Expected Council Action
In February, the Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, which is due to expire on 12 March. In accordance with resolution 2676 of 8 March 2023, the Council is supposed to review the panel’s mandate and take appropriate action regarding its extension before 12 February.
The Sudan sanctions regime expires on 12 September.
Key Recent Developments
Sudan has been grappling with the devastating consequences of fighting that erupted on 15 April 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s military leader and chairperson of the Transitional Sovereignty Council, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemeti). According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), an organisation that collects conflict- and crisis-related data, more than 13,100 people had been killed since the onset of the conflict, as at 12 January. At the same time, over 10.7 million people have been displaced across Sudan’s 18 states since the conflict began, 1.7 million of whom have sought refuge in neighbouring countries—the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, and South Sudan—according to a 26 January press release by the International Organization for Migration.
On 11 January, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Sudan, Ramtane Lamamra, embarked on a diplomatic mission in the region, stopping first in Cairo, where he met Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Ahmed Aboul Gheit, senior Egyptian officials and civil society representatives. On 13 and 14 January, Lamamra held meetings with al-Burhan, the Deputy Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereignty Council Malik Agar and Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Al-Sadiq in Port Sudan. Lamamra explored the possibility of a more active role for the UN in facilitating peace negotiations, according to a statement released following the meetings.
On 15 January, Lamamra met with Kenyan President William Ruto and National Security Advisor Monica Juma in Nairobi, according to a post on X (formerly Twitter). On 17 January, Lamamra met with Hemeti in Kampala, where the two discussed the prospects for achieving peace in Sudan and the role of the UN in strengthening those efforts.
In a 17 January statement, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, announced the appointment of three members to the AU High-Level Panel on Sudan: Mohamed Ibn Chambas, AU High Representative for Silencing the Guns; Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe, former Vice President of Uganda; and Francisco Madeira, former Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson for Somalia.
On 18 January, the 42nd extraordinary summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Heads of State and Government was held in Entebbe, Uganda. In a communiqué released following the meeting, the members:
- called on the warring parties to meet within two weeks; directed the IGAD Secretariat, in coordination with the AU Commission, to revise the Roadmap for the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of Sudan, adopted at the 14th ordinary session of the IGAD Heads of State and Government, with clear timelines; and
- directed the IGAD Secretariat to convene, within one month, a Sudanese-owned and Sudanese-led process aimed at establishing a democratic government in Sudan.
On 15 January, the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee held informal consultations, during which it received a presentation about the final report of the Panel of Experts, which was released the same day and covered developments since 12 March 2023.
The final report provided an extensive account of various aspects of the ongoing conflict, including its dynamics, the financing of the warring parties, the humanitarian impact and violations of international humanitarian law (IHL), recruitment patterns of the warring parties, the proliferation of weapons and violations of the arms embargo, and its regional impact, among other things.
In West Darfur, the report noted, the RSF and allied militias targeted the Masalit community in particular and systematically violated IHL. Some of these violations may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, the report added. It said that the RSF and allied militias targeted gathering sites for internally displaced persons (IDPs), civilian neighbourhoods, and medical facilities, while also committing sexual violence against women and girls. At the same time, the report highlighted that “the SAF was not only unable to protect civilians but also used aerial bombing and heavy shelling in urban areas in El Fasher, Nyala and El Daein”.
The report indicated that since the onset of the conflict, the RSF had been able to secure new supply lines to and through Darfur for weapons, vehicles, and logistics, including through eastern Chad, Libya and South Sudan. The report noted that the accusations by Assistant Commander-in-Chief of the SAF General Yassir al-Atta in his 28 November 2023 statement that the United Arab Emirates and Chad had provided military support to the RSF through Amdjarass were found credible. Furthermore, the report found that, from July 2023 onwards, “the RSF deployed several types of heavy and/or sophisticated weapons including Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs), howitzers, multiple-rocket launchers and anti-aircraft weapons such as MANPADS [Man-Portable Air Defence Systems]”, which had a massive impact on the balance of forces, both in Darfur and other regions of Sudan. The supply of arms and ammunition into Darfur constituted a violation of the arms embargo, the report added.
During the period covered by the report, the panel received verified reports that Musa Hilal, a Sudanese militia leader and a designated individual, travelled to Chad in November 2023 by road, and held private meetings in the capital, N’Djamena. The report said that Hilal’s visit to Chad constituted a violation of the travel ban provisions.
Resolution 2676 requested the Secretary-General to conduct an assessment of progress achieved on benchmarks two and three as outlined in his 31 July 2021 report, relating to progress on transitional security arrangements in Darfur and on the national action plan for the protection of civilians, respectively. The resolution also requested the Sudanese government to report to the committee on progress in these benchmarks.
In a 24 November 2023 letter to the Council, the Secretary-General informed the members that since the initial report establishing the benchmarks, the country’s political and security situation has changed significantly. The deteriorating security situation throughout Darfur made the region inaccessible for conducting an assessment: “[w]hile the war is ongoing in Sudan, and Darfur in particular, the implementation of the benchmarks and the assessment of progress made on them will not be possible”, the letter said.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 18 January, the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Sudan commenced its work with an initial mission to Geneva. In a statement issued the same day, Mohamed Chande Othman, the Chair of the Fact-Finding Mission, announced that following discussions with officials and civil society organisations over multiple days, the investigations into human rights and violations of IHL were progressing. In the same statement, Joy Ezeilo, a member of the fact-finding mission, said that “[a]llegations of rapes targeting mainly women and girls and the alleged recruitment of children for use in hostilities are among the priority concerns for our investigations”.
On 17 January, the UN expert on human rights in Sudan, Radhouane Nouicer, issued a statement in which he “deplored the grim human rights situation” in the country. The expert called on the leaders of the Sudanese warring parties to halt the violence, facilitate a shift towards civilian governance, and heed the pleas of victims for peace and justice. Nouicer emphasised that “despite several regional and international mediation initiatives, there is still no peaceful resolution in sight” and that “violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are continuing unabated”.
In a 20 December 2023 statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk expressed alarm about the reports of “widespread abuses and violations of human rights” by the SAF and the RSF in Wad Madani. Türk noted that “[r]eports indicate that dozens of civilians including medical personnel were killed and many more injured in Wadi Madani between 15 and 19 December ”, adding that some of the attacks were allegedly ethnically motivated.
Women, Peace and Security
According to a 19 December 2023 UNHCR update, “women and girls have borne the brunt of [the] consequences of the conflict” between the SAF and the RSF, with numerous cases of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) being reported. Women and girls fleeing Sudan have reported experiencing or witnessing violence while fleeing, including harassment at checkpoints, abduction, rape, sexual assault, and exploitation “allegedly perpetrated by parties to the conflict, but also by criminal groups active in Sudan”. The update also says that women and girls report that gender-based violence remains severely under-reported because of fear of stigma and retaliation as well as difficulties in accessing services due to the ongoing hostilities.
On 26 January, the members of the Informal Expert Group (IEG) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) met on the situation in Sudan. Deputy Special Representative for Sudan Clementine Nkweta-Salami briefed. It appears that IEG members discussed several issues, including women’s participation in political processes and accountability for CRSV, as well as concerns about a potential gap in monitoring and reporting on violations of women’s human rights in Sudan following the termination of the mandate of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) by Security Council resolution 2715 of December 2023.
Ahead of the 29 January Council briefing by ICC Prosecutor Karim Asad Ahmad Khan on the ICC’s Darfur-related activities, the Council members that have signed on to the Shared Commitments on WPS—Ecuador, France, Guyana, Japan, Malta, the Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Switzerland, the UK, and the US—delivered a joint statement expressing deep concern at the situation of women and girls in Sudan. Among other issues, the statement said that these members are appalled by the increasing levels of sexual and gender-based violence in the ongoing conflict in Sudan. The statement emphasised the importance of accountability and stressed that the parties to the conflict “must issue stronger command orders” prohibiting gender-based violence. It also called upon all parties to immediately cease hostilities and stressed the importance of women’s participation and leadership for conflict resolution.
Key Issues and Options
The key issue for the Council in February is renewing the mandate of the panel of experts assisting the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee. Sanctions measures imposed on Sudan could be a major issue during the negotiations, as was the case last year.
While the discussion prior to April 2023 had been towards modifying, suspending or progressively lifting the sanctions measures in accordance with progress on the benchmarks, the ongoing conflict is expected to turn the discussion in a different direction.
Considering the information provided by the panel’s 15 January final report, particularly on violations committed by the RSF, Sudan may push the Council to ease the restrictions on the SAF while seeking stringent measures against members of the RSF and allied militias and associated entities. In his statement during the 12 December 2023 Council meeting on Sudan, Sudan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Al-Harith Idriss Al-Harith Mohamed, “demand[ed] that an embargo on the transfer of arms and military equipment to the allies of the RSF and mercenary invaders, as well as [s]tates, be imposed by the Security Council, if Council members wish to safeguard peace and security in Darfur, and that the [Sudanese] armed forces be excluded from the arms embargo that has been imposed on them since 2004”.
One option for the Council members is to extend the panel’s mandate for one year. Some members may also suggest extending the panel’s mandate until September, aligning it with the mandate cycle of the sanctions measures, as introduced by resolution 2676, and having a broader discussion on the sanctions regime and the panel in September.
Along with extending the panel’s mandate, Council members could also encourage it to collaborate with other panels of experts, particularly those assisting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee, the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, and the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee. In this regard, chairs of the respective committees could consider holding joint committee meetings in order to facilitate an exchange of information about the regional impacts of the conflicts in these countries.
Keeping in mind the information brought forth and recommendations of the panel’s 15 January report, Council members may wish to have a substantive discussion about the sanctions measures, including, but not limited to, reviewing the benchmarks, expanding the geographical scope of the measures to the rest of the country, the designation criteria, and additional listing of individuals and entities under the current regime.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Most Council members share similar concerns about the political, security, human rights, and humanitarian situations in Sudan. Although the members have had diverging views about the utility of the Sudan sanctions regime in the past, Council members are likely to be guided by the findings in the Panel of Experts’ 15 January final report. It appears that the panel enjoys the broad support of Council members.
Since the start of the conflict, the US has imposed bilateral sanctions on several individuals and entities for exacerbating Sudan’s instability, including Abdelrahim Hamdan Dagalo, deputy commander of the RSF and brother of Hemeti. The 15 January Panel of Experts report said that Abdelrahim played a pivotal role in the RSF campaign in Darfur, personally supervising the military operations in the five states of the Darfur region since October 2023. In its most recent round of sanctions, on 31 January, the US designated three entities for their role in undermining the peace, security, and stability of Sudan. The UK has introduced bilateral sanctions against six entities linked to the warring parties, in light of the current conflict.
Similarly, the EU also adopted restrictive measures against six entities responsible for supporting activities that undermine the stability and political transition in Sudan, according to a 22 January press release.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SUDAN
|Security Council Resolutions
|8 March 2023S/RES/2676
|This resolution renewed the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee until 12 March 2024.
|Security Council Letters
|24 November 2023S/2023/918
|Letter dated 24 November 2023 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council, informing that because of the ongoing war in Sudan, implementation of benchmarks 2 and 3 contained in the report of 31 July 2021 (S/2021/696) and an assessment of progress made on them pursuant to Security Council resolution 2676 (2023) will not be possible.