Expected Council Action
In June, the Security Council is due to renew the mandate of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) before its expiration on 3 June in accordance with resolution 2524. The Council will receive the semi-annual briefing of the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, related to the Court’s work on Darfur. The chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Sven Jürgenson (Estonia), is expected to provide the quarterly briefing on the committee’s work.
Key Recent Developments
There has been limited progress in advancing key elements of the political transition and the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement (JPA), according to the Secretary-General’s most recent 90-day report. Following several postponements, state governors have yet to be appointed (with the exception of the governor of Darfur, appointed on 29 April) and the Transitional Legislative Council has not yet been formed. Further critical outstanding tasks under the JPA include those involving security arrangements and the establishment of ceasefire and security committees. Delays in establishing a joint protection force and the absence of integrated, united security forces continue to affect stability and the protection of civilians. Efforts to engage with the non-signatories of the JPA are ongoing. On 28 March, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the commander of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North Abdelaziz al-Hilu faction (SPLM-N Al-Hilu) signed a declaration of principles affirming their engagement in negotiations in Juba, which commenced on 26 May.
Regarding the security situation, intercommunal clashes remain a major source of insecurity in Sudan, especially in Darfur, where 170 people were killed and over 230 injured during the reporting period, as noted in the Secretary-General’s report. Following the outbreak of violence in El Geneina in early April, concerns were raised over the transitional government’s inaction to restore order and immediately deploy protection forces in Darfur as stipulated in the National Plan for Civilian Protection, transmitted to the Council in May 2020. The Secretary-General’s report calls on the transitional government “to do more to effectively protect its civilians”. The situation of more than 2.5 million internally displaced persons and the economic and humanitarian situations remain significant challenges.
UNITAMS has reached its initial operational capacity, with 12 national staff and 62 international staff as of 1 May. According to the Secretary-General’s report, the mission plans to support the Sudanese Police Force, in line with the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy. In accordance with the mission’s electoral assistance mandate and following the national authorities’ request for support, an electoral needs assessment mission visited Sudan from 5 to 23 April and is expected to submit its recommendations to Sudanese partners. The Secretary-General’s report contains 20 benchmarks with 107 corresponding indicators designed to measure progress in the delivery of nine strategic priorities across UNITAMS’ mandate. (The request for benchmarks was made in resolution 2524.) According to the report, UNITAMS will work with the UN country team and the transitional government to establish a baseline and targets for the benchmarks in the second quarter of 2021 to begin tracking progress, with potential adjustments to some indicators. The mission will also seek to establish a robust monitoring and data collection mechanism on progress against the benchmarks.
The AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) conducted a three-day mission to Sudan from 29 March to 1 April. In a 13 April communiqué, the PSC took note, among other things, of the request by the transitional government for support in the organisation of a constitutional conference and elections. It also “expresse[d] concern over the security challenges exacerbated by the withdrawal of UNAMID troops in Darfur and urge[d] the transitional government of Sudan to prioritize protection of civilians”.
Regarding the regional situation, tensions have escalated over the eastern border in the Fashaqah area between Sudan and Ethiopia, resulting in sporadic clashes. Tensions also continue over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
On 20 May, the Council received a briefing on UNITAMS from Special Representative for Sudan and head of UNITAMS Volker Perthes. He expressed concern over delays in the political transition, intercommunal conflict and violence against women. He told the Council that UNITAMS is ready to assist the transitional government on security sector reforms and that the mission’s support for the National Plan for Civilian Protection focuses on prevention, protection and creating an enabling protective environment, including strengthening the judiciary. UNITAMS has deployed three teams to Darfur to support the Sudanese police in community policing, investigation and addressing gender-based violence, he said.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue is assessing the role of UNITAMS across the four strategic objectives of the mission as contained in resolution 2524, namely assisting Sudan’s political transition; supporting peace processes and implementing 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. A related issue for the Council is to consider what changes to the mandate, if any, are necessary ahead of its expiration on 3 June. In doing so, Council members will be informed by the 90-day report of the Secretary-General.
A likely option is for the Council to renew the mandate of UNITAMS for one year, maintaining the four strategic objectives of the mission while making some adjustments. In doing so, Council members might consider language to further prioritise the mandated tasks within each of the four areas. In particular, this language could include highlighting support for the implementation of the JPA and the transitional government’s National Plan for Civilian Protection as well as advisory and capacity-building support for security authorities. Another option is to incorporate the benchmarks and indicators contained in the Secretary-General’s report.
Another key issue that Council members will follow closely is the situation in Darfur, particularly in light of the drawdown and exit of UNAMID currently underway, as set out in resolution 2559.
Despite the unanimous adoption of resolution 2524 in June 2020 establishing UNITAMS, there were clear disagreements during negotiations, including over the provision of technical assistance in the areas of rule of law and security sector reform and reporting on the human rights situation. There were also strong differences about the mission’s potential tasks relating to the protection of civilians. While several members believed that the mission 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, as did the transitional government. (For more, see our What’s In Blue story of 3 June 2020.)
At the 20 May briefing, several Council members referred to the upcoming mandate renewal of UNITAMS. Russia called on Sudan to provide comments on desired goals for the mission, and China expressed the hope that the mission will give due priority to the needs and wishes of the host country. The US emphasised its support for prioritising key tasks in the mission’s mandate, and Norway highlighted clarifying the role ahead for the mission. Members such as Estonia, Ireland and Mexico welcomed the benchmarks presented in the Secretary-General’s report as useful in assessing the progress of the mission.
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.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SUDAN
|Security Council Resolutions|
|3 June 2020S/RES/2524||This established the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).|
|17 May 2021S/2021/470||This was the 90-day report on UNITAMS.|