What's In Blue

Posted Sun 19 Mar 2023

Sudan: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (20 March), 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 released on 28 February, which covers developments from 21 November 2022 to 18 February. 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.

On 5 December 2022, a broad grouping of Sudan’s civilian political actors and its military leadership signed the Sudan Political Framework Agreement with the intention of paving the way for a two-year, civilian-led transition ahead of elections, that will start with the appointment of a civilian prime minister. The agreement outlined the general principles of a political settlement and proposed the formation of fully civilian institutions, a departure from the previous constitutional arrangements based on a civilian-military partnership. It also committed to a minimum of 40 percent representation of women in the legislative, executive, and sovereign bodies at the national level. Secretary-General António Guterres and the Friends of Sudan (Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, the US, and the EU) welcomed the agreement. In an 8 December 2022 press statement, Council members also welcomed the agreement.

At tomorrow’s meeting, Perthes is likely to brief the Council on the progress achieved on the implementation of the Political Framework Agreement. On 8 January, its signatories launched the final phase of talks aimed at reaching a “final and just” political settlement under the facilitation of the Trilateral Mechanism—comprised of the African Union (AU), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and UNITAMS. This includes broad consultations on five issues identified in the Political Framework Agreement: dismantling the former regime, security sector reform (SSR), justice and transitional justice, implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement (JPA), and the question of eastern Sudan. (For more background on recent political developments in Sudan, see our March Forecast Brief.)

According to local media reports, in a meeting held on 15 March, the signatories to the Political Framework Agreement agreed to set up a committee to draft the final agreement on the restoration of a transitional civilian government in Sudan. Representatives of the Trilateral Mechanism, the Quad on Sudan—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UK, and the US—and the EU reportedly attended this meeting. The signatories have agreed to conclude the workshops on justice and transitional justice and SSR before the beginning of the upcoming holy month of Ramadan, which will start on 22 March. They have further reportedly decided that the final agreement will be signed—and the structures of the transitional authority will be established—during Ramadan. The announcement was welcomed in a 16 March statement by the Quad on Sudan. Several Council members are also expected to welcome this development at tomorrow’s meeting.

While there has been little progress on the overall implementation of the JPA, Perthes may reference some aspects of the agreement that have advanced during the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report. He may mention the 13-19 February workshop organised by the South Sudanese government to evaluate the implementation of the JPA. At the conclusion of the workshop, the parties to the JPA signed a two-year implementation matrix for the JPA’s implementation, which reportedly addresses several key issues, including security arrangements for Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile States, along with wealth and power sharing with opposition groups in central and northern Sudan. The signing ceremony was attended by, among others, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s military leader and Chairperson of the Transitional Sovereign Council; South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit; representatives of UNITAMS, IGAD, Chad and the UAE as guarantors; and Qatar and Egypt as witnesses.

Tomorrow, several Council members are likely to urge the signatories to the Political Framework Agreement to continue their efforts to broaden the support base for the agreement, particularly by working with non-signatories to build consensus and address the remaining issues. According to the Secretary-General’s report, important political actors in Sudan remaining outside the Political Framework Agreement include, among others, members of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC)-Democratic Bloc (a wide political coalition of civilian and rebel coalitions of Sudanese groups), such as Minni Minawi, the Governor of the Darfur Region and leader of the Sudan Liberation Army – Minni Minawi (SLA/MM) faction, and Gibril Ibrahim, the Minister of Finance and leader of the opposition group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

At tomorrow’s meeting, several Council members are expected to highlight the deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation in the country. The Secretary General’s report notes that the humanitarian needs across the country have reached record levels. An estimated 15.8 million people—about a third of the population—will need humanitarian assistance this year, according to OCHA’s Humanitarian Needs Overview for 2023, which was issued in November 2022. The overview adds that up to 11.7 million people will face crisis levels of food insecurity in 2023, and that there are 3.7 million internally displaced people and 926,000 refugees from other countries in Sudan.

Perthes and several Council members are likely to condemn persisting intercommunal violence, criminality, and armed conflict in the country. During the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report, 623 security incidents were recorded, compared with 524 incidents documented in the previous reporting period. In addition, the report notes that intercommunal clashes left 111 people dead, including seven women and one child. The Secretary-General further observes that issues relating to access to resources and grazing of livestock continued to trigger intercommunal clashes. The report says that, in 2022, approximately 310,328 people were displaced, 991 people were reported killed and another 1,173 injured because of localised conflict and violence.

Some Council members may also raise concerns about the use of force by the Sudanese security forces against protestors calling for an end to military rule. Since the military coup of 25 October 2021, the UN Joint Human Rights Office in Sudan has documented the killing of 123 people during protests, including one woman and 22 children. In his report, the Secretary-General emphasises the importance of halting the excessive use of force against protesters and protecting the right of citizens to assemble peacefully.

Sanctions Briefing

Ambassador Agyeman may recount the Council’s recent decision to renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee until 12 March 2024 through resolution 2676.  He may describe other key elements of the resolution as well.

This resolution introduced a sunset clause for the measures of the Sudan sanctions regime, which have hitherto been open-ended.  In this regard, it decided to renew the measures until 12 September 2024, and determine their future by that date. The resolution also expressed the Council’s intention to review the regime’s measures by 12 February 2024, including through modification, suspension, or progressive lifting of these measures considering progress achieved by Sudan’s government on two benchmarks, namely those relating to progress on transitional security arrangements in Darfur and progress on the National Plan for Civilian Protection. It also requests the Secretary-General to conduct an assessment of progress achieved on the two benchmarks by 1 December 2023.

The negotiations on resolution 2676 were difficult, owing to Council members’ divergent views over the utility of the Sudan sanctions regime. It seems that disagreements during the negotiations focused on wider issues concerning the sanctions regime, including the possibility of reviewing the sanctions measures on Sudan and the prospect of establishing benchmarks to guide the Council in reviewing the sanctions measures. (For more information, see our 8 March What’s in Blue story.)

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