Briefing and Consultations on Darfur
Tomorrow morning (28 October), the Council is expected to receive a briefing on the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) from Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet, which will be followed by consultations. The Secretary-General’s most recent report on UNAMID is expected to be a focus of the briefing, although developments since the report’s release on 25 September will also be addressed in the discussion.
Mulet will describe the difficult security and humanitarian crisis in Darfur. He is expected to cover the intercommunal violence in Darfur, which continues to be a major source of instability in the region. He is likely to talk about the operational pause in fighting between the government and rebel groups during the reporting period, largely because of the rainy season, which makes the movement of forces more difficult. The challenge of widespread displacement is expected to feature in his briefing. According to the Secretary-General’s report, there are currently 2.6 million displaced people in the region, including 104,000 people newly displaced this year. The report also states that there are unconfirmed reports of the displacement of an additional 69,000 persons, mostly in inaccessible areas in and around the Jebel Marra.
Developments with regard to the political process in Darfur-and Sudan more broadly—are likely to be raised. Both the government of Sudan and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), an umbrella group of Sudanese rebel movements from the Darfur region and from South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, have recently indicated a willingness to cease hostilities. On 10 October, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said that his government would consider expanding a cessation of hostilities that he announced in August into a comprehensive ceasefire if the rebel groups “choose peace over war and…join the dialogue”. On 18 October, the SRF announced a unilateral cessation of hostilities for six months, beginning on 19 October. Council members may be interested in Mulet’s views on the level of commitment of both sides to stop hostilities. Furthermore, they may want details of the negotiations currently planned under the auspices of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel in early November between the government and rebel movements in Addis Ababa; the commitments of the government and the rebels to cease hostilities will probably be an issue raised in these negotiations.
A discussion of the exit strategy for UNAMID is probable. On 29 September, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, Deputy Chair of the AU Erastus Mwencha and Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour convened to discuss the exit strategy on the margins of the opening session of the General Assembly in New York, and following a 2 October meeting between Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Ghandour, UNAMID issued a press release stating that Ban “looked forward to further discussions on the exit strategy…, under the guidance of the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council.”
Members may be interested in learning more about what was discussed in these meetings with regard to the exit strategy, as well as the plans for talks between the UN, the AU and the Sudanese government on this issue. The AU Peace and Security Council in its 22 June and 31 July communiqués and the UN Security Council in resolution 2228 of 29 June both stated that the exit strategy should be developed in accordance with UNAMID’s benchmarks. During a briefing to Council members on 14 October under “any other business,” Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous said that these benchmarks included the reestablishment of peace and security in Darfur, but that the situation had deteriorated. The government of Sudan, on the other hand, appears to be eager for a timeline to be established for the mission’s departure.
There have likewise been different perspectives among Council members regarding the exit strategy. During the negotiations on resolution 2228 in June, the P3 and others wanted to note that the exit strategy is tied to the mission’s benchmarks, while Russia, supported by the African members of the Council, would have preferred not to emphasise the conditionality of the exit strategy. During the 14 October briefing, Russia reportedly stated that the Council had not considered the claims of Sudan with regard to the exit strategy.
Restrictions imposed on UNAMID, particularly by the government but also by rebel groups, may be raised in the meeting. In recent months, the Secretariat has reiterated its concerns about these restrictions. One notable example was Ladsous’ 14 October briefing to Council members, during which he underscored that there were continued violations of the Status of Forces Agreement, especially with respect to the mission’s ability to access certain areas, and that the issuance of visas for key posts in the mission was being delayed. Ladsous further informed the Council that supplies meant for UNAMID were being held up by the government in Port Sudan; this matter appears to have been resolved, as customs clearances were provided by the government for the transport of the containers, amidst expressions of heightened concern by the Secretariat and Council members, including a meeting between Ambassador Román Oyarzun of Spain, Council president this month, and Ambassador Omer Dahab Fadl Mohamed of Sudan.
Council members may seek additional information from Mulet on violations of the Status of Forces Agreement, as well as delays in the issuance of visas for UNAMID staff, and what the Secretariat and the mission are doing to address these challenges. Several Council members have expressed their frustration with these violations, but some members, including Chad and Russia, tend to be more sympathetic toward the government of Sudan, believing that Khartoum’s efforts to achieve peace in Sudan should be recognised. Regardless of their views of the Sudanese government, there appears to be a perception among several Council members that the relationship between Sudan and UNAMID needs to improve in order for the mission to operate more effectively.