What's In Blue

Posted Tue 25 Apr 2023

Sudan: Briefing and Consultations*

This afternoon (25 April), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, to discuss the situation in Sudan, at the request of the UK (the penholder on the file). UN Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to provide opening remarks. Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) Volker Perthes and Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Joyce Msuya are expected to brief.* Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan are expected to participate under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.

Council members last met to discuss the situation in Sudan under “any other business” on 17 April. Perthes briefed members on the latest developments in the country after fighting erupted on 15 April in and around Khartoum between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), headed by Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan—Sudan’s military leader and Chairperson of the Transitional Sovereign Council—and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the Deputy Chairman of the Transitional Sovereign Council. Among other matters, Perthes apparently expressed concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation, especially in light of recent attacks targeting humanitarian workers. It seems that Council members were united in calling for de-escalation, a cessation of hostilities, and the restoration of calm in the country. (For background, see our 17 April What’s in Blue story.)

At today’s meeting, some Council members—including the A3 (Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique)—are expected to reiterate their support for the diplomatic efforts of regional organisations, especially the AU and IGAD. On 20 April, the AU Commission (the regional organisation’s secretariat) held an urgent special ministerial meeting on Sudan. The meeting was attended by Guterres, representatives of the Security Council’s permanent five members (P5), the A3 members, IGAD, the League of Arab States (LAS), and other regional stakeholders.

The participants at the 20 April meeting adopted a communiqué which called for an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire for a week starting from 20 April that could pave the way for “a more permanent ceasefire”. They called on the SAF and the RSF to establish humanitarian corridors and allow for unhindered humanitarian access and evacuation of injured civilians. The communiqué further called for immediate resumption of the political process through dialogue and negotiations, with the aim of establishing a civilian-led government. It requested the Trilateral Mechanism (which is comprised of the AU, IGAD, and UNITAMS), in coordination with the LAS, the EU, the Troika (Norway, the UK, and the US), and other actors, to engage with the SAF and the RSF to ensure the communiqué’s implementation, including by developing an urgent plan for de-escalation. In this regard, the communiqué requested the two parties to designate interlocutors to work with the Trilateral Mechanism, to monitor and verify the humanitarian ceasefire, and to further elaborate permanent ceasefire arrangements, including the withdrawal of forces from urban areas.

At a press stakeout following the 20 April meeting, Guterres called for a ceasefire to mark the Eid al-Fitr celebrations, adding that this must be followed by serious dialogue that will facilitate a transition to a civilian government. He expressed deep concerns about the hostilities’ negative effects on civilians and about the prospect of further escalation. He added that humanitarian operations have become virtually impossible, as warehouses, vehicles, and other humanitarian assets have been attacked, looted, and seized. On 21 April, the Permanent Representative of Sudan to the UN, Ambassador Al-Harith Idriss Al-Harith Mohamed, sent a letter to the Security Council, informing it that al-Burhan had announced a three-day humanitarian truce starting on the same day. Despite this, fighting reportedly persisted, with a 23 April OCHA flash update noting that clashes had continued throughout the three-day period.

In a 24 April press statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the SAF and the RSF have agreed to implement a 72-hour nationwide ceasefire starting at midnight on April 24. He urged both parties to immediately and fully uphold the ceasefire. Blinken added that, to support a durable end to the fighting, the US will “coordinate with regional and international partners, and Sudanese civilian stakeholders” to “assist in the creation of a committee to oversee the negotiation, conclusion, and implementation of a permanent cessation of hostilities and humanitarian arrangements in Sudan”. At today’s meeting, Council members are likely to call on the parties to adhere to the ceasefire and to engage in dialogue and negotiations in good faith.

Several Council members are expected to highlight the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country. According to the 23 April OCHA flash update, at least 427 people have been killed and over 3,700 injured because of the ongoing fighting. It added that two humanitarian organisations—the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM)—have suspended their operations. A 22 April IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix noted that displacements have been reported in Khartoum, as well as in Northern, Blue Nile, North Kordofan, North Darfur, West Darfur and South Darfur states.

Some Council members may express concern about attacks against civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals. On 21 April, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that it had verified 11 attacks against healthcare facilities since 15 April, adding that the remaining facilities in Khartoum and Darfur states are stretched beyond capacity and are nearly non-functional due to staff fatigue and lack of supplies. In a 24 April statement, Guterres condemned the indiscriminate bombardment of civilian areas, including healthcare facilities. He called on the parties to “stop combat operations in densely populated areas and to allow unhindered humanitarian aid operations”.

At today’s meeting, Council members are expected to call on the two parties to ensure the safety and security of civilians, including foreign nationals. Media reports suggest that, over the past few days, many member states have been evacuating their diplomatic staff and citizens. According to the 23 April OCHA flash update, several humanitarian organisations have evacuated or relocated their staff members from locations where operations are not currently feasible.

According to a 24 April press statement by UNITAMS, the UN temporarily relocated its internationally-recruited personnel from Khartoum to Port Sudan for onward evacuation to neighbouring countries. It added that a small number of internationally-recruited personnel, including Perthes, will remain in Sudan and will “continue to work towards a resolution to the current crisis and returning to the UN mandated tasks”. Perthes, in the same statement, said: “our presence on the ground has been adjusted in light of the security situation but…there is no plan or thinking of the UN leaving Sudan”. At the time of writing, the UN in Sudan has a total of 4,149 staff members, including 877 internationally-recruited staff and 3,272 national staff.

The UK apparently proposed a draft press statement on the situation in the country following the 20 April AU-organised ministerial meeting. It appears that, among other matters, the draft text condemned the continued military clashes between the SAF and RSF; regretted the death of civilians and damage to civilian infrastructure; welcomed the diplomatic efforts by the AU, IGAD, the LAS, and UNITAMS to resolve the crisis; reiterated the need for full, safe, and unimpeded humanitarian access; and demanded that the parties commit to the safety, security, and protection of civilians, diplomatic missions and personnel, UN, humanitarian and medical personnel, including to ensure the safe departure of foreign nationals from Sudan. It appears that Council members were unable to reach consensus, however. The A3 apparently opposed the issuing of a press statement by Council members, noting that this may lead to duplicate messaging, thereby creating complications at a delicate time. It seems that China and Russia supported the position of the A3.

During a 16 April extraordinary emergency session, the IGAD Summit of Heads of State and Government decided to send South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh, and Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to Sudan “at the earliest possible time” to “reconcile the conflicting groups”. But it appears that there might be a delay in such a visit, in light of the worsening security situation and a lack of guarantees from the parties to ensure the delegation’s safety.


**Post-script (25 April, 1 pm EST): An earlier version of this story indicated that briefings are also expected from Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat and Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Workneh Gebeyehu. The story was amended to reflect a revised list of speakers.

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