What's In Blue

Posted Wed 31 May 2023

Sudan: Closed Consultations

This afternoon (31 May), Security Council members will convene for closed consultations to discuss the situation in Sudan. UN Secretary-General António Guterres requested the meeting and is expected to brief. At the time of writing, no outcome is expected in connection with this meeting.

Sudan continues to grapple with the devastating consequences of fighting that erupted on the morning of 15 April in and around Khartoum 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. Despite several calls for a ceasefire from regional stakeholders and the broader international community, fighting entered its second month in May, causing a deep humanitarian crisis.

At today’s meeting, Guterres is expected to update members on political developments in Sudan, as well as on the various ongoing regional and international efforts aimed at resolving the crisis. On 20 May, the SAF and the RSF signed an “Agreement on a Short-Term Ceasefire and Humanitarian Arrangements” as part of US-Saudi facilitated talks in Jeddah. The agreement stipulated a seven-day ceasefire, starting on 22 May, to allow the delivery of emergency humanitarian assistance and restoration of essential services. Among other matters, the parties agreed to protect civilians from violence and to guarantee their freedom of movement throughout the country; to refrain from targeting civilian infrastructure or population centres and from acquiring military supplies, including from foreign sources; and to ensure that all forces under their command observe the agreement in full.

The 20 May agreement established a monitoring and coordination committee, which comprises three representatives from each of the two facilitating countries and three representatives from each of the warring parties, to monitor ceasefire compliance and adherence with the agreement. Among its tasks, the committee is mandated to help coordinate among relevant humanitarian actors, including OCHA and the ICRC, in making arrangements for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and repair of essential civilian infrastructure and services.

In a 26 May joint statement, Saudi Arabia and the US said that the monitoring committee has observed significant breaches of the 20 May agreement, including the use of artillery, military aircraft, and drones in Khartoum, as well as clashes in the town of Zalingei in Darfur. The statement added that the facilitators have engaged with both sides and “cautioned the parties against further violations and implored them to improve respect for the ceasefire”.

On 29 May, the Sudanese warring parties agreed to extend the 20 May ceasefire agreement for five days. In a joint statement released that day, the facilitators noted that the SAF and the RSF affirmed their intention to use this extended period to implement the provisions of the 20 May agreement that were not fully implemented, including the delivery of humanitarian assistance, the repair of essential services, and the evacuation of armed actors from hospitals. The statement condemned the continued airstrikes and attacks in the country. It added that the warring parties have agreed to discuss a long-term ceasefire that could encompass provisions for the withdrawal of forces from urban areas, removal of impediments to the free movement of civilians and humanitarian assistance, while enabling public servants to resume their regular duties.

The African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) held a meeting at the level of heads of state and government on 27 May. In a communiqué adopted following the meeting, the AUPSC adopted the “AU Roadmap for the Resolution of the Conflict in Sudan”, which calls for, among other things, the establishment of a coordination mechanism to harmonise diplomatic efforts by regional and global actors, an immediate and comprehensive cessation of hostilities, effective humanitarian response, protection of civilians and civil infrastructure, and resumption of a credible and inclusive political transition process towards a democratic civilian-led government.

On 26 May, al-Burhan sent a letter to Guterres, requesting him to nominate a representative to replace Volker Perthes, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan and head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). In a statement released later that day, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric said that Guterres was shocked by al-Burhan’s letter. He added that the Secretary-General is proud of the work done by Perthes and reaffirmed Guterres’ full confidence in the special representative. In a 27 May press statement, the US Department of State expressed strong support for the UN and for Perthes’ ongoing work in leading UNITAMS. Guterres may use today’s consultations to reaffirm his confidence in Perthes and his work.

At today’s meeting, Council members are likely to express concern about the deteriorating conditions in the country. According to a 28 May OCHA flash update, at least 730 people have been killed and 5,500 injured since the outbreak of hostilities. Clashes have continued across several parts of the country, including in Khartoum, Zalingi, Central Darfur, Al Fasher, North Darfur, and Al Obeid.

Another issue of concern for Council members is the internal displacement of civilians and the influx of refugees into Sudan’s neighbouring states. According to data provided by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), at the time of writing, approximately 1.2 million people have been displaced internally across Sudan since 15 April. Moreover, approximately 364,213 individuals have sought refuge in the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.

It appears that Council members have diverging views on whether a Security Council product is needed in response to the recent escalation of violence in Sudan. It seems that the A3 members (Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique), supported by China and Russia, have argued that adopting a Council product could lead to duplicate messaging and create complications at a delicate time. It appears that the A3 members, in opposing the adoption of a Council product, have been supporting Sudan’s national position. In a 12 May press conference, the Permanent Representative of Sudan to the UN, Al-Harith Idriss Al-Harith Mohamed, said: “we do not prefer an involvement of [the] Security Council in terms of any products”. He added that Council engagement on the ongoing crisis in Sudan may undermine the AU’s efforts to engage positively on the situation.

At the time of writing, Council members are negotiating a draft resolution renewing UNITAMS’ mandate, which is due to expire on 3 June. It seems that this year’s negotiations have been particularly difficult in light of Council members’ diverging views on how to reflect the situation in the country. It appears that the UK (the penholder on the file) sought to include in the draft text language that reflects the recent developments in Sudan. However, several other members have apparently opposed adding new language to the text and have been calling for a strict “technical rollover” of UNITAMS’ mandate. (The term “technical rollover” is commonly used by diplomats to describe a concise resolution extending a peace operation’s mandate without altering its core mandate or tasks. It traditionally denotes an extension for a shorter period than is customary.) As a result of these divisions, it appears that the UK has proposed a separate product—a draft presidential statement—addressing the recent escalation in Sudan, which is also currently being negotiated by Council members.

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