June 2024 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 June 2024
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AFRICA

Sudan

Expected Council Action 

In June, the Security Council is expected to receive a briefing on the situation in Sudan. Pursuant to resolution 2715 of 1 December 2023, which terminated the mandate of the UN Integrated Transition Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), the Security Council requested the Secretary-General to provide a briefing every 120 days on the “UN’s efforts to support Sudan on its path towards peace and stability”.

Ambassador Joonkook Hwang (Republic of Korea), the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, is expected to brief the Council on the committee’s work.

Key Recent Developments

One year into the conflict that erupted on 15 April 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s military leader, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (also known as Hemeti), the fighting continues to have devastating consequences for civilians. As at 17 May, more than 16,650 people had reportedly been killed since the onset of the conflict, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a non-governmental organisation that collects conflict-related data. At the same time, over 8.8 million people have been displaced since the conflict began, 1.8 million of whom have sought refuge in neighbouring countries—the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan—according to data provided by UNHCR.

The fighting has continued unabated across multiple frontlines and has intensified in the last few months, despite numerous calls for a ceasefire by regional stakeholders and the broader international community, including Council resolution 2724 of 8 March. El Fasher, the capital city of North Darfur state and the only capital in the Darfur region outside the RSF’s control, has been one of the main areas of contention and strife between the warring parties, marked by inter-communal fighting since early April. A truce brokered by the local authorities in El Fasher in the early days of conflict last year had allowed the SAF and the RSF to maintain positions on the west and east sides of the city, respectively, with a central area designated as a buffer zone under the control of the joint force of the armed movements, a coalition of armed movements from Darfur. However, recently the joint force reportedly renounced its neutrality in the conflict and pledged support to the SAF, apparently citing RSF provocations, including attacks on its positions and threats to block humanitarian aid. (For background and more information, see our What’s in Blue stories of 19 and 28 April.)

A mission of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Emergency Directors Group (EDG), including 11 representatives from UN agencies and partners, visited Port Sudan from 28 April to 2 May. (The IASC is the UN’s high-level humanitarian coordination platform.) The aim of the mission was to engage with the humanitarian community and local authorities to assess how to sustain operations and to identify strategies to overcome access constraints and bureaucratic impediments.

According to a 12 May OCHA flash update, clashes escalated between the SAF, supported by the joint force, and the RSF in El Fasher on 10 May. The update said that the attacks included airstrikes and the use of heavy weapons and extended into the centre of the town, the outskirts of the main market, and into civilian neighbourhoods. Another OCHA flash update on 23 May on the situation in El Fasher noted that continuing fighting in the northern and eastern parts of the city and attacks on villages in the west had pushed civilians to take shelter in “extremely overcrowded” gathering sites throughout the southern neighbourhoods. The update indicated that several neighbourhoods in the city had witnessed indiscriminate bombing and increased use by the warring parties of civilian infrastructure and objects for military purposes.

In a 27 May press release, Médecins Sans Frontières reported that since 10 May, more than 1,000 patients had arrived at El Fasher South Hospital—the only working hospital in the state, according to OCHA—145 of whom succumbed to injuries. It added that “the hospital finds itself on the frontlines, with a significant risk of going out of service”. On 25 May, a mortar shell hit the El Fasher hospital, killing one person and injuring eight others. Another shell landed inside the hospital the next day (26 May) injuring three more people.

On 24 May, the Security Council convened a private meeting to discuss the situation in Sudan, including the deteriorating humanitarian situation and developments in Darfur. Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations (DPPA-DPO) Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths briefed. Chad and Sudan participated in the meeting under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure. (For more information, see our What’s in Blue story of 23 May.)

Since the onset of the conflict, several regional and international stakeholders have initiated mediation efforts, but these have yet to achieve any breakthrough. The last few months have seen efforts to resume the Saudi-US facilitated talks in Jeddah. On 15 April, US Special Envoy for Sudan Tom Perriello announced that the talks would recommence “within three weeks”. In testimony to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 1 May, Perriello said that the new round of talks would include key African and Arab regional leaders and focus on “aligning external political will”. Media outlets on 8 May, however, reported that al-Burhan said that he would not participate in peace talks until the RSF is decisively defeated.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 1 March, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk presented his report (A/HRC/55/29) on the situation of human rights in Sudan during the 55th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC). The report covered the developments from 15 April to 15 December 2023 and described the key human rights challenges facing Sudan. It concluded that both the SAF and the RSF have committed gross violations and abuses of international human rights law as well as serious violations of international humanitarian law. Some of these acts, the report said, may amount to war crimes. The report called on the warring parties to immediately cease hostilities and engage in an inclusive dialogue for a peaceful resolution of the conflict; to end the recruitment and use of children in hostilities; and to ensure rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need.

On 14 May, Türk held separate phone calls with al-Burhan and Hemeti, urging both to immediately de-escalate the situation in El-Fasher. He called on them to take specific and concrete steps to cease hostilities and ensure effective protection of civilians. Furthermore, he warned both sides that fighting in El Fasher would deepen intercommunal conflict with disastrous humanitarian consequences, noting that more than 1.8 million residents and internally displaced persons (IDPs) currently remain encircled in the city and at imminent risk of famine.

Women, Peace and Security

Niemat Ahmadi, the president and founder of Darfur Women Action Group, briefed the Council during the 23 April annual open debate on conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV). Referring to the ongoing hostilities between the RSF and the SAF, Ahmadi stressed that the war has had “devastating consequences for women”, with thousands killed and accounting for up to 70 percent of the IDPs. Ahmadi called rape and other forms of gender-based violence a “defining feature” of the war, with a clear pattern of targeting of women because of their ethnicity. She stressed that access to life-saving services for CRSV survivors, such as sexual and reproductive health care, is impaired by factors that include attacks on medical facilities and the deliberate obstruction of humanitarian aid by the warring parties. Ahmadi stressed that “without the spread of weapons, the levels of sexual violence we are currently seeing in Sudan would never have occurred”. Referencing the 15 January final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, she also noted that the conflict parties “and their external sponsors have continued to violate the Security Council’s arms embargo on Darfur”. In this respect, she urged the Council to maintain and enforce its arms embargo in Darfur and “expand it to the whole of Sudan and to all parties to the conflict”.

Among other recommendations, Ahmadi urged the Council to demand that the parties commit to an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and immediately cease all acts of sexual and gender-based violence. She also urged the Council to ensure that women’s rights are central to all criminal accountability processes and to demand and support the full, equal, safe, and meaningful participation of Sudanese women in all peace and political processes regarding the future of Sudan.

Key Issues and Options 

A key issue for the Security Council is how to stop the ongoing fighting and support efforts to achieve a sustainable ceasefire in Sudan. The situation in Darfur and the increasing levels of intercommunal violence are a related issue. In this regard, Council members may be keen to learn more about the efforts being made to facilitate the resumption of negotiations between the warring parties. One option for Council members would be to invite the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Sudan, Ramtane Lamamra, to brief on ongoing mediation efforts in Sudan and his interactions with different stakeholders in the country and the broader region in this regard.

Another urgent 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 personnel and other humanitarian actors. The 23 May OCHA flash update said that approximately 1,500 metric tonnes of non-food items (NFIs) had been awaiting approval for three weeks at the Tine border crossing from Chad. It added that 13 trucks carrying health, nutrition, and NFI supplies for more than 121,000 people dispatched from Port Sudan on 3 April had been unable to enter El Fasher due to persisting insecurity and delays in obtaining clearances at checkpoints. Periodic briefings by OCHA could help keep the Council informed about the humanitarian situation on the ground.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Most Council members share similar concerns about the dire political, security, and humanitarian situations in Sudan. Members have diverging views, however, on the tools that the Council should use to address these situations. The co-authorship of the 27 April press statement by the “A3 plus one” members (Algeria, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Guyana)—which expressed concern over the growing tensions and military operations around El Fasher—reflects a renewed sense of urgency in the Council to engage on the situation in Sudan, particularly in light of the deteriorating security and humanitarian conditions. In contrast, last year the three African members (Mozambique and then-Council members Gabon and Ghana), with the support of Russia and China, argued that adopting a Council product could duplicate messaging in light of the ongoing regional efforts and create complications at a delicate time.

From 28 to 29 January, al-Burhan visited Algiers, where he met with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. In a joint press conference following the meeting, Tebboune expressed support for Sudan to “overcome the difficult situation and confront the evil forces that target it” while affirming that Algeria favoured the resolution of conflict through “a purely internal approach, far from any form of foreign interference”. At the same time, al-Burhan supported Algeria’s involvement in any initiative aimed at resolving the Sudanese crisis.

The past few months have witnessed reinvigorated efforts by the US to resolve the crisis, including through restarting the talks between the warring parties in Jeddah. The US and like-minded members have also expressed concern about impediments to the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance across Sudan. In this regard, in an 18 March New York Times opinion piece, US Permanent Representative to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that the Security Council “should consider all tools at its disposal, including authorising aid to move from Chad and South Sudan into Sudan”, while adding that the US is prepared to help lead this initiative.

Russia, however, argued that “[i]t is counterproductive to downplay, for political reasons, the role of central authorities in addressing humanitarian issues, including the issuance of permits for cross-border humanitarian relief supplies”. On 29 April, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Representative for Middle East and Africa Mikhail Bogdanov visited Port Sudan, where he met al-Burhan, among other high-level Sudanese officials. In a press conference, Bogdanov said that Russia recognises the Sudanese Sovereign Council as “the official body representing the leadership of Sudan and Sudanese people”.

Russia has expressed its interest in acquiring a naval base in Port Sudan, although discussions on this issue seemed to have paused following the outbreak of fighting last year. One reason for Bogdanov’s visit was reportedly to revive talks about the naval base: in a 25 May interview, Assistant Commander-in-Chief of the SAF General Yassir al-Atta said that “Russia [has] proposed military cooperation through a logistical support centre…in return for urgent weapons and ammunition supplies.” Media reports earlier this year indicated that Ukrainian forces had been operating in Sudan, fighting the RSF and Wagner Group—the Russian private security company now known as Africa Corps. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, reports also suggested that Sudan had supplied weapons to Ukraine. Al-Burhan met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at Ireland’s Shannon Airport in September 2023. In a statement following the meeting, Zelensky said that “we discussed our common security challenges, namely the activities of illegal armed groups financed by Russia”.

Reports also suggest that Wagner, which initially deployed to Sudan in 2017 to provide political and military support to former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, has apparently also been involved in gold mining operations. Following the military takeover in Sudan in 2021, Wagner reportedly intensified its cooperation with Hemeti, and after the onset of fighting last year, reports emerged that Wagner had been supplying weapons and training to the RSF.

Tensions continue to escalate between Sudanese authorities and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Following its allegations that the UAE had been providing support to the RSF through the supply of weapons, equipment, and mercenaries, Sudan requested in letters to the Council dated 26 April and 6 May that the Council hold a meeting to discuss the matter. The UAE has denied the allegations, including in a 21 April letter to the Council. It appears that Council members have diverging views on whether to convene such a meeting. While the issue of “external interference” has been part of its discussions, the Council has not yet decided to meet specifically in response to the Sudanese letters. In a stakeout, following the Council meeting on 24 May, Sudan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Al-Harith Idriss al-Harith Mohamed, urged the Council to “reconsider its approach and convene a meeting that fully aligns with [its] request”.

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UN DOCUMENTS ON SUDAN
Security Council Resolutions
8 March 2024S/RES/2724 This resolution called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Sudan during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and for all warring parties to seek a sustainable resolution to the conflict through dialogue.
1 December 2023S/RES/2715 This resolution terminated the mandate of the UN Integrated Transition Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).
Security Council Letters
6 May 2024S/2024/362 This was a letter from Sudan requesting a meeting of the Security Council to consider alleged support provided by the United Arab Emirates to the Rapid Support Forces in Sudan.
26 April 2024S/2024/345 This was a letter from Sudan requesting a meeting of the Security Council to consider alleged support provided by the United Arab Emirates to the Rapid Support Forces in Sudan.
21 April 2024S/2024/326 This was a letter from the United Arab Emirates refuting allegations by Sudan made during the 19 April Council meeting.
Security Council Press Statements
27 April 2024SC/15686 This was a Security Council press statement which expressed concern over the growing tensions and military operations around El Fasher, North Darfur.

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