Expected Council Action
In December, the Security Council will receive a briefing on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), due by 3 December. Consultations are expected to follow the briefing. The mandate of UNITAMS expires on 3 June 2022.
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 Council is also expected to renew the mandate of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), which expires on 15 December. (Abyei is the disputed area straddling the Sudan-South Sudan border).
Key Recent Developments
On 25 October, the Chairperson of the Transitional Sovereign Council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, declared a nationwide state of emergency and the suspension of key provisions of the Constitutional Document. He also announced that
the military would oversee Sudan’s transition until elections, to be held in July 2023. The military detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his wife and placed them under house arrest. Government officials, including ministers and civilian members of the Sovereign Council, were also arrested.
The military’s seizure of power was met with international opprobrium. On 25 October, in a statement made through his spokesperson, UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned “the ongoing military coup d’état in Khartoum and all actions that could jeopardize Sudan’s political transition and stability”. Guterres also called for “the immediate reconstitution of the governing arrangements provided for under the Constitutional Document”.
At a 26 October meeting on Sudan, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) adopted a communiqué that expressed “deep concern over the military takeover in Sudan” and strongly condemned the “seizure of power by the Sudanese military”. The PSC decided to immediately suspend Sudan across all AU activities “until the effective restoration of the civilian-led Transitional Authority”. The US halted $700 million in emergency assistance to Sudan.
On 21 November, Hamdok was reportedly released from house arrest and appeared on television with al-Burhan to announce a new power-sharing agreement, including his own reinstatement as Prime Minister and the release of all political detainees. According to agreement, the parties agreed to “[a]ccelerate the completion of all transitional governance institutions including the Transitional Legislative Council and the Constitutional Court”, and to form “a civilian government of independent national experts (technocrats)”. At the time of writing, several parties had rejected the agreement, including the main opposition alliance, the Forces for Freedom and Change Coalition (FFC). The AU PSC adopted a communiqué on 24 November, taking note of the 21 November agreement and deciding “to promptly dispatch a mission to Sudan to engage with the authorities and other relevant stakeholders with a view to facilitating and supporting the ongoing transition process”.
In the preceding weeks, mass demonstrations opposing the military’s seizure of power took place in the capital, Khartoum, and across the country. In several instances, protesters were met with excessive force, including the use of live ammunition. At the time of writing, security forces had killed at least 39 people, including 15 people reportedly shot dead during protests on 17 November, and had injured hundreds, according to an 18 November statement by High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. Political leaders and journalists were also arrested. The military authorities imposed a nationwide internet shutdown on 25 October. A Sudanese court ordered the internet’s restoration on 9 November. On 17 November, the military imposed a total shutdown of phone and mobile communications throughout the country. On 18 November, the military authorities announced that there would be a gradual restoration of the internet, although the extent to which this had occurred remained unclear at the time of writing.
The military takeover pre-empted the transfer of the Sovereign Council chair from the military to the civilian government in November, which had been agreed in the Constitutional Document. It followed an unsuccessful coup attempt on 21 September by loyalists of ousted President Omar Al Bashir, which Security Council members condemned in a press statement on 22 September. Tensions between and within the military and civilian components of the transitional government had been increasing for several months prior to the military takeover, as noted in the Secretary-General’s report covering 2 May to 20 August. The report also noted “growing popular frustration over the country’s political and economic challenges” and significant humanitarian needs due to, among other things, intercommunal conflict and localised armed clashes in Darfur, South Kordofan, West Kordofan, and Port Sudan. It further referred to the Ethiopian refugee crisis in eastern parts of the country as well as high food prices and rising inflation, which have increased food insecurity.
In November, there was a significant rise in intercommunal clashes in North Darfur and Jebel Moon, West Darfur, resulting in the death of civilians, burning of villages, and the displacement of thousands, along with reports of rape and child abductions. UNITAMS issued a statement on 25 November expressing grave concern over the situation.
On 26 October, Council members convened for closed consultations to discuss the situation in Sudan. Special Representative for Sudan and head of UNITAMS Volker Perthes briefed. (For more, see our What’s In Blue story of 26 October.) In a 28 October press statement, Council members expressed “serious concern about the military takeover” and called on Sudan’s military authorities to restore the civilian-led transitional government. Among other things, Council members urged all parties to refrain from violence and emphasised the importance of “full respect for human rights, including the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression”.
On 11 November, Council members again convened for closed consultations to receive an update from Perthes on the latest developments in Sudan, further details about the mediation efforts underway and UNITAMS’ role in this regard. In a 1 November press conference, Perthes said that multiple mediation efforts were being undertaken in Khartoum by “a host of actors” and that the UN continued to play a good offices role in supporting some of these initiatives, including by providing ideas and coordinating with some of the mediators. Perthes emphasised that UNITAMS was engaging with all Sudanese actors across the political spectrum and with regional and international interlocutors, with the AU being a main partner. (For more, see our What’s In Blue story of 10 November.)
On 15 November, the Council adopted a technical rollover resolution extending the mandate of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) until 15 December. The decision to do so was influenced by the situation in Sudan.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The Human Rights Council (HRC) held a special session on Sudan on 5 November, following a request by the UK, the US, Norway, and Germany (with the support of at least one-third of the HRC’s members). Bachelet briefed, saying that “the whereabouts of most of those arrested remains unknown” and that the “disproportionate and deadly use of force by the Sudan Armed Forces, the Rapid Support Forces, and other security forces…must end immediately”. She also noted that all radio stations and television channels in the country had ceased broadcasting, except for channels controlled by the military authorities. Bachelet added that several offices of civil society organisations had been raided. At the 5 November meeting, the HRC adopted a resolution, without a vote, that “condemns in the strongest possible terms the military takeover” and requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to designate without delay an expert on human rights in Sudan (A/HRC/RES/S-32/1). Council members China and Russia, which are currently on the HRC, disassociated themselves from the consensus on the resolution. On 12 November, Bachelet designated Adama Dieng as an expert on human rights in Sudan, as requested by the HRC.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue is monitoring the evolving situation in Sudan following the agreement between Hamdok and al-Burhan. One option would be to issue another press statement that condemns the killing of protestors by security forces and the communications restrictions in Sudan while welcoming efforts to resolve the current political crisis.
In this regard, Council members will closely follow mediation efforts, including the role played by UNITAMS, and could seek one or more updates from the mission’s leadership on political developments, in addition to the expected briefing on UNITAMS.
Broadly, UNITAMS’ strategic objectives, as set out in resolution 2579, are: (i) assisting the political transition; (ii) supporting the peace processes and the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement (JPA); (iii) assisting peacebuilding, protection of civilians and rule of law, particularly in Darfur and the Two Areas (that is, South Kordofan and Blue Nile); and (iv) supporting the mobilisation of economic and development assistance, and coordination of humanitarian and peacebuilding assistance.
Another issue that Council members will want to follow closely is the security situation in Darfur, particularly in light of the completed drawdown of the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur in June.
Prior to the 25 October seizure of power, Council members welcomed and were strongly supportive of the overall commitments made by the transitional government to peace and the transition to democracy in Sudan. However, members also emphasised the need for the full implementation of the JPA and Constitutional Document in light of limited progress. The dire economic and humanitarian situations have been particularly worrisome to many members.
Following the events of 25 October, it seems that there were some areas of disagreement during the negotiations on the press statement adopted on 28 October. Apparently, the UK and several other members would have preferred stronger language condemning, rather than expressing concern over, the situation. (Council members had previously adopted a press statement on 22 September that “condemned in the strongest terms the attempt on 21 September to disrupt Sudan’s transition by force”.) Members agreed on the term “military takeover” rather than “coup” in the 28 October press statement. Council members such as the UK, Estonia and Norway referred to it as a “coup”, including at media stakeouts on 26 October. Apparently, Russia and the US did not characterise it as a “coup”. The Troika on Sudan (the UK, the US and Norway) also referred to it as a “military takeover”, as did the AU PSC in its communiqué.
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|
|15 November 2021S/RES/2606||This was a technical rollover resolution extending the mandate of UNISFA until 15 December 2021.|
|3 June 2021S/RES/2579||This extended the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) until 3 June 2022.|
|1 September 2021S/2021/766||The report provides updates on UNITMAS and the implementation of the Mission’s mandate.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|14 September 2021S/PV.8857||This was a briefing on UNITAMS.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|28 October 2021SC/14678||This was a press statement in which members of the Security Council expressed serious concern about the military takeover in Sudan on 25 October.|
|22 September 2021SC/14643||This statement condemned the attempt on 21 September to disrupt Sudan’s transition by force.|