Darfur Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow morning (4 October), the Security Council is expected to hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the UN/AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous is expected to brief on the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report on this issue.
There have been a number of political developments that will most likely be referred to. The Sudan Liberation Army /Minni Minawi (SLA-MM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel groups met with government of Sudan representatives in Addis Ababa from 9 to 14 August. These talks were adjourned in part because the government requested information that the rebels were unwilling to provide on the location of their forces, as a precondition to a cessation of hostilities. Other areas of contention included the release of prisoners of war and the creation of a joint mechanism to oversee the delivery of humanitarian aid. Members may be interested in efforts currently underway by UNAMID and by the AU High-Level Implementation Panel to devise a strategy to break the impasse between the parties on these issues.
There may be discussion of efforts to reach out to Abdul Wahid Nur, the leader of the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW), which has refused to engage in recent talks with the government and has battled government forces in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur this year. Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi—the Joint AU-UN Special Representative for Darfur, the head of UNAMID and the Joint Chief Mediator—met with Abdul Wahid Nur in Paris in July in an effort to encourage him to come back to the negotiating table. At the time, Abdul Wahid said that he would discuss this matter internally with his group in mid-September. Council members may want to know if there has been any further information in recent weeks on the intentions of Abdul Wahid and his followers, and what additional efforts may be pursued to convince him to engage in peace talks.
While the Secretary-General in his latest report expressed satisfaction with some improvements in the issuance of visas for mission personnel and the release of food containers supplying the mission’s troops, he has noted that a large amount of UNAMID and contingent-owned equipment continues to be held up at Port Sudan-a bureaucratic hindrance which, in his words, “continues to hamper the operational effectiveness of the mission” including its efforts to “conduct robust patrols and protect civilians.” Likewise, government-imposed restrictions on movement and access remain barriers to the mission’s ability to fulfill its mandate and to the efforts of humanitarian actors to deliver aid to populations in need. Among other issues, the Secretary-General points to the procedural difficulties in obtaining travel permits for places outside state capitals, and to the need to get approval at the national level to visit parts of the Jebel Marra. Members may want more information on how these operational restrictions inhibit UNAMID’s ability to carry out its mandate, and what efforts are being made by the mission and by the Secretariat to persuade the government to remove these restrictions.
The allegations made in an Amnesty International report last week regarding the use of chemical weapons against civilians in the Jebel Marra by government forces this year could be discussed. Amnesty has said that the attacks occurred in the Jebel Marra, an area where there has been fighting between the government and the SLA-AW in 2016 and to which UNAMID’s access has been significantly restricted. The government of Sudan has denied the allegations made in the report, while the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has said that “[w]ithout further information and evidence being made available, it is not possible at this stage to draw any conclusions based on the content of the report.” It is possible that some members may want Ladsous’ input on whether and how the mission or the UN more broadly will investigate these allegations, as well as whether it has engaged with Sudanese officials regarding the report’s findings.
Looking ahead, as called for by resolution 2296, Council members expect to receive by 27 October the Secretary-General’s report containing recommendations on “practical steps [that] need to be taken by all Sudanese parties with the support of UNAMID in order to make tangible progress towards achieving the [mission’s] benchmarks.” The joint working group on UNAMID’s exit strategy—which consists of representatives of the AU, the UN and the government of Sudan—will convene this month, and it may provide recommendations that feed into the Secretary-General’s own recommendations to be outlined in his report later this month. The exit strategy for the mission is linked to the progress made in the achievement of the mission’s benchmarks, which include an inclusive peace process, the protection of civilians, unfettered humanitarian access, and a reduction of inter-communal violence.