Expected Council Action
In September, the Security Council will hold a briefing and consultations on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), which was due by 30 August. The chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Harold Adlai Agyeman (Ghana), is expected to provide the quarterly briefing on the committee’s work.
The mandate of UNITAMS expires on 3 December.
Background and Key Recent Developments
Sudan has been grappling with the devastating consequences of fighting that erupted on 15 April between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s military leader and chairperson of the Transitional Sovereign Council, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemeti). The fighting, which was initially centred around Khartoum, has steadily engulfed several parts of the country.
On 9 August, the Security Council held an open briefing to discuss the situation in Sudan at the request of the UK, the penholder on the file. Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations (DPPA-DPO) Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee and Director of OCHA’s Operations and Advocacy Division Edem Wosornu briefed. In her remarks, Pobee noted that clashes between the Sudanese warring parties continued across various parts of the country, including Khartoum, Bahri, Omdurman, and Darfur, with neither side achieving victory nor making any significant gains. She added that eastern Sudan, which has been relatively calm, has witnessed active mobilisation efforts in support of the SAF, which “risks plunging the east into conflict along ethnic lines, further highlighting the fragility of the region”. Wosornu provided an overview of the increasingly dire humanitarian situation in the country and described the recent efforts of the UN to provide humanitarian assistance. She noted that intense fighting and the difficult operating environment are limiting the ability of humanitarian actors to deliver aid. She emphasised the need to establish a platform for direct and regular contact at a senior level with the Sudanese warring parties on humanitarian issues to negotiate access and protect humanitarian operations in the Sudan. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 8 August.)
The situation in Darfur has deteriorated further with the outbreak of inter-communal fighting, with Arab militias supporting the RSF and targeting non-Arab groups. In a 4 August statement, the Troika on Sudan (Norway, the UK, and the US) condemned the ongoing violence in Darfur, especially reports of killings based on ethnicity and widespread sexual violence by the RSF and allied militias. They expressed concern about reports of a military build-up near El Fasher and Nyala. “Those responsible for any atrocities against civilians, especially those including [conflict-related sexual violence] and the targeting of humanitarian relief actors, medical personnel, and other service providers, must be held to account”, the statement added.
In recent weeks, the fighting has intensified in several parts of the country. In a 14 August press release, OCHA expressed concerns about reports of deadly clashes in Nyala, South Darfur. According to a 23 August OCHA Humanitarian Update, these clashes, which took place from 11 to 17 August, displaced approximately 50,000 people, killed at least 60 and injured 250 others.
On 14 August, clashes between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) Al Hilu faction and the SAF were also reported near the Hajr Al-Maak neighbourhood in Kadugli Town, South Kordofan, forcing at least 6,700 people to flee to the town’s western Al Radaif neighbourhood.
In recent months, several regional and international stakeholders have led mediation efforts aimed at resolving the crisis. The members of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Quartet (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Sudan) held their first meeting on 10 July in Addis Ababa. In a communiqué adopted following the meeting, the Quartet expressed concern over the spread of violence beyond Khartoum to other parts of Sudan, particularly Darfur and Kordofan. The members resolved “to request the East Africa Standby Force (EASF) summit to convene in order to consider the possible deployment of the EASF for the protection of civilians and [to] guarantee humanitarian access”. They further emphasised the centrality of IGAD in coordinating the different diplomatic efforts alongside the AU. In an 11 July press release, the Sudanese Foreign Ministry rejected the call for deployment of the EASF and stated that it will consider any such forces being deployed as “aggressor forces”.
On 19 August, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir met Kenyan President William Ruto in Nairobi. According to a 20 August Sudan Tribune article, South Sudanese Minister of Presidential Affairs Barnaba Marial Benjamin said that the situation in Sudan was a central focus of the discussions. He added that “[t]he situation has progressed beyond being solely a humanitarian crisis to now encompassing broader regional dynamics”.
On 13 July, Egypt hosted the “Sudan’s Neighboring States Summit”, bringing together the heads of state and governments of the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya, and South Sudan, with the aim of finding a solution to the ongoing crisis in Sudan. The leaders agreed to establish a ministerial mechanism comprising foreign ministers of Sudan’s neighbouring states to coordinate their efforts to resolve the conflict. The first meeting of the ministerial mechanism was held in N’Djamena on 7 August. The communiqué adopted following the meeting noted that the foreign ministers had developed a three-part plan of action: the achievement of a definitive ceasefire; the organisation of an inclusive inter-Sudanese dialogue; and the management of humanitarian issues.
Sudan’s humanitarian needs are significant and have been evolving rapidly. According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase (IPC) projections, around 20.3 million people, representing more than 42 percent of the country’s population, are expected to experience high levels of acute food insecurity between July and September.
Attacks on humanitarian personnel remain a major impediment to the delivery of humanitarian relief to vulnerable populations. According to OCHA’s 23 August update, 19 aid workers have been killed in Sudan and 26 have been detained since 15 April. Attacks on civilian infrastructure and healthcare facilities also remain an issue of concern. At the time of writing, the World Health Organization (WHO) had verified 53 attacks on healthcare centres, staff, ambulances, and warehouses in Sudan since the conflict began.
In a 25 August statement, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths warned that the ongoing conflict, food insecurity, spread of disease, and displacement threaten to “consume the entire country”. He noted that food stocks are fully depleted in Kadugli, as clashes and road blockages prevent aid workers from reaching people in need. In West Kordofan’s capital, El Fula, humanitarian offices have been ransacked and supplies looted, he added. He further expressed concern that a protracted conflict in Sudan could engulf the entire region into a humanitarian catastrophe.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 15 August, High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk highlighted in a press release that the “disastrous, senseless” war in Sudan has resulted in acts that may amount to war crimes. There are reasonable grounds to believe that the SAF and the RSF have committed serious violations of international law, he said, and noted the impact of the war on civilians, including women and children, as well as humanitarian and health workers. The statement highlighted the dire humanitarian situation, with the displacement of more than four million people due to the war. It further indicated that hundreds of people, including political activists and human rights defenders, have been detained arbitrarily and held incommunicado by both parties to the conflict.
During its 54th session, the Human Rights Council is expected to hold an interactive dialogue on 12 September on the oral update of the High Commissioner on the situation in Sudan.
On 7 August, the Panel of Experts assisting the Sudan Sanctions Committee transmitted its interim report to the Council. It appears that the report described various aspects of the ongoing conflict, including its dynamics, funding, humanitarian impact, recruitment patterns of the warring parties, the proliferation of weapons and violation of the arms embargo, and its regional impact.
On 11 August, the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee held informal consultations during which it received a briefing on the panel’s interim report.
Women, Peace and Security
Following the 25 August Council briefing on the Secretary-General’s 17th biannual strategic-level report on the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) to international peace and security, the members that endorsed the 1 December 2021 Shared Commitments on Women, Peace and Security—Albania, Brazil, Ecuador, France, Gabon, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UK, and the US—delivered a statement on Sudan expressing “grave concern regarding the continued reports of gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence in Sudan’s conflict”. The statement referred to reports of systematic and widespread use of sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, kidnapping and sexual exploitation in Darfur and other areas of Sudan. Recalling UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk’s 15 August remarks on the conflict in Sudan, the statement underscored that “perpetrators must be held accountable”.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for the Security Council is how to stop the fighting in Sudan. A further issue is the situation in Darfur and the levels of intercommunal violence and insecurity across the country. The Council could consider holding an informal interactive dialogue (IID) with key stakeholders, including Sudanese civilian leaders, interested member states and regional and sub-regional organisations to discuss the search for a mediated solution to the crisis. The IID is a closed format that, unlike consultations, allows for the participation of non-UN officials and briefers.
Another issue for the Security Council is the humanitarian crisis and how to ensure continuous and unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid and, at the same time, secure the safety and security of UN officials and other humanitarian actors. Periodic briefings by OCHA could help keep the Council informed of the humanitarian situation on the ground.
Considering the increasingly dire humanitarian situation in Sudan and rising incidents of sexual and gender-based violence, Council members may consider inviting Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten to brief the Council at its next meeting in September.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Most Council members share similar concerns about the political, security, human rights, and humanitarian situations in Sudan. The Council members are also supportive of the Trilateral Mechanism, which is comprised of the AU, IGAD, and UNITAMS.
Since the outset of the conflict in Sudan, the regional bodies have strived to find a resolution to the conflict. It appears that these initiatives have been riddled with complex regional dynamics, limiting their prospects. According to media reports, in a BBC radio interview on 4 June, Malik Agar, the deputy chairman of Sudan’s Sovereign Council, declared that “Sudan is not part of the African Union’s initiative”, noting its suspension from the AU, which occurred following the October 2021 coup. He added that Sudan “cannot even discuss [the AU’s] initiative”. Regarding the IGAD initiative, the Sudanese government issued a statement on 15 June rejecting the sub-regional body’s decision to appoint Kenya to succeed South Sudan in leading the mediation, accusing Kenya of adopting “the positions of the rebel Rapid Support Forces”. The SAF did not participate in the 10 July meeting of the IGAD Quartet, citing its objection to Kenyan President William Ruto’s chairmanship of the Quartet. The statement issued by the Sudanese Foreign Ministry following the meeting said that “failure to respect the positions of Member States will cause the Government of Sudan to reconsider the usefulness of its membership in IGAD”. (For more, see our What’s in Blue stories of 22 June and 8 August.)
It seems that Council members have diverging views on appropriate Council engagement in response to the escalation of violence in Sudan. Apparently, the three African members (Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique, known as the A3), with the support of Russia and China, have argued that adopting a Council product could duplicate messaging and create complications at a delicate time. This also appears to reflect Sudan’s national position: in a 12 May press statement, Sudan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Al-Harith Idriss al-Harith Mohamed, noted that “we do not prefer an involvement of [the] Security Council in terms of any products”. He added that the Council’s engagement on the ongoing situation in Sudan might undermine the AU’s efforts to engage positively with the situation.
Following the Sudanese government’s 8 June decision to declare Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) Volker Perthes persona non grata, Council members hold diverging views about Perthes continuing in this role. During the 9 August Council meeting, while some Council members, including Albania, France, Switzerland, and the US, supported Perthes’ efforts, Russia maintained that Perthes has lost the confidence of the Sudanese people. During the meeting, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (US) said that “the Sudanese government threatened to end the UN Mission in Sudan if the SRSG [Perthes] participated in this briefing”. In a press stakeout following the meeting, Ambassador Al-Harith Idriss al-Harith Mohamed (Sudan) referred to his government’s decision on Perthes and said that the government opposes any “working relationship” with the special representative.
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 Meeting Records|
|9 August 2023S/PV.9394||The meeting records is about the open briefing to discuss the situation in Sudan on 9 August 2023.|
|Security Council Resolutions|
|2 June 2023S/RES/2685||The resolution renewed the mandate of the UNITAMS for six months, until 3 December 2023.|