What's In Blue

Posted Mon 8 Mar 2021

Sudan: Briefing on UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan

Tomorrow (9 March), the Security Council will receive a videoconference (VTC) briefing, followed by VTC consultations, on the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). Special Representative for Sudan and head of UNITAMS Volker Perthes is expected to brief. The briefing will cover the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on UNITAMS (S/2021/199), which includes information in an annex about the drawdown and withdrawal of the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), as requested in resolutions 2524 and 2559.

At the briefing tomorrow, Perthes is expected to provide an assessment of the political situation in Sudan. Perthes, who was appointed on 7 January, arrived in Khartoum on 2 February and met with Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok on 14 February. According to the Secretary-General’s report, despite acute challenges, Sudan continues to make progress in its political transition since a peace agreement was signed on 3 October 2020 in Juba, South Sudan. On 8 February, Hamdok announced the formation of an expanded Sovereign Council and Cabinet. However, following several postponements, state governors have yet to be appointed and the Transitional Legislative Council has not yet been formed. The Secretary-General’s 90-day report calls on the transitional government “to clearly articulate the financial and technical support that it will require from partners” to implement the ambitious timelines in the peace agreement. Council members may be interested in hearing details of how UNITAMS can support implementation of the peace agreement, in line with the mission’s mandate and as requested by the signatories to the agreement.

Perthes may note that UNITAMS has reached its initial operational capacity, with five national staff and 32 international staff. He may also observe that the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Khardiata Lo N’Diaye (Senegal) on 18 February as his new Deputy Special Representative for Sudan and the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in the country.

Perthes may inform the Council that the mission has started to develop benchmarks and indicators to track its progress in achieving its strategic objectives and priorities, as requested in resolution 2524. The Secretary-General’s report states that a joint framework has been adopted for identifying priority activities that need to be transferred from UNAMID to UNITAMS in three main areas: political support for Sudan; peacebuilding issues; and protection concerns. Members may seek additional details on the joint framework, as well as on efforts to finalise the draft status-of-mission agreement shared with the transitional government on 1 July 2020. According to the 90-day report, following changes proposed by the transitional government, additional consultations are expected on this.

Members may be interested in learning more about the challenges facing UNAMID’s drawdown and exit. The 90-day report notes that the withdrawal of UNAMID—which is expected to be completed by 30 June in accordance with resolution 2559—is a large and complex task, as a result of the size of the operation, its geographical footprint and other logistical hurdles, with the COVID-19 pandemic creating additional risks.

A number of members are also particularly concerned about the difficult security situation in Darfur, especially considering that UNAMID is drawing down. Major armed clashes in some areas of Darfur since the start of the year have led to the deaths of hundreds of people, as well as mass displacement. The 90-day report outlines the current drawdown plan of UNAMID with the closure of 14 team sites in Darfur in five phases between January and June. In February, following its handover in January, the Saraf Omrah team site was looted. The Secretary-General condemned the looting and called on the Sudanese authorities “to investigate the incident and ensure sufficient security presences for subsequent handovers so that facilities are preserved for civilian use”. Some members may be interested in hearing details on the envisioned size and operations of the guard unit, currently being formed as authorised in resolution 2559 to protect UNAMID’s personnel, facilities and assets.

In their statements, Council members are likely to welcome recent political progress in Sudan. However, some members may express concern that there are hold-out groups that have yet to join the peace process. Some members may also express the need for the meaningful participation of women in the transitional government and other decision-making bodies, including a minimum of 40 percent female representation in the Transitional Legislative Council, as stipulated in the Constitutional Document and the peace agreement. The dire economic and humanitarian situations are also particularly worrisome to many members. The escalation in tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia regarding the Fashaqah border region might also be referred to during the briefing.

Divisions persist in assessing the situation in Darfur, as reflected by the fact that Council members were unable to agree on a statement condemning the violence in Darfur in January. At tomorrow’s briefing, several members may express concern that the security situation in some regions of Darfur is still precarious and underscore the need to avoid further violence and address the root causes of the conflict. These members may also call for full implementation of the National Plan for Civilian Protection, transmitted to the Council in May 2020 (S/2020/429), whereby the transitional government committed to assuming responsibility for the protection of its civilian population.

Looking ahead, on 25 March, the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Sven Jürgenson (Estonia), is expected to provide the quarterly briefing on the Committee’s work. In a 25 February press release, the Committee urged signatories of the peace agreement to stop recruiting fighters. It also urged Darfuri non-signatory groups to engage in peace talks with the government as soon as possible and “signatory movements to withdraw their forces from foreign countries completely”; the Committee said it would consider listing those individuals or entities that fail to take these steps (SC/14449). On 5 March 2021, the Committee approved the removal of one individual from its sanctions list.