What's In Blue

Posted Wed 10 Nov 2021

Sudan: Consultations on the situation since the coup

Tomorrow (11 November), Security Council members will convene for closed consultations to discuss the situation in Sudan. The meeting was requested by the UK (the penholder on Sudan), Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway, and the US. Special Representative for Sudan and head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) Volker Perthes is expected to brief. At the time of writing, no outcome was expected.

Perthes is expected to update members on the latest developments in Sudan following the military coup d’état announced on 25 October by the Chairperson of the Transitional Sovereign Council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Perthes’ latest briefing to the Council on the situation in the country took place on 26 October in closed consultations. (For background, see our What’s in Blue story from 26 October.)

Since 25 October, mass demonstrations opposing the coup have been taking place in the capital, Khartoum, and across the country. In several instances, protestors have been met with excessive force, including live ammunition, according to the Joint UN Human Rights Office in Sudan. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet noted in a 5 November statement that at least 13 civilians have reportedly been killed by military and security forces since 25 October, and hundreds more injured. Arrests have continued, including of political leaders and journalists. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok remains under house arrest at his residence. At the time of writing, the nationwide shutdown of the internet imposed by the military authorities since 25 October remained in place, despite a Sudanese court having ordered its restoration on 9 November.

At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members will likely seek further details on the mediation efforts underway and on the role played by UNITAMS in this regard. In a 1 November press conference, Perthes said that the situation in Sudan was “stable but tense”. Among other things, he said that multiple mediation efforts are underway in Khartoum by “a host of actors” and that the UN continues to play a good offices role in supporting some of these initiatives, including by providing ideas and coordinating with some of these mediators. Perthes emphasised that UNITAMS is engaging with all Sudanese actors across the political spectrum, as well as with regional and international interlocutors, with the AU being a main partner. He added that he is in contact with countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and South Sudan. In response to a question about which countries could exert diplomatic influence on the situation, he responded that the US, Egypt, South Sudan and “wider regional neighbours” could play a role. On 4 November, Perthes met with AU High Representative for the Horn of Africa Olusegun Obasanjo. They reportedly discussed regional dynamics, shared efforts towards de-escalation, release of detainees, and restoration of the transition through dialogue.

According to Perthes’ statement at the 1 November press conference, UNITAMS has been in contact with several Sudanese stakeholders, including al-Burhan, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as General Hemeti), Prime Minister Hamdok, members of the opposition alliance Forces of Freedom and Change (FCC), and civil society representatives. On 5 November, UNITAMS released a statement strongly condemning the detention of members of the FCC’s Central Council after their meeting with Perthes, which took place near the UNITAMS headquarters on the previous day. The statement called on “the military leadership to cease arresting politicians and activists and to stop committing further human rights violations”.

The Human Rights Council (HRC) held a special session on Sudan on 5 November, following a request by the UK, the US, Norway, and Germany (with the support of at least one-third of the HRC’s members). Bachelet briefed, saying among other things that “the whereabouts of most of those arrested remains unknown” and that the “disproportionate and deadly use of force by the Sudan Armed Forces, the Rapid Support Forces, and other security forces…must end immediately”. She also noted that all radio stations and television channels in the country have ceased broadcasting, except for channels which are controlled by the military authorities. Bachelet added that several offices of civil society organisations have been raided. At the 5 November meeting, the HRC adopted a resolution, without a vote, which “condemns in the strongest possible terms the military takeover” and decides to appoint, for one year, a special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan (A/HRC/S-32/L.1). Council members China and Russia, which are currently on the HRC, disassociated themselves from the consensus on the resolution.

On 26 October, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) met on Sudan and adopted a communiqué that expressed “deep concern over the military takeover in Sudan” and strongly condemned the “seizure of power by the Sudanese military”. It decided to immediately suspend Sudan across all AU activities “until the effective restoration of the civilian-led Transitional Authority”.

On 28 October, Security Council members issued a press statement (SC/14678) expressing “serious concern about the military takeover in Sudan on 25 October” and calling on Sudan’s military authorities to restore the civilian-led transitional government. Among other things, Council members called upon all parties to refrain from violence and emphasised the importance of “full respect for human rights, including the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression”.

It seems that there were some areas of disagreement during the negotiations on the press statement. Apparently, the UK and several other members would have preferred stronger language condemning, rather than expressing concern over, the situation. (Council members had previously adopted a press statement on 22 September that “condemned in the strongest terms the attempt on 21 September to disrupt Sudan’s transition by force”.) Members agreed on the term “military takeover” rather than “coup” in the 28 October press statement. Secretary-General António Guterres and Bachelet have both referred to it as a “coup” in their statements. Council members such as the UK, Estonia and Norway have also referred to it as a “coup”, including when appearing at media stakeouts on 26 October. Apparently, Russia and the US have not characterised it as a “coup”. The Troika on Sudan (the UK, the US and Norway) have also referred to it as a “military takeover”, as did the AU PSC in its communiqué.