March 2021 Monthly Forecast

Posted 26 February 2021
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Expected Council Action  

In MarchthSecurity Council is expected to receive a briefing on the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). The briefing will cover the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on UNITAMS, which includes information about the drawdown and withdrawal of the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) as an annex, requested in resolutions 2524 and 2559. The chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Sven Jürgenson (Estonia), is expected to provide the quarterly briefing on the committee’s work.  

The mandate of UNITAMS expires on 3 June in accordance with resolution 2524.  

Key Recent Developments 

Sudan continues to make progress in its democratic transition since the peace agreement was signed on 3 October 2020 by the transitional government of Sudan, the Sudan Revolutionary Front, and the Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni MinawiOn 8 February, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok announced the formation of the new government, including the Sovereign Council and CabinetHamdok named 20 new ministers, including the appointments of Darfuri rebel leader Gibril Ibrahim as finance minister and Mariam Sadiq al-Mahdi, a leader of the Umma Party, as foreign minister. At the time of writing, the Transitional Legislative Council was expected to be constituted by 25 February.  

In spite of the gains of recent months, political and security challenges persistIn a 21 February statement, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu reiterated its rejection of the peace agreement, which has also been rejected by the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid. Following Hamdok’s announcement of the formation of a new government, protests took place in several cities, including in Darfur, over the dire economic conditions in the country  

The security situation in parts of Darfur remains precarious, with inter-communal violence, human rights violations and abuses, violations of international humanitarian law and large-scale displacement. Notwithstanding these challenges, UNAMID continues with its drawdown and exit in accordance with resolution 2559, which requested the Secretary-General to complete the withdrawal of all uniformed and civilian UNAMID personnel by 30 June. On 21 January, UNAMID handed over its team site in Saraf Omra, North Darfur, to the government of Sudan, and on 3 February, its team site in Kutum Locality, North Darfur. On 15 February, the team site in Khor Abeche Locality, South Darfur, was also handed over. More UNAMID team sites are scheduled for closure and handover to the government of Sudan in the coming months. In February, following its handover in Januarythe Saraf Omrah site was lootedThe Secretary-General condemned the looting and called on the Sudanese authorities to investigate the incident and ensure sufficient security presences for subsequent handovers so that facilities are preserved for civilian use.  

Volker Perthes (Germany), appointed Special Representative for Sudan and head of UNITAMS on 7 January, arrived in Khartoum on 2 February. Perthes met with Hamdok on 14 February to discuss the role of UNITAMS. On 18 February, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Khardiata Lo N’Diaye (Senegal) as his new Deputy Special Representative for Sudan and the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in the country.  

On 11 February, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2562 extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee until 12 March 2022The resolution requests the Secretariat to produce a report by the end of July with recommendations for clear and well-identified key benchmarks that could guide the Council in reviewing the sanctions measures on Darfur. It expresses the Council’s intention to establish those benchmarks by 15 September.  

On 8 December 2020, the Council received a briefing on UNITAMS and UNAMID from Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support Atul Khare.   

Sanctions-Related Developments 

On 11 January, the Sudan Sanctions Committee considered the final report of the Panel of Experts. The report noted that the humanitarian situation in Darfur has not improved, the situation of internally displaced persons remains unchanged, and sexual and gender-based violence is endemic. The panel found that the government continued to transfer arms and other military materiel into Darfur in violation of the arms embargo, without submitting any exemption requests or notifications. Implementation of the travel ban and asset freeze remained a challenge because of the government’s and the region’s lack of cooperation, the report said. (There are four individuals listed under the sanctions regime, all designated in 2006.) The report also said that most of the Darfuri rebel groups have strengthened their presence in Libya, where they participated heavily in major military operations of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces militia (also known as the Libyan National Army).

In a 25 February press release, the Committee urged signatories of the peace agreement to stop recruiting fighters; Darfuri non-signatory groups to engage in peace talks with the government as soon as possible; and the withdrawal of “forces from foreign countries”. The Committee said it would consider listing those individuals or entities if they fail to do so (SC/14449).

Women, Peace and Security  

Sexual and gender-based violence continued to be endemic and unaddressed in Darfur, according to the final report of the Panel of Experts. The panel detailed such incidents, which were perpetrated daily, especially against women and girls. The majority of cases of conflict-related sexual violence occurred in Central Darfur. According to the report, the Sudanese government acknowledged that addressing existing protection concerns in Darfur was a challenge. Survivors identified the perpetrators as members of the Sudanese security forces, armed male members of nomadic communitiesand fighters of the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid. In some cases, extreme violence was used against victims, leading to their death. The panel reported that there were instances in which members of warring Sudanese factions “punished” communities if they were perceived as being on the side of the opposite faction by raping female members of those communities, including spouses of rival commanders. 

The panel said that the absence of justice for sexual and gender-based violence exacerbated such crimes, “as the majority of cases were not adequately investigated, if at all”. The Sudanese police said that they often lacked the resources and the capacity to follow up on cases that were reported to them. According to information from the director of the Unit for Combating Violence Against Women and Children under the Ministry of Labour and Social Development, some progress was made. Standard operating procedures for the response to and prevention of gender-based violence were endorsed, and the government signed a framework for cooperation with the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict in March 2020. The director also outlined plans for training security personnel and proposed amendments to laws that would enable access to justice for survivors and victims of sexual and gender-based violence. The panel welcomed the introduction of these measures for protection, prevention and response. It also said that the new Sudanese government showed “growing awareness and acknowledgement” of the problem, which the panel considered progress.

Key Issues and Options 

A key issue is assessing the role of UNITAMS across the four strategic objectives for the mission contained in resolution 2524, namely: assisting Sudan’s political transition; supporting peace processes and implementation of future peace agreements; assisting peacebuilding, civilian protection and rule of law in Darfur and the Two Areas (that is, South Kordofan and Blue Nile); and supporting the mobilisation of economic and development assistance and coordination of humanitarian assistance. Council members could consider holding an informal interactive dialogue with Sudanese officials to discuss how the Council and UNITAMS could best support implementation of the peace agreement and the government’s National Plan for Civilian Protection.    

Another key issue that Council members will want to follow closely is the security situation in Darfur, particularly in light of the drawdown and exit of UNAMID currently underway, as set out in resolution 2559. The transition from UNAMID to UNITAMS is a priority for the Council. Council members may be particularly interested in receiving updates on when UNITAMS can be expected to reach full operational capacity.   

Council Dynamics 

Council members welcome recent political progress in Sudan, including the formation of the new cabinet. However, members remain concerned over the groups that have yet to join the peace process. The dire economic and humanitarian situations are also particularly worrisome to many members.  Divisions persist in assessing the situation in Darfur. Several members remain concerned that the security situation in some regions of Darfur is still precarious and underscore the need to avoid a relapse into conflict. While a number of these members believed that UNITAMS should have a mandate to protect civilians, others (Russia, China and the three African members among them) opposed the inclusion of such tasks in the mandate during negotiations in June 2020.   

An overarching divergence of views in the Council exists regarding the utility of the Sudan sanctions regime, as was seen during negotiations on resolution 2562 in February. Those members eager to see the Council ease the sanctions measures tend to emphasise positive developments in the country over the past year. Other Council members appear more cautious about the removal of sanctions, citing the precarious situation in Darfur and the findings in the final report of the Panel of Experts. (See our What’s In Blue story of 10 February 2021.)  

The UK is the penholder on Sudan, and the US is the penholder on Sudan sanctions. Ambassador Sven Jürgenson (Estonia) chairs the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.   

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Security Council Resolutions
11 February 2021S/RES/2562 This extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee until 12 March 2022.
22 December 2020S/RES/2559 This was on the expiration of the mandate of UNAMID on 31 December 2020.
3 June 2020S/RES/2524 This established the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).
Secretary-General’s Report
1 December 2020S/2020/1155 This was the 90-day report on UNITAMS and UNAMID.
Security Council Letters
30 December 2020S/2021/11 This was a letter that announced the appointment of Volker Perthes (Germany) as Special Representative for the Sudan and head of UNITAMS.
8 December 2020S/2020/1183 This was a record of the briefing on 8 December on UNITAMS and UNAMID.
11 December 2020S/2020/1235 This was a record of the quarterly briefing on 11 December by the Chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.
Sanctions Committee Documents
13 January 2021S/2021/40 This letter transmitted the final report of the Panel of Experts, which was considered by the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.