Briefing and Consultations on AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur
Tomorrow (14 June), the Security Council will receive a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous on the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), followed by consultations. Ladsous will present the special report of the UN Secretary-General and the AU Commission Chairperson assessing the situation in Darfur and the progress made by UNAMID in implementing its benchmarks, which focus on mediation between the government and the rebel groups that have signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur; the protection of civilians, the facilitation of humanitarian assistance and the safety and security of humanitarian personnel; and support for inter-communal mediation.
Ladsous will most likely give an overview of the conflict dynamics in Darfur and the related humanitarian consequences. According to the recent report, heavy fighting continued in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur between Sudan government forces and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahhid (SLA-AW) faction early this year, while inter-communal violence has been exacerbated by a number of factors, including, among other things, the deterioration of traditional dispute resolution processes, the weakness of the judicial system, and the proliferation of weapons. Currently, there are 2.6 million internally displaced persons in Darfur, with food insecurity at crisis or emergency levels confronting approximately 2.7 million people there.
Given the ongoing fighting and the deteriorating humanitarian situation, members will be interested in an update on the political process and input on what the next steps might be. Recent developments have not been encouraging. In April, the “Sudan Call”—a coalition that includes several key rebel groups and the National Umma Party—refused to sign the AU-proposed “roadmap,” which called for renewed negotiations with the government on a cessation of hostilities, and a meeting between the rebel groups and the National Dialogue’s coordinating committee (i.e. the 7+7 committee). The Sudan Call rejected the “roadmap,” believing that it legitimises a non-inclusive National Dialogue process.
The exit strategy for the mission will most likely be raised in the discussion. According to the recent AU-UN report, the joint working group on the exit strategy—which consists of representatives of the AU, the UN and the government of Sudan—was unable to reach agreement on UNAMID’s reconfiguration or its drawdown, following its visiting mission to Darfur in May and subsequent meetings in Khartoum. There remain fundamentally different views between the government, on the one hand, and the AU and the UN, on the other hand, regarding the security situation in Darfur. The government continues to advocate the mission’s departure, maintaining that the situation is stable, while the AU and the UN are more cautious and highlight significant security and humanitarian problems.
Moreover, the differences of view on the exit strategy have been a longstanding area of division within the Council. Some members, including the P3, have tended to emphasise that the exit strategy is tied to the achievement of the mission’s benchmarks. Russia, among others, has preferred to focus on host country consent for the mission’s presence. How to characterise the exit strategy may be a significant point of discussion both in tomorrow’s meeting and in the upcoming negotiations on the UNAMID mandate, which expires on 30 June.
Another area of ongoing concern to several Council members, which will be an important aspect of tomorrow’s briefing and the subsequent consultations, is the persistent lack of cooperation by the government of Sudan with the mission. This is an issue that has been a focus of Council members’ attention in recent months, including a session under “any other business” on 12 April, held at the request of the UK, that focused on government restrictions, including delays in issuing visas for UNAMID staff and in providing customs clearances for supply containers to be shipped to UNAMID. At the time, some members advocated that China, as Council president in April, should meet with Sudan’s permanent representative to the UN to discuss efforts to improve cooperation between UNAMID and Sudan. However, consensus could not be reached on the need for China to intervene on behalf of the Council, although it does appear that some Council members might have discussed with Sudan in their bilateral capacities the importance of cooperation with UNAMID.
Nonetheless, the relationship between UNAMID and the host country continues to be strained. Delays in customs clearances have continued to hinder the shipment of food and equipment at Port Sudan from reaching the mission in Darfur. According to the joint UN-AU report, these delays have “severely impeded the ability of the Mission to protect civilians and themselves, communicate and conduct robust patrols,” with UNAMID peacekeepers experiencing shortages in ammunition and other equipment. During the 10 June open debate on the protection of civilians, US Permanent Representative Samantha Power noted that one entire battalion in South Darfur is without their personal arms. Some troop- and police-contributing countries (TCC/PCC) expressed their frustration with the delays in receiving equipment at the Darfur TCC/PCC meeting on 9 June. These delays in customs clearances have been a recurring problem, one that dates back to 2015 and which Council members have repeatedly been informed about, including in confidential notes from the Secretariat on two separate occasions in May.
The delays in issuing visas and denials of visas for UNAMID personnel will most likely be raised in tomorrow’s meeting. Significant vacancies remain in civilian sections of the mission including the human rights, protection of civilians, and security sections, among others. Ladsous may further refer to the fact that the Sudanese government has decided not to renew the work permit of OCHA Head of Office Ivo Freijsen, which expired on 6 June, alleging that he provided inaccurate reporting on the humanitarian situation in Darfur.
The matter of strained cooperation between the UN and host countries has become a significant issue for the Council in a number of situations on its agenda. In addition to Sudan, this has been a particular concern with regard to peace operations in the South Sudan and Western Sahara.