What's In Blue

Posted Mon 12 Sep 2022

Sudan: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (13 September), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). Special Representative and head of UNITAMS Volker Perthes is expected to brief on the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report, which covers developments in Sudan from 6 May to 20 August (S/2022/667). A civil society representative is also expected to brief. Prior to this, the Council will receive the quarterly briefing by the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Harold Adlai Agyeman (Ghana), on the committee’s work.

Almost one year after the military coup d’état in October 2021, the political crisis in Sudan remains unresolved. The Secretary-General’s report warns that “in the absence of a political solution, the opportunity for a genuine democratic transition in the Sudan is in danger of slipping away”. At tomorrow’s briefing, Perthes may emphasise the urgency of advancing a political solution, including in light of the deteriorating economic situation, increasing humanitarian needs and continued insecurity involving intercommunal clashes, armed conflict and criminality.

Perthes may highlight, as he did in a 7 August statement, that the UN’s primary goal has been to help facilitate an agreement on a civilian-led transitional arrangement based on an agreed constitutional framework, while reiterating the need for full Sudanese ownership of the political process. In this regard, he is expected to give an overview of the activities of the Trilateral Mechanism, founded to coordinate the efforts of UNITAMS, the AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in support of a Sudanese-led process to end the political crisis and restore a civilian-led transitional government. The Trilateral Mechanism held its first technical session on 8 June.

In a 4 July televised address, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s military leader, announced the military’s withdrawal from political talks facilitated by the Trilateral Mechanism to “allow space for political and revolutionary forces to … form a government of national competencies”. The announcement followed days of large-scale protests in the capital, Khartoum, demanding an end to military rule. Since this announcement, the Trilateral Mechanism has continued to facilitate meetings with non-military stakeholders, noting in a 6 July statement that the “format of military-civilian dialogue no longer exists for the time being”. It has since met with representatives of civil society and political groups such as the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (on 25 August) and the Forces for Freedom and Change (on 1 September). The Secretary-General’s report notes that the Trilateral Mechanism “stands ready to facilitate a dialogue leading to political agreement among the stakeholders”. Tomorrow, Council members may be interested in hearing Perthes’ assessment of the discussions held to date and the possibility of finding common ground on the way forward, given the urgent need to resolve the political crisis.

During tomorrow’s briefing, Perthes is expected to give an overview of the security and humanitarian situations. The Secretary-General’s report notes that insecurity continues to pose significant challenges and expresses alarm over increasing levels of intercommunal violence. During the reporting period, insecurity continued in West, North and South Darfur States, while large-scale violence spread to areas that have been relatively stable in recent years, including the Kulbus locality in West Darfur State and the El-Damazin and Rusayris localities in the Blue Nile Region. Heightened insecurity was also reported in West and South Kordofan States, as well as in Kassala State. On 6 September, UNITAMS issued a statement expressing concern over the resurgence of violence in the Blue Nile Region, resulting in the death, injury and displacement of “scores” of people. (At the end of July, over 31,000 people were displaced following intercommunal violence in Ganis town, Blue Nile State, according to the local authorities.)

While there has been little progress on the overall implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement (JPA), Perthes may reference some aspects of the agreement that have advanced during the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report. In this regard, he might note that 2,000 former members of armed movements have been integrated into the Joint Security-Keeping Force cohort that graduated on 3 July, in accordance with the JPA. The Secretary-General’s report emphasised the need for the Joint Security-Keeping Force to reach its envisioned strength of 12,000 and to deploy immediately to hotspots in Darfur.

As noted in the Secretary-General’s report, “humanitarian needs have grown exponentially”, with approximately 14.3 million Sudanese in need. Perthes may refer to increasing food insecurity levels, continuing large-scale displacements and the flow of refugees from neighbouring countries. He might note that the current rainy season has significantly worsened the humanitarian situation. More than 460,000 people could be affected by the floods this year, according to OCHA’s 2022 Sudan Emergency Response Preparedness Plan, which was issued on 7 June.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 19 August, the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee met to discuss the interim report of its Panel of Experts. (The interim report is not made public.) The mandate of the Panel of Experts was most recently extended for one year with the adoption of resolution 2620 of 15 February. The resolution expressed the Council’s intention to consider establishing clear, well-identified and realistic key benchmarks by 31 August, by which to consider adjusting the sanctions measures. (For more information, see our 14 February What’s in Blue story.) However, Council members were not able to agree on an outcome by 31 August. At the time of writing, disagreements apparently continued in relation to a draft resolution proposed by the US (the penholder on Sudan sanctions) setting out such benchmarks, and it was unclear whether and when the draft may be tabled for a vote.

The Council’s decision to establish benchmarks has been contentious for some time, with diverging positions in relation to the timeline for their consideration and, in particular, their scope. The US circulated a draft presidential statement in September 2021 that ultimately was not adopted, which apparently endorsed all four key benchmarks and related targets proposed in the Secretary-General’s 31 July 2021 report (S/2021/696). It seems that while some members are in favour of adopting all four benchmarks, others hold the view that only one or two of these benchmarks are relevant.

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