What's In Blue

Posted Thu 11 May 2023

Sudan: Closed Consultations

This morning (11 May), following the briefing on the ICC’s Libya-related activities, Security Council members will hold closed consultations on Sudan. The UK, the penholder on the file, requested the meeting to discuss the deteriorating humanitarian and security situations in the country, in light of the fighting that erupted on 15 April 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. Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) Volker Perthes and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths are expected to brief.

Council members last met to discuss the situation in Sudan on 25 April, when the Council convened for an open briefing at the request of the UK. Secretary-General António Guterres, Perthes, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Joyce Msuya, and Permanent Observer of the AU to the UN Fatima Kyari Mohammed briefed. In his remarks, Guterres said that the power struggle in Sudan is not only jeopardising the country’s future but is also “lighting a fuse that could detonate across borders, causing immense suffering for years and setting development back by decades”. He called on Council members, the wider UN membership, and regional organisations with influence to press the Sudanese leaders to de-escalate tensions. (For background, see our 25 April What’s in Blue story.)

Fighting has continued in and around Khartoum despite repeated calls by regional and international actors for a ceasefire. According to a 6 May OCHA flash update, at least 528 people have been killed and 4,599 injured since the outbreak of hostilities. Additionally, more than two-thirds of hospitals across Sudan are not functional because of direct attacks, occupation by the warring parties, as well as lack of electricity, water supply, fuel, or medicine.

Perthes is likely 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 2 May, the AU Commission (the regional organisation’s secretariat) held a follow-up meeting to its 20 April special ministerial session on Sudan. Among other matters, the meeting focused on identifying priorities, strengthening the unity of the international community, promoting a ceasefire agreement, and advancing efforts to return to a democratic, inclusive, and civilian transition.

In a 2 May press release, South Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the warring Sudanese parties had agreed to a seven-day truce starting on 4 May, and to name their representatives for talks led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), under the leadership of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit in Juba. The seven-day truce was reportedly not observed by the parties and, at the time of writing, only al-Burhan has named his representative for the IGAD-facilitated talks. On 8 May, Kiir held a meeting with al-Burhan’s special envoy, Dafallah al-Haj Ali, in Juba, during which Ali reportedly affirmed the primacy of IGAD in mediation efforts to resolve the ongoing conflict. On 10 May, Kiir met Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Juba. According to a press statement released following the meeting, both leaders discussed “proposed modalities to merge the many different processes, forums and efforts into meaningful ceasefire” to end the ongoing conflict.

On 6 May, Saudi-US facilitated talks between representatives of the warring parties began in Jeddah. In a 7 May statement, Saudi Arabia and the US urged the parties to earnestly engage in the talks, with the aim of “achieving an effective short-term ceasefire, facilitating the delivery of emergency humanitarian assistance and restoration of essential services, and scheduling subsequent expanded negotiations to achieve a permanent cessation of hostilities”. The statement added that the parties began to review a proposed “Declaration of Commitment to Protect Civilians and facilitate and respect Humanitarian Action in Sudan”.

In an 8 May interview with an Egyptian media outlet, al-Burhan reportedly expressed support for a political solution to the ongoing conflict but emphasised that the withdrawal of RSF forces from residential areas and public facilities in Khartoum is a pre-condition. Speaking about the ongoing talks in Jeddah, he added that discussions about a lasting settlement could take place only after a permanent ceasefire is achieved in Khartoum.

On 7 May, the League of Arab States (LAS) convened an emergency ministerial-level meeting of its Executive Council in Cairo to discuss the situation in Sudan, during which it adopted a resolution stressing the need to respect the sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity of Sudan. The resolution called for protecting Sudanese state institutions and preventing any “foreign interference” that could destabilise regional peace and security. It also 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; undertake efforts to reach a complete and sustainable ceasefire; address the underlying drivers of conflict; and coordinate with humanitarian relief agencies to provide assistance and medical aid.

At today’s meeting, Griffiths is likely to brief about his recent visit to Port Sudan on 3 May, where he met Perthes and the heads of several humanitarian agencies, including the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). In a press briefing during the visit, Griffiths noted that he is working to have clear and public commitments from the warring parties about protecting humanitarian assistance and allowing the delivery of aid. In this regard, he stressed the “need to have agreements at the highest level and…deliver those commitments into local arrangements”. Griffiths added that he hopes to meet SAF and RSF leaders, separately, in person, to explain to them the humanitarian requirements based on the discussions with the UN and other humanitarian agencies.

In a 9 May press briefing, OCHA Spokesperson Eri Kaneko noted that Griffiths was also present in Jeddah to engage with relevant parties and countries with influence to secure security guarantees for the UN and other humanitarian actors for the delivery of aid across various parts of the country. She added that prior to that, Griffiths also held phone calls with SAF and RSF leaders, in which he stressed the importance of developing safe corridors for the delivery of aid. At today’s meeting, Council members may wish to learn more about the scale and reach of OCHA’s operations and engagement with the respective parties for ensuring the safety and security of the humanitarian personnel and facilities.

Some Council members are expected to express concern about attacks against civilian infrastructure and the looting of humanitarian facilities in Sudan. On 9 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that it had verified 28 attacks against healthcare facilities since 15 April, which resulted in eight deaths and 18 injuries. In a tweet on the same day, WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain noted that nearly 25 percent of the WFP food stock has been stolen and that the organisation’s offices in the country have been looted.

Another likely issue of concern for Council members is the internal displacement of civilians and influx of refugees into Sudan’s neighbouring states. A 9 May IOM Sudan situation report noted that, since 15 April, almost 736,223 people have been displaced internally across Sudan, 13.8 percent of whom are foreign nationals. It added that approximately 177,116 individuals have sought refuge in neighbouring states, mainly in the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.

It appears that Council members continue to have diverging views on whether a Security Council product is needed in response to the escalation of violence in Sudan. Council members apparently failed to adopt a draft press statement that was proposed by the UK following the AU Commission’s 20 April ministerial meeting because of opposition from the A3 members of the Council (Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique). The A3 apparently argued that adopting a Council product could lead to duplicate messaging and create complications at a delicate time. It seems that China and Russia supported this position. Apparently, during Council members’ 25 April closed consultations on Sudan, the UK, with support from other Council members, again called for a press statement. However, this proposal did not garner consensus after the A3 members, followed by China and Russia, reiterated their objection to a product.

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