgenson (Estonia) chairs the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SUDAN (DARFUR)
|Security Council Resolutions|
|30 March 2020S/RES/2517||This resolution was on the drawdown and exit of UNAMID and established a follow-on presence, in accordance with resolution 2495.|
|31 October 2019S/RES/2495||This resolution renewed UNAMID’s mandate until 31 October 2020.|
|12 March 2020S/2020/202||This was a special report of the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission, which was requested in resolution 2495.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|11 February 2020S/PV.8718||This was a meeting to adopt resolution 2508, extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts for one year.|
|31 October 2019S/PV.8654||This was the meeting to adopt resolution 2495.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|30 March 2020S/2020/250||This was a letter from the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1591 (2005) concerning the Sudan addressed to the president of the Security Council containing his report to the Council.|