Expected Council Action
In November, 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 Council members expect to receive by 9 November.
The mandate of UNITAMS expires on 3 December.
Key Recent Developments
Sudan continues to grapple with the dire political, security and humanitarian consequences of the conflict 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.
Since the outset of the conflict in Sudan, several regional and international stakeholders have initiated mediation efforts aimed at resolving the crisis, but these efforts have not yet achieved any breakthrough. On 16 October, a joint delegation of the AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) met with Sudanese civilian political actors in Cairo, Egypt. The following day, the delegation met with representatives of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), a Sudanese political coalition. The discussions reportedly focused on initiating a political process aimed at ending the ongoing conflict and establishing new constitutional arrangements to reinstate civilian governance. In a statement released following the meeting, the FFC emphasised that the political process should address the root causes of the war and develop lasting solutions to prevent the recurrence of armed conflict in Sudan.
From 23 to 26 October, a wide range of Sudanese stakeholders, including civilian political actors, the FFC, former Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok, civil society groups, and resistance committees, met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The consultations aimed at organising a common civilian front against the war and outlining a shared political vision. According to media reports, the meeting concluded with an agreement to establish a leadership body, titled “Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces”, headed by Hamdok, which will be responsible to “carry out oversight and supervisory tasks, and follow up on the preparation for the founding conference”. This conference is expected to bring together a larger gathering of Sudanese society with more diverse representation, in ensuing months, to address the political, humanitarian, and economic consequences of the ongoing conflict, among other things.
In response to the escalating violence in and around Nyala and Omdurman, the US State Department noted in an 18 October press statement that the US was aware of reports that the RSF may have encircled Nyala in preparation for an assault, potentially making it impossible for civilians to flee to safety. The statement expressed concern about reports that the RSF was shelling and blocking access into the Hasahisa Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in central Darfur. It called on the RSF to immediately cease shelling civilian neighbourhoods and to protect civilians in Nyala, Omdurman, and throughout Sudan. The statement further called on the warring parties to abide by their commitments under the 11 May “Declaration of Principles to Protect the Civilians of Sudan”, signed in Jeddah with the facilitation of Saudi Arabia and the US.
Despite several calls for a ceasefire from regional stakeholders and the broader international community, the humanitarian crisis in Sudan continues to deepen. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths issued a statement on 15 October, stating that 9,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict and that 25 million people remain in need of aid in Sudan. At least 45 aid workers have been killed or detained, he added. Griffiths called on the warring parties to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law and recommit to dialogue at the highest levels to end the conflict.
Sudan’s humanitarian needs are significant and have been evolving rapidly. According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase (IPC) projections, around 15 million people, representing approximately 31 percent of the country’s population, are expected to experience high levels of acute food insecurity between October and February 2024, which is reportedly the highest recorded figure to coincide with Sudan’s harvest season.
An outbreak of cholera has exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation. According to a 19 October OCHA situation report, at least 1,457 suspected cases, including 64 deaths, have been reported from Gedaref, South Kordofan, and Khartoum states as at 26 October. In addition, other diseases such as measles, malaria, and dengue are also having an adverse impact on the population. A 25 October OCHA press release said that 70 percent of hospitals in conflict-affected states are not functional, while facilities in states not affected by the conflict have been overwhelmed by an influx of people displaced by the fighting.
According to UNHCR data, approximately 4.6 million people have been displaced internally across Sudan’s 18 states since the conflict began. At the same time, more than 1.1 million people have sought refuge in Sudan’s neighbouring countries, including the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. In recent months, securing funding for the country’s myriad new and ongoing humanitarian challenges has continued to be difficult. At the time of writing, the humanitarian response plan for 2023 ($2.57 billion) was only 33.6 percent funded.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In a 16 October statement, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Siobhán Mullally expressed concern about the increased risk of recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups since the onset of conflict in Sudan.
On 11 October, during its 54th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted a resolution establishing an independent international fact-finding mission for Sudan, comprising three members, with a mandate to investigate and establish the facts, circumstances and root causes of all alleged violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including those committed against refugees, and related crimes in the context of the conflict that started on 15 April. The mission is further mandated to collect, consolidate and analyse evidence of such violations and abuses and make recommendations, in particular on accountability measures. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 19 in favour, 16 against and 12 abstentions. Among Security Council members, the P3 (France, the UK and the US) voted in favour of the HRC resolution, while China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) voted against, and Gabon abstained.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for Council members is the future of UNITAMS. The mission has found it increasingly difficult to operate and carry out its mandate in the current security environment. According to the Secretary-General’s 31 August report, the mission has established a temporary office in Nairobi, as a result of the continued fighting in Sudan and the security risks in Khartoum and other mission locations. Former Special Representative and head of UNITAMS Volker Perthes resigned in September amidst deteriorating relations between Sudan and UNITAMS, and the Secretary-General has yet to appoint his successor. The mission’s presence in Sudan is currently led by Deputy Special Representative for Sudan and UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Clementine Nkweta-Salami, who is based in Port Sudan and is supported by a limited number of personnel.
Some Council members may support a technical rollover of the mission and possibly request the Secretary-General to present recommendations on the necessary conditions for UNITAMS to continue operating and deliver on its mandated tasks.
Against the backdrop of strained relations between Sudan and the mission, Sudan may push the Council to terminate its mandate and request the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Envoy. Some Council members are likely to support this view.
Also a key issue for the Security Council is how to stop the fighting in Sudan, including the high levels of intercommunal violence and insecurity in Darfur and other parts of the country. Council members could hold a private meeting with the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) and member states with influence over the warring parties in Sudan to discuss the search for a mediated solution to the crisis. (A private meeting is a closed, formal meeting format; unlike closed consultations, non-Council member states are allowed to participate in this format.)
In the upcoming Council meeting on the situation in Sudan, several Council members, including the P3 (France, the UK, and the US) and like-minded members, may welcome the establishment of the independent international fact-finding mission for Sudan.
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.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Soon after the conflict broke out in April, Council discussions on Sudan became polarised over the Council’s engagement in response to the escalating violence. Following the Sudanese government’s 8 June decision to declare Volker Perthes persona non grata, differences among Council members widened, particularly in regard to the role of UNITAMS. While the P3 (France, the UK, and the US) and like-minded members supported Perthes’ efforts, Russia maintained that Perthes had lost the confidence of the Sudanese people.
In an 8 September letter to the Security Council, Sudan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Al-Harith Idriss al-Harith Mohamed, said that Sudan would distance itself and not take part in the 13 September Council meeting if Perthes briefed. The letter added that “[a]s Sudan considers [Perthes’] participation in the meeting as a deliberate provocation and an insult to its sovereignty, Sudan would review its position regarding UNITAMS and would regret that it is the only last resort option left to redress the unprecedented and unfair situation which is prevalent at present”.
During the Council’s 13 September briefing, China and Russia supported the position of the Sudanese government. In its remarks, China said that the Council “should fully take into account the views of Sudan, determine the course of cooperation between the [UN] and Sudan vis-à-vis the country’s concerns and needs and help it to rebuild peace and stability”. At the same time, several other Council members, including Albania, France, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, the UAE, and the US, expressed support for the work of UNITAMS. In its remarks, France said that “UNITAMS has a role to play in strengthening all diplomatic efforts, as well as those of civil society, and in continuing to determine the facts when human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law are observed”.
The upcoming negotiations on UNITAMS are expected to be difficult. During the mission’s most recent mandate renewal negotiations in June, the UK (the penholder on the Sudan file) sought to add language reflecting recent developments in Sudan and calling on the parties to cease hostilities immediately and agree to permanent ceasefire arrangements, among other things. Apparently, the A3 members, China, and Russia supported Sudan’s call to oppose the addition of new language to the draft resolution concerning the humanitarian, political, or security situation in Sudan. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 2 June.)
UN DOCUMENTS ON SUDAN
|Security Council Resolutions|
|2 June 2023S/RES/2685||The resolution renewed the mandate of the UNITAMS for six months, until 3 December 2023.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|13 September 2023S/PV.9417||This was the open briefing on Sudan.|