Expected Council Action
In July, the Security Council will receive an oral briefing on the drawdown and closure of the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), as requested in resolution 2559.
Background and Key Recent Developments
On 22 December 2020, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2559 on the exit of UNAMID. The resolution decided to terminate the mandate of UNAMID as of 31 December 2020 and requested the Secretary-General to complete the withdrawal of all uniformed and civilian UNAMID personnel by 30 June, other than those required for the mission’s liquidation. It also requested the Secretary-General to provide the Security Council with an assessment of lessons learned from the experience of UNAMID no later than 31 October. Ahead of the adoption of resolution 2559, the government of Sudan made clear its position that the mandate of UNAMID should terminate on 31 December 2020 and asserted that it would assume full responsibility for the protection of civilians, in line with its National Plan for Civilian Protection transmitted to the Council on 21 May. Additionally, the 13 November 2020 joint AU/UN special report on UNAMID, requested in resolution 2525, recommended that the mandate of UNAMID terminate on 31 December 2020.
The latest Secretary-General’s report on the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), dated 17 May, included information in an annex about the drawdown and withdrawal of UNAMID, as requested in resolutions 2524 and 2559. The report noted that UNAMID remained on schedule for the closure of its 14 team sites and will enter its liquidation phase on 1 July, which is expected to be completed within 12 months. It provided details on the liquidation procedure, including that such activities will be conducted from the El Fasher logistics hub, with the mission maintaining a presence in Khartoum within the UNITAMS complex to liaise with government officials on operational matters and in Port Sudan for export logistical operations.
The security situation in parts of Darfur remains precarious, with intercommunal violence, human rights violations and abuses, violations of international humanitarian law, and large-scale displacement. Intercommunal clashes in El Geneina, West Darfur, in January resulted in 162 people being killed, 300 injured and the displacement of over 100,000 people. In early April, violent clashes occurred again in El Geneina, resulting in 144 people being killed, 232 injured and an estimated 65,000 newly displaced. The Secretary-General’s report noted how UNAMID was able to assist following these clashes, adding “it is apparent that with the uniformed personnel repatriations and closure of team sites scheduled in the near term, the Operation will very soon no longer be in a position to offer such support”.
The Secretary-General’s report referred to incidents of looting of former UNAMID sites. It also noted the conclusion of the framework agreement on the civilian end-use of team sites and assets. In most cases, the Sudanese government has committed to ensuring that facilities and assets will be used for social and community services, the report says. It added that the mission is in the process of finalising the establishment of a guard unit consisting of 363 formed police unit personnel, as authorised in resolution 2559, to protect UNAMID’s personnel, facilities and assets. According to the report, UNAMID has handed over to other partners residual activities that it had initiated in 2020 but could not complete prior to the end of its mandate, including core programmatic activities in the areas of rule of law, community policing, gender-based violence, and community stabilization.
On 20 May, the Council received a briefing on UNITAMS from Special Representative for Sudan and head of UNITAMS Volker Perthes. In relation to the recent intercommunal clashes in Darfur, he said that “while armed movements have named representatives to the ceasefire committees and identified personnel for joint security forces, deployments have yet to commence”. He added that “without the rapid establishment of such forces and the implementation of Sudan’s National Plan for Civilian Protection, incidents similar to the recent violence in El Geneina may occur”.
Negotiations on resolution 2525, which was adopted on 3 June 2020 and extended the mandate of UNAMID for the final time until 31 December 2020, were contentious. The initial draft circulated by the penholders would have extended the mandate of UNAMID for a longer period, until 31 May. (For more, see our What’s In Blue story of 3 June 2020.)
Although resolution 2559 on the termination of UNAMID’s mandate was adopted unanimously in December 2020, the penholders (then the UK and Germany) would have preferred to pursue a substantively different outcome. They had apparently considered proposing an extension of UNAMID’s mandate until June but with the termination of its Chapter VII elements at the end of 2020. This approach was driven by several concerns, including that UNAMID-initiated programmatic activities would not be completed by the end of 2020 and that UNITAMS would not yet be fully operational. However, it appears that some permanent members and the three African members, as well as the Sudanese government, were not supportive of this approach. (For more, see our What’s In Blue story of 21 December 2020.)
In its explanation of vote on resolution 2559, the UK said: “[W]e do not believe that it should set a precedent for future peacekeeping withdrawals. The UK hopes, where possible, the Council—and the UN—can return to the former best practice of providing peacekeeping missions with mandates until the completion of their withdrawals as a means to ensuring safe and sustainable transitions from peacekeeping to peacebuilding”.
Divisions persist in assessing the situation in Darfur. Several members remain concerned that the security situation in some regions 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.
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 Resolution|
|22 December 2020S/RES/2559||This was on the expiration of the mandate of UNAMID on 31 December 2020.|
|17 May 2021S/2021/470||This was the 90-day report on UNITAMS.|