AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID): Briefing on the Drawdown*
Tomorrow morning (27 July), the Security Council will receive an oral briefing on the drawdown and closure of the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), as requested in resolution 2559, from Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support Atul Khare.
UNAMID, which was established by the Security Council in resolution 1769 on 31 July 2007, is one of the largest peacekeeping operations in the UN’s history, and at its peak deployment in 2011, it had nearly 23,000 troops and police personnel. On 22 December 2020, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2559 on the exit of UNAMID. The resolution decided to terminate UNAMID’s mandate by 31 December 2020 and requested the Secretary-General to complete the withdrawal of all uniformed and civilian UNAMID personnel by 30 June, except for those required for the mission’s liquidation. It also requested the Secretary-General to provide the Security Council with an assessment of lessons learned from UNAMID’s experience no later than 31 October.
Khare, who visited Sudan earlier this month, is expected to update Council members on the status of UNAMID’s drawdown. According to a 15 July press briefing by the deputy spokesperson of the Secretary-General, while in Sudan, Khare held talks with the Chairperson of the Sovereign Council, the Minister of the Interior, the Coordinator of the National Committee for Coordination with the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) in the Prime Minister’s Office, the Governor of the Darfur Region, and the newly appointed North Darfur Governor. The Sudanese officials he had met with extended their support and thanked the UN for a timely, transparent and efficient drawdown, the spokesperson said.
Khare is likely to note that UNAMID completed its drawdown on 30 June, as requested in resolution 2559. He may also say that given its size and geographical footprint, UNAMID faced challenges during the drawdown period, but was able to complete the process without major incident. During his last briefing on UNAMID to the Council on 9 March (S/2021/246), Khare outlined several challenges to UNAMID’s drawdown process, including the looting of team sites which were handed over and a request from the transitional government to delay the closure and handover of the team sites in Kalma and Sortony. According to the Secretary-General’s 17 May UNITAMS report (S/2021/470), which provided details on UNAMID’s liquidation procedure, the handovers of the team sites in Kalma and Sortony were postponed by about a week to “allow time for efforts to create more conducive conditions for the handovers, including engagement with local communities”. Starting in December 2020, there have also been largely peaceful demonstrations against the exit of UNAMID as well as petitions from some communities, including internally displaced persons, who expressed concern about their security after the mission’s withdrawal.
Khare may inform the Council that over the preceding four months, the mission handed over 14 team sites to the transitional government, which committed to using them for civilian purposes identified by community members in line with the Framework Agreement signed on 4 March, including for health care, education, and other social services, such as vocational training and community centres. Khare may note that at the beginning of the drawdown period in January, 7,000 military, police, and civilian personnel remained to be repatriated. By the end of June, over 6,000 of these personnel had been repatriated.
Council Members are likely to be interested in hearing more information about the current liquidation phase of the mission, which began on 1 July and is expected to be completed within 12 months. The Secretary-General’s 17 May UNITAMS report noted that such activities will be conducted from the El Fasher logistics hub, with the mission maintaining a presence in Khartoum within the UNITAMS complex to liaise with government officials on operational matters and in Port Sudan for export logistical operations. Khare may highlight several liquidation tasks including the disposal of remaining assets; the completion of the environmental clean-up and restoration; the disposal of hazardous materials, including expired ammunition; and the repatriation of equipment and uniformed and civilian personnel. Members may also seek further details about the progress in establishing a guard unit, authorised in resolution 2559, consisting of 363 formed police to protect UNAMID’s personnel, facilities and assets during the liquidation process.
Although resolution 2559 on the termination of UNAMID’s mandate was adopted unanimously in December 2020, the penholders on the resolution, then-Council member Germany and the UK, had apparently considered proposing an extension of UNAMID’s mandate until June 2021 but with the termination of its Chapter VII elements by the end of 2020. This approach was driven by several concerns, including that UNAMID-initiated programmatic activities would not be completed by the end of 2020 and that UNITAMS would not yet be fully operational. However, it appears that some permanent members and the three African members (Niger, then-Council member South Africa and Tunisia), as well as the Sudanese government, were not supportive of this approach. (For more, see our What’s In Blue story of 21 December 2020.)
At tomorrow’s meeting, some members may wish to hear updates on the security situation in Darfur. Several members remain concerned that the security situation in some regions is still precarious and may underscore the need to avoid a relapse into conflict. While some of these members believed that UNITAMS should have a mandate to protect civilians, others (China, Russia, and the three African members among them) opposed the inclusion of such tasks in the mission’s mandate during negotiations in June 2020.
*Post-script: On 2 August, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement (S/PRST/2021/14) following the drawdown of UNAMID on 30 June.