What's In Blue

Sudan: Vote on UNITAMS Mandate Renewal*

Tomorrow (3 June), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution extending the mandate of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) for a period of one year, until 3 June 2023.

The short one-page draft text in blue is described by members as a technical rollover of the measures contained in resolution 2579 of 3 June 2021, which most recently renewed UNITAMS’ mandate. (The term “technical rollover” is commonly used by diplomats to describe a concise resolution extending a peace operation’s mandate without altering its core mandate or tasks. It traditionally denotes an extension for a shorter period than is customary, but members increasingly use the term to describe routine mandate extensions where the content is unchanged.)

The UK, the penholder on Sudan, circulated an initial draft text to the Council on 20 May. This text was a substantive renewal of the mandate. The penholder convened one round of negotiations on the initial text on 25 May. On 27 May, the UK placed under silence procedure a different draft text containing a 12-month extension with no changes to the mission’s mandate. No Council member broke silence on that draft and it passed silence on Tuesday (31 May).

The penholder apparently initially proposed a renewal of the mandate for one year that included new preambular language reflecting the situation on the ground since the military coup d’état in October 2021. (Council members hold divergent views on whether to use the term “military coup” or “military takeover”, with the latter being agreed to in a press statement on 28 October 2021.) Among other things, the draft text apparently sought to condemn the violence by security forces against protestors. It welcomed the recently formed trilateral cooperation mechanism between the AU, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the UN in support of a Sudanese-led process to end the political crisis and urged engagement with this mechanism and the creation of an environment conducive to dialogue. The draft text also condemned the recent violence in West Darfur, as expressed by the Council in a 29 April press statement.

On the mission’s mandate, the penholder was apparently of the view that the four strategic objectives for the mission contained in resolution 2579 remain valid. These are: (i) assisting Sudan’s political transition; (ii) supporting the peace processes and implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement and future peace agreements; (iii) assisting peacebuilding, civilian protection and rule of law, in particular in Darfur and the Two Areas (that is, South Kordofan and Blue Nile); and (iv) supporting the mobilisation of economic and development assistance and coordination of humanitarian and peacebuilding assistance.

It seems that the UK sought to update the six areas to which UNITAMS should prioritise support, first set out in resolution 2579, including by taking into account the 18 April letter sent by Sudan to the Council with “a matrix containing 11 elements that [Sudan] views as guiding the role and work of UNITAMS” (S/2022/325). Among others, these elements included: assistance for electoral preparations, provision of resources for capacity-building of judicial and police institutions, support for national human rights mechanisms, and support for the shift from humanitarian assistance to development. The letter notes that “this requires that UNITAMS redirect its priorities within its mandate to focus on those aspects, as noted in the matrix”.

The penholder apparently consulted extensively with Sudan ahead of the mandate renewal, including before the start of negotiations with all Council members. However, it seems that the initial approach from the penholder was rebutted by Sudan, which expressed the view that the text was unbalanced and lacked objectivity. Sudan apparently insisted on a “technical rollover” of the mandate and conveyed its position to other Council members. The relationship between UNITAMS and Sudan has been strained since the October 2021 coup. In April, Sudan’s military leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, threatened to expel Special Representative for Sudan and head of UNITAMS Volker Perthes, accusing him of overstepping his mandate. In recent months, there have been reports of protests taking place outside the UNITAMS headquarters in Khartoum. Yesterday (1 June), hundreds of protestors, including supporters of Islamist groups critical of the mission’s role, called for Perthes to resign, according to media reports.

During the negotiations on 25 May, China and Russia apparently did not seek to engage on the substance of the initial draft circulated by the penholder and insisted on the need for a “technical rollover”, as requested by Sudan. While the A3 members (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya) and India had proposed some amendments to the initial draft, they apparently also supported Sudan’s position. As a result, the penholder then decided to pursue this course, including due to the strong position expressed by Sudan, the difficult dynamics during the negotiations on the initial draft text and the fact that during negotiations at least six Council members expressed themselves in favour of a “technical rollover”.


*Post-script: On 3 June, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2636 renewing the mandate of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) for one year, until 3 June 2023. In its explanation of vote, the UK said that it would have preferred the adoption of a substantive resolution that would have allowed for the updating of UNITAMS’ priorities to reflect Sudan’s own request for traditional support on issues such as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; transitional justice; and civilian protection (S/PV.9054).

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