What's In Blue

Posted Sun 21 May 2023

Sudan: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (22 May), 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 16 May, which covers developments from 19 February to 6 May. AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Bankole Adeoye and Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Workneh Gebeyehu are also expected to brief.

On 15 April, heavy fighting broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), headed by 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 (known as Hemeti). Despite several calls from the regional stakeholders and the broader international community for a ceasefire, fighting has entered its second month, causing a deep humanitarian crisis. According to OCHA’s 17 May situation report, at least 604 people have been killed and over 5,100 injured because of the ongoing fighting.

The Secretary-General’s 16 May report notes that, since the outbreak of fighting on 15 April, UNITAMS has focused its good offices efforts on urging the parties to cease hostilities, respect international humanitarian law and return to political negotiations. The report states that UNITAMS—as part of the Trilateral Mechanism that also includes the AU and IGAD—has continued to engage closely with regional organisations and member states in the pursuit of a ceasefire, including through the provision of technical expertise on ceasefire monitoring. It further notes that the fighting has posed severe operational challenges for UNITAMS and the mission has suspended activities such as capacity building, development assistance and field visits. Only a small number of the mission’s international personnel remain in Port Sudan to support the good offices efforts of Perthes.

At tomorrow’s meeting, Perthes is likely to update members on political and security developments in Sudan, as well as on the various ongoing regional and international efforts aimed at resolving the crisis. On 11 May, the warring parties, with the facilitation of Saudi Arabia and the US, signed a “Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians of Sudan”, in Jeddah. Among other things, the parties agreed to:

  • allow safe passage for civilians to leave areas of active hostilities;
  • take all feasible precautions to avoid and minimise civilian harm;
  • allow principal humanitarian operations to resume and protect humanitarian personnel and assets;
  • adopt simple and expedited procedures for all logistical and administrative arrangements necessary for humanitarian relief operations; and
  • commit to scheduling subsequent expanded discussions to achieve a permanent cessation of hostilities.

At tomorrow’s meeting some Council members are expected to acknowledge the signing of the declaration and call upon the parties to adhere to their commitments.

Council members may want to learn more about whether any substantive progress has been made in finding a political solution to the conflict.  In a 11 May joint statement, Saudi Arabia and the US noted that, following the signing of the declaration, the talks in Jeddah would focus on “reaching agreement on an effective ceasefire for up to approximately ten days” to facilitate implementation of the commitments. It said that the security measures would include a US-Saudi ceasefire monitoring mechanism, supported by the international community. The statement added that the talks would also address the proposed arrangements for subsequent talks with Sudanese civilians and regional and international partners on a permanent cessation of hostilities.

In a 11 May statement, the Trilateral Mechanism welcomed the signing of the Declaration of Commitment by the Sudanese warring parties and urged them immediately to exert all efforts to translate these commitments to meaningful action. The mechanism called on the parties to “convey clear and unequivocal instructions to lower ranks” to abide by the declaration and facilitate the safe passage of humanitarian assistance and the restoration of essential services.

On 7 May, the League of Arab States (LAS), in an emergency ministerial-level meeting of its Executive Council, in Cairo, established a contact group on Sudan, consisting of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and LAS Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit. Among other things, the contact group is mandated to communicate with the Sudanese parties, regional and international partners, and international organisations with the aim of reaching a settlement to the ongoing crises. On 17 May, the contact group held its first meeting in Jeddah, with the participation of Gheit, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. In a tweet following the meeting, the Saudi Foreign Ministry noted that the meeting focused on reviewing the contents of the declaration signed in Jeddah, including the commitment to protect civilians in Sudan.

On 17 May, Hemeti’s special envoy Yousif Ezat met in Juba with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, who is heading the IGAD-led mediation process. In a press conference with South Sudan’s Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Deng Dau Deng following the meeting with Kiir, Ezat expressed support for the IGAD-led process. In an 18 May press release, Sudan’s Foreign Ministry noted that it had lodged an official complaint with the South Sudanese government in response to the permission granted to Hemeti’s advisor to hold a press conference in the presence of senior South Sudanese officials. (For more information, see our 11 May What’s in Blue story.)

Council members last met to discuss the situation in Sudan under “any other business” on 17 May, at the request of the UK (the penholder on the file). The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, briefed Council members on the influx of refugees into Sudan’s neighbouring countries and presented an overview of its potential impact on regional stability. Among other matters, Grandi highlighted UNHCR’s efforts and expressed concern about the situation of refugees.

At tomorrow’s meeting, several Council members are expected to express concern about the worsening humanitarian situation in the country. The Secretary-General’s 16 May report notes that the outbreak of fighting on 15 April has led to a drastic deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the country, with humanitarian activities being interrupted in several states owing to widespread insecurity, and reports of looting of humanitarian assets, including food, office equipment and vehicles.

On 17 May, OCHA released a revised 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for Sudan, in light of the ongoing conflict. According to the plan, the estimated number of people in need has increased from 15.8 million in November 2022 to 24.7 million in May. The plan requires $817 million in additional funding, bringing the requirements for 2023 to $2.56 billion. At the time of writing, the HRP for Sudan was 12.4 percent funded.

Also on 17 May, UNHCR launched the Refugee Response Plan (RRP), which appeals for an estimated $470.4 million for an initial period from May to October. The RRP projects that the number of refugees, including Sudanese refugees, individuals from third countries, refugee returnees and migrant returnees, will reach approximately 1.1 million during this initial period. At tomorrow’s meeting briefers and Council members are expected to call for increased funding for the HRP and RRP.

According to data provided by UNHCR,  approximately 843,130 people have been internally displaced as a result of the ongoing conflict, and more than 250,000 forced to take shelter in neighbouring countries including the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.

The mandate of UNITAMS is due to expire on 3 June. Council members currently appear inclined to extend the mandate for another six months, while calling on the parties to work towards a lasting, inclusive, and democratic political settlement in Sudan. The UK circulated a zero draft among Council members on 19 May, and the first round of negotiations is scheduled for 23 May. At tomorrow’s closed consultations, Council members may wish to have detailed discussions with the briefers on the mandate of UNITAMS.

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