What's In Blue

Posted Sun 24 Feb 2019

AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur: Briefing and Consultations

On Monday (25 February), the Security Council will be briefed by Assistant Secretary-General for Africa Bintou Keita on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report (S/2019/44) on the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). The briefing will be followed by consultations, which may also include the participation of Mourad Wahba, Assistant Secretary-General at the UN Development Programme, and the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco. While the briefing will focus on UNAMID, the ongoing political unrest gripping Sudan is likely to be discussed in the meeting.

Keita is expected to give an overview of the security, political, humanitarian and human rights situations in Darfur as outlined in the Secretary-General’s report. According to the report, covering 4 October 2018 to 3 January, the security situation in Darfur remains relatively stable except for intermittent clashes between government forces and the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid in the Jebel Marra area. Intercommunal violence and human rights violations declined during the reporting period, with the relative stability in most parts of Darfur reportedly leading some internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their places of origin. The root causes of conflict, however, remain unaddressed, the report said. There has been some recent progress in the Darfur peace process, including the signing on 6 December 2018 of a pre-negotiation agreement for the resumption of the peace process, but implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) itself remains slow, according to the report. In this regard, Council members may be interested in receiving any updates on next steps planned by the parties towards implementation of the DDPD.

Keita is also likely to update the Council on the implementation of the UNAMID reconfiguration and troop reduction in accordance with resolution 2429 adopted on 13 July 2018, through which the Council decided to reduce the troop ceiling from 8,735 to 4,050 military personnel over the course of the mandate period (which expires on 30 June), while maintaining authorised police personnel at 2,500. The resolution also requested UNAMID to focus on both peacekeeping and long-term solutions to conflict drivers in Darfur “with a view towards the exit of the mission on 30 June 2020…provided that there is no significant change in the security situation in Darfur and key indicators are fulfilled.”  (The current indicators focus on areas such as the protection of civilians, human rights, security sector reform, the rule of law, and mediation between the government and armed groups.)

According to the Secretary-General’s report, UNAMID’s reconfiguration is proceeding as scheduled, including the relocation of mission assets to Central Darfur, the repatriation of military personnel, the reduction of the mission’s military strength from 8,735 to 5,470 by 31 December 2018, and the redeployment of the formed police units. Five team sites were closed, and three others handed over to the mission’s formed police units., according to the report, which notes that “resource mobilisation remains a challenge for the successful implementation of the transition”.

Council members may be interested in hearing any updates regarding the effect on the security situation of further troop reductions and the implementation of the mission’s revised priorities as set out in resolution 2429, including on human rights reporting and intercommunal mediation efforts. There may also be interest in updated information on progress made on the proposed benchmarks and indicators of achievement for the exit of the mission set out in the Secretary-General’s report of 12 October 2018. The Council took note of these in its 11 December 2018 presidential statement “to help guide the Security Council’s considerations on the future of UNAMID’s mandate”.

Keita’s briefing is expected to include reflections of the joint trip she undertook along with Fernandez-Taranco and Wahba to Sudan from 9 to 12 February. Their visit focused on the UN’s engagement in Darfur in the context of the drawdown of UNAMID. According to a 12 February UNAMID press release, they travelled to Darfur and met with civil society, internally displaced persons, local government officials and UN personnel to discuss the transition of peacebuilding tasks from UNAMID to UN agencies, funds and programmes to the relevant authorities of the government of Sudan. In Khartoum they met with senior government officials and partners to discuss the transition and the UN’s support for nationally-led peacebuilding and development efforts in Darfur. In this regard, they also held a meeting between UNAMID, the UN Country Team and the government of Sudan to discuss coordination efforts. During these engagements they emphasised that the responsibility of achieving peace, stability and development for the people of Darfur lies with the government of Sudan, with other entities playing a supporting role, the press release said. Fernandez-Taranco and Wahba are expected to provide Council members with their assessments of the joint visit.

In their statements, some Council members may refer to the protests, which have taken place across Sudan since 19 December 2018, sparked by food and fuel shortages. The demonstrations have spread to several parts of the country, with protestors calling for President Omar al-Bashir, who has ruled the country for nearly three decades, to step down. Al-Bashir declared a year-long national state of emergency on 22 February. He reportedly dissolved the national government and sacked all the provincial governors, replacing them with security officials. Some ministers were later retained, according to reports.

Sudanese security forces have reportedly responded to protesters by using live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas, as well as by arresting protesters and opposition figures. The government has put the official death toll since 19 December at 32 people, while human rights organisations and opposition groups have said the number is nearly twice as high, with many more injured. At the 17 January Sudan sanctions briefing, some members–including France, Germany, the UK and the US–raised concerns over the protests. Russia said that these events fall outside the scope of the Council’s consideration and that raising them “constitutes interference in the country’s internal affairs”.

Some Council members may also refer to the issue of sexual violence during their statements. According to the Secretary-General’s report, the threat of sexual violence in Darfur remains “significant” with most cases of conflict-related sexual violence occurring in Jebel Marra, notably during clashes involving Sudanese government forces and the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid rebel group. The report said that the protection of women in that region is still a “major challenge” for UNAMID. At the 17 January briefing, Council members Belgium, France, Germany, Peru and the UK expressed support for adding sexual violence as a new listing criterion for targeted sanctions under the Sudan sanctions regime, which Russia expressly opposed in its statement. Given divisions on this issue, sexual violence was not added as a listing criterion for targeted sanctions when the Council renewed the mandate of the Sudan (Darfur) sanctions regime through resolution 2455 on 7 February.