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Sudan: Briefing on the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan and the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur

Tomorrow (8 December), the Security Council is expected to receive a briefing, followed by consultations, on the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) and the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). The briefing is expected to cover the Secretary-General’s 90-day report submitted on 1 December (S/2020/1155) on UNITAMS and UNAMID, as well as the joint AU/UN special report on UNAMID, submitted on 13 November (S/2020/1115). Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support Atul Khare are the anticipated briefers. The mandate of UNAMID expires on 31 December while the mandate of UNITAMS expires on 3 June 2021.

The 90-day report

At tomorrow’s briefing, Council members will be interested in hearing assessments of the political situation in Sudan, especially given the country’s ongoing democratic transition. DiCarlo and Lacroix are expected to welcome as a significant positive development the signing of a peace agreement on 3 October in Juba, South Sudan, between the transitional government of Sudan, the Sudan Revolutionary Front and the Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minawi. However, they may also refer to several challenges regarding the agreement’s implementation, including ambitious timelines and concerns about rebel groups that remain outside of the peace process.

Council members will want to be briefed on the security situation in Sudan, including in Darfur. As noted in the 90-day report, the situation remains “fragile, with civil unrest in parts of the country, pockets of violence in Darfur and tribal frictions generating clashes in Eastern Sudan”. The report also describes persistent intercommunal conflict, as well as continued intermittent clashes in the Jebel Marra area between government forces and the SLA-Abdul Wahid, which has rejected participation in the peace process. The dire economic situation and growing humanitarian needs in Sudan may also be discussed at the briefing.

The transition from UNAMID to UNITAMS is also a priority for the Security Council. According to resolution 2524, the Secretary-General was expected to “swiftly initiate the planning for and establishment of UNITAMS, with a view to reaching full operational capacity as soon as possible” and to start delivering the mission’s strategic objectives by 1 January 2021. The 90-day report says a UNITAMS start-up team began to deploy in October and planning for the recruitment of personnel for 2021 and onwards has commenced. Members will be interested in hearing further details on the status of the transition.

Some members may raise potential gaps in relation to the protection of civilians (among other issues) that could exist with the exit of UNAMID, given that the protection of civilians does not fall within the mandate of UNITAMS. In this regard, the 90-day report states that “the transitional government must be ready to fill the gap that the departure of [UNAMID] will create on the ground. While UNITAMS will be there to assist the authorities, it will not be able to replace UNAMID in providing physical protection”. The report urges the transitional government “to expedite its preparations to protect civilians in line with its own national plan”.

During negotiations of resolution 2524 establishing UNITAMS, there were strong differences on potential tasks relating to protection of civilians. While several members believed that the new mission should have a mandate to protect civilians, others (Russia, China and the three African members among them) opposed the inclusion of such tasks in the mandate. For further details see our What’s In Blue story of 3 June 2020.

Joint special report on UNAMID

Resolution 2525, adopted on 3 June, which extended UNAMID’s mandate until 31 December, requested the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission to provide the Security Council with a joint special report, including recommendations on the appropriate course of action regarding the drawdown of UNAMID. The resolution also stated that the Council will take into account the report’s findings when deciding which “courses of action [to take] regarding the responsible drawdown and exit of UNAMID” by the expiration of its mandate on 31 December.

During tomorrow’s briefing, Lacroix may highlight the recommendation made in the special report that the mandate of UNAMID terminate, following its expiration on 31 December, and that the full operationalisation of UNITAMS proceed, in accordance with resolution 2524. The special report estimates that the removal of UNAMID’s footprint and the repatriation of staff, troops and police will take six months, subject to delays due to COVID-19 restrictions and the onset of the rainy season.

The transitional government of Sudan has made clear its position that the mandate of UNAMID terminates 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). A progress report on the plan’s implementation was transmitted to the Council by Sudan on 14 September (S/2020/901). Council members may be interested in hearing further updates in this regard, especially in light of the expiration of the UNAMID mandate on 31 December. Additionally, given that UNITAMS is not mandated to provide physical protection, members may seek more information on how UNITAMS will support the implementation by the Sudanese government of its national plan. According to the special report, intercommunal conflict increased in 2019 and into 2020. In addition, although the level of fighting between government and opposition forces had decreased last year, “the conflict continued to simmer and escalated in 2020”.

The scope and pace of UNAMID’s drawdown, reconfiguration, and exit has been contentious among Council members. Some members—including China, Russia, and African members of the Council—have advocated that the mission end its mandate this year. Other members—including current penholders, the UK and Germany—have typically espoused a more gradual and cautious approach to the exit of the mission, informed by the conditions on the ground in Darfur. Members may reiterate these positions in their statements tomorrow.

Other meetings related to Sudan are expected in the Council this month. Later this week, Council members will receive the semi-annual briefing of the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, related to the Court’s work on Darfur, in VTC format on 10 December. The chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Sven Jürgenson (Estonia), is expected to provide the quarterly briefing on the committee’s work, also in VTC format, on 11 December.

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