Tomorrow morning (9 August), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing to discuss the situation in Sudan at the request of the UK, the penholder on the file. Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations (DPPA-DPO) Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee* and Director of OCHA’s Operations and Advocacy Division Edem Wosornu are expected to brief.
Sudan has been grappling with the devastating consequences of 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 (known as Hemeti). A 7 August OCHA Humanitarian Update estimated that at least 1,105 people had been killed and 12,115 injured across the country since the outbreak of hostilities; however, casualty rates may be much higher, with some reports indicating that 3,000 people have died in connection with the conflict since 15 April.
Council members last met to discuss the situation in Sudan on 23 June in closed consultations. Wosornu briefed on the ongoing inter-communal violence in Darfur. She apparently provided a detailed account of the patterns of violence in Darfur, while highlighting the incidents of mass rape, looting of humanitarian aid, and attacks on internally displaced people (IDPs) and people fleeing from West Darfur to Chad. During the meeting, it appears that several Council members expressed concern over the reports of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) and the lack of protection measures for those seeking to leave the country. In press elements read out following the meeting by Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh (UAE), the Council President in June, Council members underlined their support for the work of UN humanitarian agencies and implementing partners. They further called for respect for international humanitarian law and for scaling up humanitarian assistance to Sudan and its neighbouring states. (For more, see our 22 June What’s in Blue story.)
The escalating violence in Darfur, marked by inter-communal fighting with Arab militias supporting the RSF targeting non-Arab groups, has raised alarm among several Council members. Some members remain concerned about the potential for inter-communal fighting to spin out of control, recalling the conflict in Darfur in the 2000s that claimed the lives of over 300,000 people. In a 3 August statement, the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) expressed concern about the severe impact on civilians of the fighting in Darfur. The statement strongly condemned “the indiscriminate targeting of civilian populations and public facilities by the RSF and allied militias”, particularly in West Darfur.
In a 4 August statement, the Troika on Sudan (Norway, the UK and the US) condemned the ongoing violence in Darfur, especially reports of killings based on ethnicity and widespread sexual violence by the RSF and allied militias. They expressed concern about reports of a military build-up near El Fasher and Nyala. “Those responsible for any atrocities against civilians, especially those including CRSV and the targeting of humanitarian relief actors, medical personnel, and other service providers, must be held to account”, the statement added.
At tomorrow’s meeting, several Council members are expected to express concern about deteriorating humanitarian conditions, rising food insecurity, attacks against civilian infrastructure (including schools and hospitals), and the worsening health situation in the country. According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase (IPC) projections, around 20.3 million people, representing more than 42 percent of the population in the country, are expected to experience high levels of acute food insecurity between July and September.
Another issue of concern to 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), approximately three million people have been displaced internally across all of Sudan’s 18 states since 15 April. Moreover, approximately 884,397 individuals have sought refuge in the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.
At tomorrow’s meeting, the briefers and several Council members are likely to emphasise the need for a ceasefire and unfettered humanitarian access. Some members may raise concerns about reports of sexual violence in the conflict. As at 21 July, the Sudanese government’s Combating Violence Against Women Unit had recorded 108 cases of sexual violence in Sudan: Khartoum (56), Nyala and South Darfur (31), and El Geneina (21).
On 1 August, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten met with Major General Abdul-Rahim Dagalo, Deputy Commander of the RSF. According to a press statement following the meeting, Patten expressed concerns over increasing sexual violence in Khartoum and Darfur, including cases implicating RSF soldiers. She urged the RSF “to issue a formal undertaking in the form of a unilateral communiqué condemning conflict-related sexual violence and committing to effective measures to prevent and address any such violations with a time-bound implementation plan”.
Wosornu may describe recent efforts by the UN and other actors to deliver humanitarian aid in Sudan. According to the 7 August Humanitarian Update, OCHA facilitated the first cross-border delivery of humanitarian aid by the World Food Programme (WFP) from Chad into West Darfur on 3 August. On the same day, a humanitarian convoy also arrived in East Darfur for the first time since the outbreak of conflict on 15 April.
At tomorrow’s meeting, Pobee is expected to update members on developments with regard to the ongoing regional and international efforts aimed at resolving the crisis. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Assembly of Heads of State and Government held its 14th ordinary session on 12 June in Djibouti. The Assembly adopted the IGAD Roadmap for the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of Sudan, which expanded the IGAD-led mediation process to include Ethiopia, thereby establishing the Quartet group of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Sudan.
The members of the Quartet held their first meeting on 10 July in Addis Ababa. In a communiqué adopted following the meeting, the members of the Quartet expressed concern over the spread of violence beyond Khartoum to other parts of Sudan, particularly Darfur and Kordofan. The members resolved “to request the East Africa Standby Force (EASF) summit to convene in order to consider the possible deployment of the EASF for the protection of civilians and [to] guarantee humanitarian access”. They further emphasised the centrality of IGAD in coordinating the different diplomatic efforts alongside the AU.
The Saudi-US facilitated talks in Jeddah, which began on 6 May, were suspended after the SAF withdrew on 31 May, citing the RSF’s failure to implement any of the provisions of the ceasefire agreement. According to media reports, the talks resumed on 15 July, focusing on a draft agreement regarding the Declaration of General Principles for Negotiation and the Ceasefire Monitoring and Verification Mechanism. On 27 July, the SAF announced the return of its delegation from Jeddah for further consultations, owing to a lack of agreement on several issues, including their position that the RSF should evacuate civilian homes and public facilities in Khartoum.
On 13 July, Egypt hosted the “Sudan’s Neighboring States Summit”, bringing together the heads of state and governments of the CAR, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya, and South Sudan, with the aim of finding a solution to the ongoing crisis in Sudan. The leaders agreed to establish a ministerial mechanism comprising foreign ministers of Sudan’s neighbouring states to coordinate their efforts to resolve the conflict. The first meeting of the ministerial mechanism was held in N’Djamena on 7 August. The communiqué adopted following the meeting noted that the foreign ministers had developed a three-part plan of action: the achievement of a definitive ceasefire; the organisation of an inclusive inter-Sudanese dialogue; and the management of humanitarian issues. At tomorrow’s meeting, some Council members may call for coordination of and cooperation among different diplomatic initiatives.
*Post-script (14 August): An earlier version of this story indicated that Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) Volker Perthes was expected to brief the Council. The story was amended to reflect that the Council was instead briefed by Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations (DPPA-DPO) Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee. During the meeting, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (US) said that “the Sudanese government threatened to end the UN Mission in Sudan if the SRSG [Perthes] participated in this briefing”. In a press stakeout following the meeting, Ambassador Al-Harith Idriss Al-Harith Mohamed (Sudan) referenced the Sudanese government’s 8 June decision to declare Perthes persona non grata, and said that the government opposes any “working relationship” with the special representative.