What's In Blue

Posted Thu 21 Dec 2023

Sudan: Meeting under “Any Other Business”*

Today (21 December), Security Council members are discussing the security and humanitarian situations in Sudan under “any other business”, at the request of the UK (the penholder on the file). OCHA’s Director of the Humanitarian Financing and Resource Mobilization Division Lisa Doughten is expected to brief.  The UK may propose a draft press statement following the meeting.

Today’s meeting comes against the backdrop of a severe escalation of violence across several parts of the country, particularly in the city of Wad Madani in Al Jazirah state. 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 (also known as Hemeti), has continued unabated despite several calls for a ceasefire from regional stakeholders and the broader international community. Since the onset of conflict, more than 12,190 people have been killed and approximately 6.7 million people have been displaced, out of which 1.4 million people have sought refuge in Sudan’s neighbouring countries—the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. (For more information, see our Sudan brief in the November 2023 Monthly Forecast, as well as our 15 November and 1 December What’s in Blue stories.)

According to media reports, on the morning of 15 December, the RSF launched an attack on the outskirts of Wad Madani, triggering an intense confrontation with the SAF. Airstrikes were reported in the western, northern, and eastern parts of Wad Madani and in the vicinity of the Alsharfa Barakat village in the north of the city. Amid fierce fighting, the RSF reportedly entered Wad Madani on Monday (18 December) and took control of the first brigade headquarters of the first infantry division of the SAF, subsequently consolidateding its control over other parts of the city. According to media reports, on Tuesday (19 December), Brigadier General Nabil Abdallah, an SAF spokesperson, released a statement saying that the SAF had withdrawn from Wad Madani on Monday. The statement added that, “[a]n investigation is underway to scrutinize the reasons and circumstances behind the forces’ withdrawal from their positions”.

At today’s meeting, Doughten and Council members are likely to condemn the violence in Sudan and reiterate their call for an immediate ceasefire. In a 15 December post on X (formerly Twitter), US Permanent Representative to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield expressed grave concern about reports of RSF attacks on Wad Madani. She urged the RSF to refrain from attacks and for all parties to protect civilians, adding that the “[p]erpetrators of terror will be held accountable”. In a 20 December statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk expressed alarm about recurring reports of widespread abuses and violations of human rights amid the fighting in Wad Madani. He said that reports indicate that dozens of civilians, including medical personnel, had been killed and many more injured, with some of the attacks allegedly being ethnically motivated. Türk added that there have also been “reports of mutilations and looting, as well as of an attack on a hospital”. At today’s meeting, several members are likely to emphasise the need to ensure accountability and justice for the victims of violence.

Doughten and some members are expected to express grave concern about the consequences of the fighting on the humanitarian operations in the area. They may also emphasise the need for ensuring the safety of humanitarian personnel and assets, as well as the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure. On 15 December, OCHA announced that all humanitarian field missions within and from Al Jazirah state had been suspended. According to a 18 December OCHA flash update, Wad Madani had served as a hub for humanitarian operations since the onset of conflict on 15 April, including warehousing of large stocks of supplies dedicated to response within Al Jazira and in the capital, Khartoum. The flash update added that humanitarian organisations have reduced their footprint in Wad Madani due to the security situation and the staff has relocated to neighbouring states. In a 19 December press release, OCHA warned that if the fighting continues, aid distribution to two million people—about one third of Al Jazirah’s population—will be compromised. At today’s meeting, members may be interested in gaining detailed information about the challenges that OCHA and humanitarian partners are facing in the delivery of aid, including access constraints.

Food insecurity in Sudan remains a major concern for Council members. In a statement yesterday (20 December), the World Food Programme (WFP) announced that it has temporarily suspended its operations across several parts of Al Jazirah state. The statement said that “[t]his is a major setback to humanitarian efforts in the country’s breadbasket, where WFP had been regularly providing aid to over 800,000 people”. Approximately 18 million people in the country are currently experiencing acute food insecurity, according to the statement.

Another issue of concern to Council members is the internal displacement of civilians and the influx of refugees in neighbouring countries. According to an OCHA flash update released yesterday, the present clashes in Al Jazirah have led to the displacement of more than 250,000–300,000 people, some of whom have been displaced for the second time, having arrived in the state from other parts of the country. (Approximately 500,000 people had sought refuge in Al Jazirah state, including 86,400 people in Wad Madani, since 15 April.) The flash update noted that people displaced from Wad Madani have fled to Gedaref, Sennar, and White Nile states. It also indicated that “there are reports of internally displaced persons [IDPs] moving to White Nile [s]tate to cross over to South Sudan if the situation deteriorates”.

Council members also remain concerned about the escalating violence in other parts of the country. According to media reports, on 16 December, heavy clashes resumed in the city of El Fasher in the Darfur region between the Sudanese warring parties, killing two civilians and injuring eight others from the Abu Shouk IDP camp. In a statement later that day, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller expressed deep concern about reports of fighting in the northeastern suburbs of El Fasher. The statement also called on the warring parties “to stop firing from positions in or near IDP camps, or returning fire toward those positions, recklessly endangering civilian lives”. Media reports also suggest that, on 14 December, the SAF launched a series of airstrikes targeting several RSF military installations in Nyala, South Darfur state. (For background and more information, see the Sudan brief in our November Monthly Forecast and 15 November What’s in Blue story.)

Council members have been following the deteriorating situation in Sudan closely since the outbreak of fighting in mid-April and, on numerous instances, some members have expressed concern about abuses and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. In a 6 December 2023 statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that he had determined that members of the SAF and the RSF have committed war crimes in Sudan. He further determined that members of the RSF and allied militias have committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. This determination, Blinken said, “provides force and renewed urgency to African and international efforts to end the violence, address the humanitarian and human rights crisis, and work towards meaningful justice for victims and the affected communities that ends decades of impunity”.

The recent escalation of violence in the country comes days after the 41st extraordinary summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Heads of State and Government, which was held on 9 December in Djibouti. The meeting was attended by the respective heads of state, including al-Burhan, and the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy to Sudan, Ramtane Lamamra, among others. The communiqué adopted at the end of the meeting, among other things:

  • called on the warring parties to immediately and unconditionally cease hostilities, allow unimpeded humanitarian access, and protect civilians in the affected areas and communities;
  • condemned “unwarranted interventions and interferences by external state and non-state actors in the conflict in Sudan and further urged them to refrain from providing and re-supplying war assets and materiel to either side of the conflict”; and
  • called on the Executive Secretary of IGAD to nominate a candidate for appointment as the IGAD Special Envoy to Sudan to lead IGAD mediation efforts.

Amid escalating violence in the country, tensions are also rising between Sudanese authorities and some of the regional stakeholders. According to media reports, in a 28 November statement, Assistant Commander-in-Chief of the SAF General Yassir al-Atta accused the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of supporting the RSF, saying that “[i]nformation obtained by the General Intelligence Service and the military and foreign diplomatic intelligence indicates that the UAE has been transporting military supplies to the Janjaweed militia via Entebbe Airport in Uganda and Central Africa… in addition to Am Jars Airport in Chad”. Following this development, on 9 December, the UAE declared three Sudanese diplomats serving in the country as persona non grata. In response, the next day (10 December), the Sudanese authorities ordered the expulsion of the UAE’s 15 diplomats from Sudan. On 16 December, the Chadian government also announced its decision to classify four Sudanese diplomats as persona non grata, in response to al-Atta’s 27 November statement.


* Post-script:  On 22 December 2023, Security Council members issued a press statement expressing alarm at the spreading violence and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Sudan.  The members strongly condemned the reported attacks against civilians and the expansion of fighting into areas with large populations of internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees and asylum seekers, especially in Al Jazirah state. The members further expressed concern about reports of violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights, including cases of sexual violence in conflict. They urged all parties to exercise restraint and protect civilians and civil infrastructure in accordance with their obligations under international law, in particular international humanitarian law. The members also called on the warring parties to cease hostilities immediately, to facilitate humanitarian access (including by fulfilling their Jeddah commitments), and to seek a negotiated solution to the conflict. Furthermore, the members welcomed the leadership of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the AU, while underlining their support for the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy to Sudan, Ramtane Lamamra. In addition, they called on all member states to “refrain from external interference which seeks to foment conflict and instability, and instead to support efforts for a durable peace”.

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