What's In Blue

Posted Mon 17 Apr 2023

Sudan: Meeting under “Any Other Business”

Today (17 April), following the closed consultations on Yemen, Security Council members will discuss the situation in Sudan under “any other business”, at the request of the UK (the penholder on the file). Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) Volker Perthes is expected to brief.

Perthes is expected to update Council members on the latest developments in Sudan after fighting erupted in the morning of 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. According to local media reports, fighting initially erupted in the Soba suburb, south of Khartoum, and then spread to several strategic areas in the capital, including Sudan’s presidential palace, the headquarters of the state television, Khartoum International Airport, and the military’s headquarters.

Multiple media outlets have reported that fighting has continued for the third day today (17 April) between the SAF and RSF in Khartoum and other parts of the country. At the time of writing, the hostilities had reportedly resulted in the deaths of at least 74 civilians and more than 600 injuries. Three World Food Programme (WFP) humanitarian aid workers also lost their lives as a result of the fighting.

The fighting follows months of rising tensions between the SAF and RSF. The two factions had formerly cooperated closely; the RSF participated in the 2019 coup d’état that ousted former President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. After the 2019 coup, Dagalo became the deputy of the Transitional Military Council, which then transferred its powers to the Transitional Sovereign Council. The RSF then also participated in the October 2021 coup, following which the Transitional Sovereign Council seized power.

The tensions between al-Burhan and Dagalo came to a head several weeks ago, owing to disagreements over the final agreement on a political transition, including on key security and military reforms. On 5 December 2022, a broad grouping of Sudan’s civilian political actors and its military leadership signed the Sudan Political Framework Agreement, which is aimed at paving the way for a two-year, civilian-led transition ahead of elections. 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. (For background, see our 19 March What’s in Blue story.) The sides were initially expected to sign the final agreement on 1 April, but this was postponed to 6 April.

Afterwards, the signing was postponed indefinitely because of disagreement between Dagalo and al-Burhan over the reintegration of the RSF into the armed forces and their command and control, according to local media reports. In an 8 April statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said that Sudan remains at a “decisive juncture” and that “all efforts must now go to get the political transition back on the right path”. He urged all parties to overcome obstacles on security sector reform and avoid any delays in the signing of the political agreement.

Last week, the SAF began deploying troops inside Khartoum and Merowe town in Northern State. In a 13 April statement, SAF Spokesperson Nabil Abdallah said that the deployment of RSF forces had been done without the approval or coordination of the armed forces and may lead to the collapse of security in the country.

On 15 April, Security Council members issued a press statement expressing deep concern over the clashes between the SAF and RSF and the resulting deaths and injuries. They urged the parties to cease hostilities, to restore calm, and to pursue dialogue in order to resolve the ongoing crisis in the country. Council members stressed the importance of maintaining humanitarian access and ensuring the safety of UN personnel. The statement reaffirmed Council members’ commitment to the unity, sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Sudan.

On 15 April, Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement that strongly condemned the outbreak of fighting between the SAF and RSF in Sudan. He called on SAF and RSF leaders to immediately cease hostilities, restore calm, and initiate a dialogue to resolve the current crisis in the country. The statement further noted that Guterres is engaging with leaders in the region and called on regional countries to support efforts to restore order and return to the path of transition.

On 16 April, the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) met to consider the situation in Sudan. In a communiqué adopted following the meeting, the AUPSC strongly condemned the ongoing armed confrontation between the SAF and RSF throughout Sudan. The AUPSC called on both sides to commit to an immediate ceasefire without conditions, to protect civilians, and to provide humanitarian support to civilians. It urged regional countries and other stakeholders to support ongoing efforts to return the country to the transition process aimed at restoring constitutional order. The AUPSC further decided that it will undertake a “field mission” to Sudan to engage with all Sudanese stakeholders on the situation in the country. It requested the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, to continue using his good offices to engage with the parties to facilitate dialogue and a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Sudan.

On 16 April, the IGAD Summit of Heads of State and Government convened for an extraordinary emergency session to discuss the situation in Sudan. During the meeting, IGAD decided to send South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh, and Somalian President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to Sudan “at the earliest possible time” to “reconcile the conflicting groups”.

On 16 April, the SAF and RSF agreed to a proposal, advanced by Perthes and the Trilateral Mechanism, to commit to a three-hour temporary pause in fighting on humanitarian grounds, ending mid-day on 16 April. Media outlets reported that despite the agreement on a pause, heavy fire was heard in central Khartoum.

In a 16 April statement, Guterres condemned the deaths and injuries of civilians and called for those responsible to be held accountable. The statement further noted that the UN and other humanitarian premises had been hit by projectiles and looted in several locations in Darfur. Following the deaths of the WFP workers, WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain issued a statement demanding immediate steps to guarantee the safety of  humanitarian workers in the country. She noted that, in a separate incident, one WFP-managed UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) aircraft was significantly damaged at Khartoum International Airport during an exchange of gunfire on 15 April. She said that the WFP was halting all its operations in Sudan while the security situation is being reviewed.

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