Expected Council Action
In May, 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). Consultations are expected to follow the briefing. The mandate of UNITAMS expires on 3 June 2022.
Key Recent Developments
Sudan continues to face “significant setbacks and challenges” following the military coup d’état of 25 October 2021, as noted in the Secretary-General’s most recent report, dated 2 March. Demonstrations and mass protests against the coup, and increasingly also the economic situation, have continued, with security forces often responding with excessive force, including live ammunition. “The ensuing political crisis has seriously set back the transition in the Sudan, rolled back key achievements and jeopardized the country’s economic recovery, financial viability and much-needed relief assistance,” the report said. It also noted that the security situation continued to deteriorate throughout the country due to armed conflict; intercommunal clashes; human rights violations, including conflict-related sexual violence; and criminal activity, and that humanitarian needs have increased since last year, with over 14.3 million people—one in three people in the country—expected to require humanitarian assistance this year.
On 28 February, UNITAMS published a summary report on its consultations for a political process in Sudan, which were launched by the mission on 8 January. According to the report, for over five weeks, UNITAMS conducted bilateral consultations with a range of stakeholders, including over 110 meetings with over 800 participants, and analysed over 80 written proposals, the report said. Briefing the Council on 28 March, Special Representative for Sudan and head of UNITAMS Volker Perthes outlined four priorities that had emerged from these consultations: “first, interim constitutional arrangements, including the executive, legislative and judicial organs of the transitions, as well as their structure and functions; secondly, the criteria and mechanisms to appoint a Prime Minister and a cabinet; thirdly, a roadmap for the transitional period and a Government programme focusing on an achievable set of priority areas; including, fourthly, the type, timing and necessary conditions for elections at the end of that period”. He added that UNITAMS, the AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have been working together to agree on a common approach. Perthes told the Council that upcoming talks amongst stakeholders will have “a narrow and clearly defined aim: to return to constitutional order and the transition, with an empowered civilian led Government”. He emphasised that “unless the current trajectory is corrected, the country will head towards an economic and security collapse and significant humanitarian suffering”.
In a 22 March letter, Sudan provided the Council with “observations, comments and reactions” to the Secretary-General’s 2 March report, including that “although UNITAMS was deployed at the request of the Government of Sudan, the methodology used in its report to collect and present information does not reflect a spirit of cooperation and transparency”.
On 1 April, Chairperson of the Sovereign Council and Commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan reportedly threatened to expel Perthes, saying he was “overstepping the mandate of the UN mission” and “interfering in Sudanese affairs.” This criticism seemed to be in response to Perthes’ briefing to the Council on 28 March. The Sudanese Foreign Ministry announced on 21 April that the Acting Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Nadir Youssif al-Tayeb, was visiting the UN in New York to hand over a document that included the Sudanese government’s demands of UNITAMS.
On 27 April, Security Council members discussed the situation in Sudan under “any other business”. The meeting was requested by the UK (the penholder on Sudan), together with Albania, France, Ireland, Norway, and the US, in response to the escalation of violence reported in West Darfur with Perthes briefing. At the time of writing, according to media reports at least 159 people were killed in Kerenik, West Darfur, on 22 and 24 April. (For more, see our What’s In Blue story of 26 April.)
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 7 March, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an enhanced interactive dialogue on High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s oral update on the human rights situation in Sudan since the military takeover. In her statement, the High Commissioner expressed concern over “the sharp reversal of human rights achievements following the military coup”, noting that “a wide range of human rights violations have been documented since the coup, in a context of total impunity”. Credible medical sources reported that as at 3 March, 85 people, including one woman and 11 children, have been killed because of disproportionate use of force by security forces during protests, she said. The High Commissioner noted that the Joint Human Rights Office reported that more than 1,000 people were arrested for opposing the coup and its consequences between 25 October 2021 and 3 March. Bachelet also said that, since the end of February, the UN had verified more than 200 violations against children, including the arrest and detention of children who participated in protests. She expressed shock over 25 allegations of rape, gang rape and other forms of sexual violence against women, girls and men since 25 October 2021. The Joint Human Rights Office recorded at least 50 incidents of violations against journalists and media institutions since the coup, she said, adding that trade unionists, lawyers, female activists, and pro-democracy activists have all been targeted.
In a 27 April statement, Bachelet called on the Sudanese authorities to protect the population of West Darfur and take urgent steps to prevent further outbreaks of violence after over a hundred people were killed in attacks by armed assailants between 22 and 24 April.
On 13 March, the Secretary-General informed the Council of the appointment of five experts to the Panel of Experts assisting the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee until 12 March 2023.
On 28 March, the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Harold Adlai Agyeman (Ghana), provided the quarterly briefing on the committee’s work. Sudan made a statement at the briefing, including reference to resolution 2620, in which the Council expressed the intention to consider establishing by 31 August clear, well-identified, and realistic key benchmarks for reviewing the sanctions regime.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue is monitoring the political situation in Sudan. In this regard, Council members will closely follow mediation efforts, including the role played by UNITAMS. Another key issue is assessing the role of UNITAMS across the four strategic objectives for the mission contained in resolution 2579, namely assisting Sudan’s political transition; supporting the peace processes and implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement and future peace agreements; assisting peacebuilding, civilian protection and rule of law, in particular 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 and peacebuilding assistance.
A related issue for the Council is to consider what changes to the mission’s mandate, if any, are necessary ahead of its expiration on 3 June. In doing so, Council members’ thinking will be informed by the findings and recommendations of the upcoming 90-day report of the Secretary-General, expected in mid-May.
Another key issue is the crackdown on protesters since 25 October 2021. Some Council members may seek to emphasise the need to conduct timely investigations into casualties during the demonstrations and the importance of accountability for this violence.
A further issue is the situation in Darfur, including following the escalation of violence in West Darfur. In the briefing on 28 March, Perthes told the Council that “crime and lawlessness are on the rise and intercommunal conflict in Darfur has intensified”.
Most Council members share similar concerns over the situation in Sudan. At the briefing on 28 March, the UK (penholder on Sudan) said that the “suffering of ordinary Sudanese people has increased” since the October 2021 coup, including “sexual violence; human rights abuses; economic hardship; and humanitarian crises.” Many members raised concerns over the killing of protesters, delays in implementing the Juba Peace Agreement, increased violence in Darfur, and the dire economic and humanitarian situations. China, in its statement, appeared to be more positive about the situation in the country, saying that “Sudan’s political transition continues to move in the right direction [and] the international community should remain patient”.
Several members emphasised different aspects of the current mandate of UNITAMS. China called on UNITAMS to “actively mobilize economic and development assistance…in accordance with its mandate”. France, the UK and the US highlighted that the mission is mandated to monitor and report on the situation in the Sudan, including the human rights situation. In a joint statement, the three African members—Gabon, Ghana and Kenya (the A3)—encouraged UNITAMS to “adequately utilize the necessary confidence-building measures in the implementation of its mandate” and noted that they “remain engaged with the penholder” ahead of the mission’s mandate renewal. Norway noted that UNITAMS “plays an important supporting role in preventing conflict and protecting civilians, in line with its mandate”.
China, the A3, India, Russia, and the UK referred to Sudan’s 22 March letter to the Council raising concerns with the Secretary-General’s March report on UNITAMS. Russia expressed its support for the concerns and assessments contained in Sudan’s letter.
Some members referred to the impact of the situation in Ukraine in their statements. The A3, Albania, France, and Ireland noted its effect on the rise in food and fuel prices. Russia said that “a potential food crisis will be caused not by the Russian special military operation in Ukraine but by the illegal unilateral sanctions imposed by the West”.
The UK is the penholder on Sudan, and the US is the penholder on Sudan sanctions. Ambassador Harold Adlai Agyeman (Ghana) chairs the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SUDAN
|Security Council Resolution|
|3 June 2021S/RES/2579||This extended the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) until 3 June 2022.|
|2 March 2022S/2022/172||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in the Sudan (UNITAMS).|
|Security Council Letter|
|22 March 2022S/2022/256||This was from Sudan, containing observations, comments and reactions to the Secretary-General’s 2 March report on UNITAMS.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|28 March 2022S/PV.9005||This was the quarterly briefing on the work of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.|
|28 March 2022S/PV.9006||This was a briefing on the situation in Sudan and the work of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).|