What's In Blue

Darfur Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (4 December), the Council is scheduled to be briefed by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous on the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), followed by consultations. It is also anticipated that Philip Cooper, who headed the review team that investigated allegations that UNAMID’s reporting had been manipulated to conceal evidence of crimes against civilians and peacekeepers, and Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, will report to Council members on the review findings under “Any Other Business.”

There has been significant tension between UNAMID and the Sudanese government in recent weeks that will likely colour tomorrow’s briefing and consultations. Two notable incidents contributing to this tension are allegations that Sudan’s armed forces committed a mass rape of 200 girls and women in the north Darfur village of Thabit on 30 and 31 October and the recent calls by Sudan for UNAMID to wrap up its operations in Darfur.

Regarding the Thabit incident, several Council members have been particularly angered with restrictions that Sudan has placed on UNAMID’s ability to investigate the rape allegations. A UNAMID team was allowed to visit Thabit on 9 November, after Sudan refused to allow access for several days. A UNAMID press release on 10 November indicated that people interviewed in the village did not confirm that any incident of rape had occurred, but it stated that the mission intended to undertake “further follow-up actions on the matter, including possible further investigations and patrols…”. What the press release did not say was that the Sudanese security forces were present in the village during the UNAMID team’s visit, a fact that several Council members only became aware of when Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura briefed them on the incident under “Any Other Business” on 10 November. On 17 November, Sudan sent a letter (S/2014/819) to the Council stating that UNAMID will not be permitted to visit Thabit again. In light of these developments, Council members may be interested in Ladsous’ assessment of Sudan’s lack of cooperation on this matter. Members are also likely to be keen to know if the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) or UNAMID has had any subsequent contact with Sudan on Thabit since its 17 November letter to the Council, and if so, what the nature of these contacts has been.

Another major focus of tomorrow’s discussion will likely be the future of UNAMID, given recent statements by Sudanese officials (including President Omar al-Bashir), that the mission should wrap up its operations. Bashir has been quoted in the media as saying that the mission “has become…a security burden on the Sudanese army,” and he has called for the mission, and the UN more generally, to work with Sudanese officials to “end the presence of UNAMID in Darfur.” Council members will likely be interested in hearing whether DPKO or UNAMID have discussed with Sudan its recent comments regarding the mission, and if so, what the substance of these conversations has been.

Along these lines, there may also be interest in any information Ladsous may offer on the analysis that the Secretariat was mandated to undertake in conjunction with the AU on the implementation of UNAMID’s review in resolution 2173 of 27 August. (The findings of this review—which was requested in resolution 2113 of 2013 and conducted by the AU Commission, UNAMID and several other UN entities—were outlined in the Secretary-General’s 25 February report [S/2014/138]) This will likely be of interest because as part of the analysis the Council requested that the Secretary-General present “recommendations for the future mandate, composition, configuration and exit strategy of UNAMID, as well as for its relationship with other UN actors in Darfur and Sudan, by 28 February 2015…”. While this analysis is still not due for several months, Council members may nonetheless want to hear preliminary views from Ladsous on the future of UNAMID.

Given the significant challenges facing UNAMID, a number of Council members are particularly concerned with Sudan’s calls for an end to the mission. These members argue that the mission needs to accomplish its mandate before there can be consideration of its withdrawal, and that the current security, human rights, and humanitarian conditions in Darfur are so problematic that any such consideration would be premature at the current time. At least one Council member holds a different perspective. This member emphasises that Sudan has the primary responsibility to protect civilians in Darfur, and argues that while UNAMID is a Chapter VII operation, host country consent is one of the basic tenets of UN peacekeeping. According to this view, Sudan’s request is valid and logical, especially in light of resolution 2113, and should be given consideration.

Council members may also ask Ladsous whether DPKO, UNAMID or other UN actors have discussed with Sudan its recent request for UNAMID to close its Khartoum-based Human Rights Office. This request was made to the mission by Sudan on 23 November, following the tensions created by the Thabit rape allegations; however, Sudan claims that the timing of the request is unrelated to Thabit.

Ladsous will also likely provide an update on the challenging security and humanitarian situation in Darfur described in the recent report of the Secretary-General (S/2014/852). Intercommunal violence, fighting between government forces and rebel groups, criminality and displacement continue to plague the region. The plight of civilian populations is especially troubling to many on the Council, as 431,300 people have been displaced this year, human rights violations continue to be extensive, and a general environment of insecurity and impunity remains.

Regarding briefings by Mulet and Cooper under “Any Other Business,” there is likely to be interest in a full account of the report produced by the review team on allegations that UNAMID’s reporting has been manipulated. The Secretary-General submitted a letter to the Council on 29 October that summarised the findings of the investigation’s review team (S/2014/771). An executive summary of the review team’s report was attached to the letter, although Council members have yet to be given access to the entire report. According to the letter, UNAMID “did not provide United Nations Headquarters with full reports” on the circumstances of five of 16 incidents investigated. The Secretary-General stated in the letter that the mission tended “not to report anything if not absolutely certain of the facts, even when there was enough evidence to make an informed judgement about the circumstances surrounding an incident”. He added that government or pro-government forces were guilty of crimes in the five cases investigated.

Some Council members have been disappointed that they have not been provided with access to the review team’s full report and believe that there should be accountability for the shortcomings in UNAMID’s reporting. They may raise these concerns during the meeting.

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