What's In Blue

Posted Fri 23 Aug 2019

UN/AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur: Briefing

On Monday (26 August), Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is expected to brief (via video-teleconference) on the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). The briefing is in accordance with resolution 2479 of 27 June, which decided on a technical rollover of the mandate of UNAMID until 31 October and requested the Secretary-General to provide the Security Council with an oral update about the situation on the ground 60 days after the adoption of the resolution. AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaїl Chergui is also expected to brief (via video-teleconference).

Members will be interested in the views of Lacroix and Chergui on the situation in Darfur in light of the significant political developments in Sudan, while Lacroix is also likely to address the impact of these developments on UNAMID. On 17 August, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the opposition alliance, called the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), signed an agreement in Khartoum on the establishment of a new civilian-led transitional government and transitional institutions. (A preliminary document was initialled on 17 July, but the killing of four children during protests in the city of El-Obeid on 29 July delayed talks aimed at finalising the agreement.) The signing ceremony was attended by heads of states, prime ministers and dignitaries from several countries, including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.

Brokered with the involvement of the AU and Ethiopia, the agreement creates a joint military and civilian Sovereign Council to govern the country for just over three years with elections to be held at the end of this period. The 11-member Sovereign Council is composed of five members selected by the TMC, five by the FFC, and one agreed upon by both sides. A military leader will head the council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18 months. The agreement also provides for a 300-member legislative assembly, with two-thirds of the members selected by the FFC and the rest by parties not members of the alliance, to serve during the transitional period. The FFC was also mandated to nominate a transitional prime minister and a cabinet of ministers, apart from the defence and interior ministers, who will be nominated by the military component of the Sovereignty Council. The members of the Sovereign Council were sworn in on 21 August, as was the FFC-nominated prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok.

The Secretary-General welcomed the signing of the agreement on 17 August in a statement that day. The Troika countries (the US, UK and Norway) issued a statement on 21 August, congratulating Hamdok on his appointment as prime minister and saying “[a]t this historic moment, Sudan has a unique opportunity to establish peace within its borders, draft a constitution that enshrines human rights protections and empowers all Sudanese, including women and youth, and create the infrastructure for free and fair elections.”  The statement also expressed support for “Sudan’s civilian-led transitional government as it conducts an investigation of the violence perpetrated against peaceful demonstrators and holds those responsible to account.”

Council members issued a press statement on 21 August welcoming the 17 August agreement and “the vital mediation role” played by the AU and Ethiopia with support from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the UN, the League of Arab States and the international community. The press statement also welcomed “the pledge of the parties to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms…[and] the commitment to create a national independent committee to investigate the violent acts committed on 3 June and other incidents of human rights violations and abuses.” Among other things, it also “underscored that Sudan’s stability will depend on an inclusive approach to public life and government, and encouraged the full, effective and meaningful participation of women, youth and marginalized and rural communities” and “stressed the need to swiftly resume negotiations towards peaceful solutions to the conflicts in Darfur and South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and encouraged all parties to engage constructively, immediately and without preconditions in these discussions.”

Council members continue to differ on the situation in Sudan, as was again apparent during negotiations on the press statement. In July, the penholders, the UK and Germany, initially circulated a draft presidential statement on Sudan with the aim of adopting it once an agreement was signed by the Sudanese parties. Several members, including Indonesia, Kuwait, Russia and South Africa expressed their preference for a press statement instead of a presidential statement.

As a result, the penholders circulated a draft press statement on 15 August. Russia broke silence on a revised draft and proposed some amendments, as did China, including in relation to the inclusion of language on the participation of women, youth and marginalised communities. Belgium, France, Peru, Poland and the US expressed support for the draft placed under silence, although some of these members expressed regret at the deletion of language referring to freedom of the media and the role of OHCHR contained in the initial version of the draft press statement, but removed from the draft placed under silence as a concession to members opposed to this text. On 19 August, following bilateral negotiations (including with Sudan), the penholders placed a revised text under silence. However, Russia again broke silence, supported by China. On 21 August, another revised draft was circulated and passed silence.

Council members will continue to follow developments in Sudan closely, including the situation in Darfur, ahead of the expiration of the mandate of UNAMID on 31 October. Looking ahead, resolution 2479 requested the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission to provide the Council with a special report by 30 September containing an assessment of the situation on the ground and recommendations for the appropriate course of action regarding the drawdown of UNAMID, as well as a joint AU-UN political strategy detailing options for a follow-on mechanism to UNAMID.

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