What's In Blue

Posted Mon 21 Dec 2020

Resolution on the UN/AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID)

Tomorrow (22 December), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution on the UN/AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). In accordance with voting procedures established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council commenced its 24-hour written voting procedure today on the draft resolution. South Africa, the Council president in December, will read out the results of the vote late tomorrow afternoon.

The initial draft was circulated by the penholders, the UK and Germany, to the full Council on 15 December. One round of formal negotiations was held on 17 December. A revised draft was put under silence on Friday (18 December) until Monday (21 December). Silence was broken by Russia and China. Following further bilateral negotiations, an updated draft was put into blue today (21 December).

The draft in blue will be adopted ahead of UNAMID’s mandate expiration on 31 December, following its last renewal by resolution 2525 of 3 June. The draft in blue decides to terminate the mandate of UNAMID as of 31 December 2020 and requests the Secretary-General to commence the drawdown of UNAMID personnel on 1 January 2021 and to complete the withdrawal of all uniformed and civilian UNAMID personnel by 30 June 2021, other than those required for the mission’s liquidation.

Also on 3 June, the Council adopted resolution 2524 establishing the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). For more details see our What’s In Blue story of 3 June.

It seems the penholders would have preferred to pursue a substantively different outcome from the current draft in blue. They had considered proposing an extension of UNAMID’s mandate until June 2021, but with the termination of its Chapter VII elements at the end of 2020. This approach was apparently driven by concerns that UNAMID-initiated programmatic activities will not be completed by the end of this year, while UNITAMS will not yet be fully operational on 1 January 2021. However, it appears that some permanent members and the three African members, as well as the Sudanese government, were not supportive of this approach. It is possible that the UK may, in its explanation of vote tomorrow, refer to its reluctance to have tabled the current draft.

The government of Sudan for its part has made clear its position that the mandate of UNAMID should terminate on 31 December, and has publicly asserted that it will assume full responsibility for the protection of civilians, in line with a national plan transmitted to the Council on 21 May (S/2020/429). Additionally, the 13 November joint AU/UN special report on UNAMID, requested in resolution 2525, recommended that the mandate of UNAMID terminate on 31 December.

Negotiations on the draft in blue went relatively smoothly with input from some members, including China, Tunisia and the US, largely accommodated by the penholders. At the negotiations on 18 December, Russia apparently expressed the view that the outcome should be a presidential statement or exchange of letters and not a resolution. However, the penholders and other members maintained that a resolution was necessary.

Russia and China apparently broke silence over language relating to a UNAMID guard unit. The initial draft referred to a guard unit for UNAMID’s self-protection and asset protection. The draft in blue contains the addition of a separate paragraph with further details on the guard unit, namely deciding to authorise, for the duration of UNAMID’s drawdown and liquidation, the retention of a guard unit from within UNAMID’s existing footprint to protect UNAMID’s personnel, facilities and assets.

The draft in blue expresses appreciation for the work of UNAMID since its establishment in 2007; commends troop- and police contributing countries to UNAMID; and underlines the importance of the partnership between the UN and the AU in Sudan. It expresses support for a seamless transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding in Darfur. It also welcomes as a historic achievement the signing on 3 October of a peace agreement in Juba by the government of Sudan, the Sudan Revolutionary Front and the Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minawi. It encourages swift implementation of the agreement and urges those who have not yet joined to do so.

It takes note of the commitment of the government of Sudan to assume full responsibility for the protection of its civilians and urges the government to fully and swiftly implement the National Plan for Civilian Protection (S/2020/429) and to protect civilians in Darfur in accordance with international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Preambular language in the initial draft that expressed concern about the precarious security situation in some regions of Darfur and noted an increase in civilian casualties in Darfur was removed from the draft in blue.

The draft calls on the government to cooperate fully with the UN and AU during UNAMID’s drawdown and liquidation, including in particular by granting the UN unimpeded access to UNAMID premises until the agreed handover. It also requests the government to fully respect all provisions of the Status of Forces Agreement until the departure of UNAMID. The draft deals with UNAMID team sites, including by acknowledging the government’s commitment to use handed-over UNAMID team sites exclusively for civilian purposes, and calls for the finalisation of a revised framework agreement to facilitate this process. It also calls on the government to conclude investigations into looting of previously handed-over UNAMID team sites.

At the most recent briefing on 8 December (S/2020/1183) Under‑Secretary‑General for Operational Support Atul Khare noted that UNAMID deploys more than 6,000 military and police personnel and that the more than 1,500 remaining civilian staff includes about 700 international staff, spread across the logistics and operations base in El Fasher, UNAMID headquarters in Zalingei, and 13 team sites in Darfur, as well as Khartoum and Port Sudan. Drawing down the mission and its assets is an “enormous task” that will take no less than 6 months, followed by 9 to 12 months of asset disposal and liquidation, he said.

In relation to UNITAMS, the draft in blue encourages the Secretary-General to swiftly increase the mission’s capacity to provide effective assistance, within its mandate, to the government of Sudan. It requests that the transition from UNAMID to UNITAMS be phased, sequenced and efficient. It also states that UNAMID and UNITAMS will determine the modalities and timelines for the transition of responsibilities where the two missions have common strategic objectives and priorities in Darfur. It calls on UNAMID to make arrangements enabling the UN Country Team to oversee residual programmatic activities initiated by UNAMID in 2020, but not yet completed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On reporting, the draft requests the Secretary-General to keep the Council informed on the drawdown and withdrawal of UNAMID as an annex to the regular reporting requested on UNITAMS in resolution 2524. It requests an oral briefing by 31 July 2021 on the completion of UNAMID’s mandate and its closure. It also requests the Secretary-General to provide the Security Council with an assessment on lessons learned from the experience of UNAMID by 31 October 2021.