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Sudan: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (10 December), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing on Sudan. Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) Volker Perthes is expected to brief on the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report on the situation in Sudan, which was issued on 3 December, and on UNITAMS’ work. The chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Sven Jürgenson (Estonia), is expected to provide the quarterly briefing on the committee’s work. Consultations are expected to follow the open briefings.

Recent developments regarding the political transition in Sudan—which UNITAMS is mandated to assist as its first strategic objective—are expected to be a focus of the meeting. Perthes is likely to give an account of the turbulent political developments in Sudan during the past several weeks. On 25 October, the Chairperson of the Transitional Sovereign Council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, declared a nationwide state of emergency and the suspension of key provisions of the August 2019 Constitutional Document, including the transfer of the Sovereign Council chair from the military to the civilian government, which was set to take place in November. He also announced that the military would oversee Sudan’s transition until elections, to be held in July 2023. The military detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his wife and placed them under house arrest. Government officials, including ministers and civilian members of the Sovereign Council, were also arrested.

On 21 November, Hamdok was released from house arrest, following significant international criticism and mass demonstrations in Sudan against the military takeover, which were met with violence by security forces. Appearing together on television, he and al-Burhan announced a new 14-point power-sharing agreement, including Hamdok’s reinstatement as prime minister, and the release of all political detainees. Under the terms of the agreement, the parties decided to “[a]ccelerate the completion of all transitional governance institutions including the Transitional Legislative Council and the Constitutional Court”, to form “a civilian government of independent national experts (technocrats)”, and to investigate injuries and deaths during the protests following the 25 October military takeover.

The power-sharing agreement has reportedly faced opposition in Sudan. Several parties have rejected the agreement, including the main opposition alliance, the Forces for Freedom and Change Coalition (FFC). According to media reports, protests against the 25 October military takeover and the subsequent power-sharing agreement broke out earlier this week in several cities in Sudan, including in the capital, Khartoum.

Several Council members apparently view the agreement as an important first step in getting the political transition in Sudan back on track, but nonetheless remain troubled by al-Burhan’s role in the military takeover. These members may underscore the importance of implementing the Constitutional Document, which called for a 39-month transition period leading to general elections. They may also emphasise the need to conduct timely investigations into casualties during the demonstrations following the military takeover, when over 40 protesters reportedly died at the hands of security forces. Some members may emphasise the importance of accountability for this violence.

Council members may be interested in learning more from Perthes about the challenges that the 21 November agreement might pose for the political transition, how these can be addressed, and the role that the UN is playing in mediating among the different political actors in Sudan. Perthes may discuss his recent meetings with various government and opposition figures—including Hamdok, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as General Hemeti) and FFC representatives—regarding the current political tensions. Members may also be interested in an update on the status of the agreement’s implementation, including the investigation into the violence following the military’s seizure of power and the release of political prisoners.

Perthes may also brief on the steps taken to develop the UN-Sudan Transition Plan, which “will articulate the common vision, priorities, and responsibilities of the United Nations in support of Sudan’s transition”, according to the Secretary-General’s recent report on Sudan, which covers the period from 21 August to 21 November. The plan was initially set to be completed by the end of 2021, but the military takeover in October has delayed this.

Perthes may describe UNITAMS’ support for peace processes in Sudan and the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement, a second strategic objective of the mission. He may give an update on the recent activities of the Darfur Permanent Ceasefire Committee, which is chaired by UNITAMS and is meant “to monitor, verify and resolve ceasefire violations”, as noted in the Secretary-General’s recent report. Perthes might share his insights on the concept of operations developed by the UN Secretariat and UNITAMS for the committee. He may further describe discussions that UNITAMS has held with the transitional government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) Abdelaziz Al-Hilu faction, a non-signatory of the Juba Peace Agreement, about restarting peace talks, which have not been convened since June. Perthes may also elaborate on any interactions he has had with South Sudanese mediators about bringing the parties together for negotiations.

UNITAMS’ efforts to assist Sudan with peacebuilding, the protection of civilians, and the rule of law – the third strategic priority of the mission—may be raised. Perthes may address the mission’s support for Sudan’s efforts to launch the National Plan for the Protection of Civilians, and the mission’s coordination with the UN Country Team in this regard. He may also express concern about vacancies in Sudan’s Attorney General and Chief Justice positions, and the negative effect this has had on the justice sector. Perthes and Council members may also express concern regarding the recent rise in intercommunal violence in Darfur.

Another matter that may be discussed is UNITAMS’ assistance in mobilising economic and development assistance and coordinating humanitarian and peacebuilding aid—the mission’s final strategic objective. In this respect, Perthes may describe UNITAMS’ role in supporting the Sudan Partnership Forum’s launch. As noted in the Secretary-General’s report, this forum, which is chaired by Hamdok, has been designed “to foster coordination on planning and delivery of development assistance in line with national priorities and established global principles of effective development cooperation”.

Jürgenson is expected to provide an overview of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee’s work in 2021 at tomorrow’s meeting. After considering the Panel of Experts’ final report, the committee issued a press release on 25 February in which it urged “the Darfurian major non-signatory groups to engage in peace talks with the Government of Sudan as soon as possible”. Jürgenson may note the importance of a visit to Sudan by the next chair to get a better understanding of developments on the ground. The committee had expected to visit Sudan in early November but could not due to the political turmoil that followed the military takeover in October.

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