What's In Blue

Posted Wed 6 Mar 2024

Sudan: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (7 March), the Security Council will hold an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the Secretary-General’s report (S/2024/204) on “UN efforts to support Sudan on its path towards peace and stability”, submitted in accordance with resolution 2715 of 1 December 2023, which terminated the mandate of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). The report was circulated to Council members on 29 February and covers developments between 1 December 2023 and 20 February 2024. Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to brief in the open chamber, while Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan Ramtane Lamamra will brief during the closed consultations.

Resolution 2715 requested UNITAMS to cease its operations and start the process of transfer of its tasks, where appropriate and to the extent feasible, to UN agencies, funds, and programmes, with the objective of completing this process by 29 February 2024. It further requested the Secretary-General to provide a written report within 90 days, and then brief the Council every 120 days on UN efforts to support Sudan on its path towards peace and stability. The Security Council adopted resolution 2715 following a 16 November 2023 letter from the Sudanese government, which conveyed its decision to terminate UNITAMS’ mandate. (For background and more information on the negotiations on resolution 2715, see our 1 December 2023 What’s in Blue story.)

UNITAMS’ withdrawal has come amid the devastating conflict that erupted on 15 April 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s military leader and chairperson of the Transitional Sovereignty Council, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemeti). As at 16 February, more than 14,600 people had reportedly been killed since the onset of the conflict, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that collects conflict-related data. OCHA’s 23 February Humanitarian Update noted that approximately 8.1 million people have been displaced since the start of the conflict, of whom 1.8 million have fled to neighbouring countries, including the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, and South Sudan. In addition, according to the World Food Programme, nearly 18 million people are facing acute food insecurity in Sudan, including almost five million at emergency hunger levels.

In light of continued reports of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) in Sudan, it appears that Guterres will address the issue in his statement and stress the need to ensure accountability and justice. According to the Secretary-General’s 29 February report, as at 7 February, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had received credible reports of 60 incidents of CRSV since the onset of the conflict. These incidents involved at least 120 victims, including 100 women and 18 girls, primarily in Khartoum, Darfur, and Kordofan states. The report urges all parties to the conflict to ensure that their forces cease committing sexual violence, including by issuing command orders on ending CRSV.

During the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report, the fighting between the warring parties intensified, affecting new areas of Sudan. The report notes that while the SAF remained largely in control of eastern and northern states, the RSF remained in control of most of Khartoum and Darfur and expanded into Al Jazirah State, capturing its capital city, Wad Madani. The RSF’s expansion, the report adds, led to a sharp increase in calls for arming civilians in support of the SAF across several states, including Gedaref, Kassala, River Nile, and Sennar. (For background and more information, see the brief on Sudan in our March 2024 Monthly Forecast and 21 December 2023 What’s in Blue story.)

Tomorrow will be the first time that Lamamra briefs Council members after assuming his role in November 2023. He is expected to provide an update on the ongoing regional and international efforts aimed at resolving the crisis and on his engagement with the warring parties and key regional and international interlocutors. Members may be interested in hearing Lamamra’s assessment of the Sudanese parties’ positions and the prospects for de-escalation and dialogue.

In January, Lamamra conducted a visit to Sudan and the region, where he held meetings with both warring parties “with the aim of building confidence between them and moving towards mutually acceptable solutions”, the Secretary-General’s report notes. Lamamra consulted with other Sudanese stakeholders—including civilian and military political actors and representatives from civil society organisations, as well as from women and youth groups—and with leaders from some of Sudan’s neighbouring countries. He has also engaged with counterparts from the African Union (AU), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the League of Arab States (LAS), as well as with officials in capitals of several member states, including in Europe, the Gulf region, and the US. In his engagements, the Personal Envoy “underlined the need for a unified, coherent international mediation process that builds on existing efforts and harnesses the resources and approaches of the concerned organizations to help the Sudanese end the war”, according to the Secretary-General’s report. Lamamra may echo this message at tomorrow’s consultations.

On the transfer of UNITAMS’ tasks, the Secretary-General’s report notes that the transition planning process focused on three priority areas: conflict prevention, peacemaking, and peacebuilding; protection of civilians, human rights, and the rule of law; and women, peace and security and youth. The process entailed thematic workshops, in-depth sessions on cross-cutting issues, and bilateral consultations with UN agencies as well as national and international partners. The report adds that the recommendations resulting from the process called for, among other things:

  • continuing UN support to peacebuilding and resilience capacities and to programmes that support the consolidation of peace, particularly at the local level;
  • having a dedicated capacity to ensure that UN operations are conflict sensitive and respond to the fluid operating environment;
  • ensuring capacity to address protection issues stemming from grave violations against children in conflict and CRSV; and
  • continuing the UN’s engagement with a range of actors to ensure women’s participation in political processes and peace talks.

The Secretary-General’s report further notes that while most of UNITAMS’ staff were expected to be terminated by 29 February, 64 positions have been identified for the liquidation team, which will finish its work on 31 August. It adds that the mission has been conducting a comprehensive assessment of the status of its assets. During the reporting period, UNITAMS had been unable to access any of its locations to assess the conditions owing to security conditions. The mission has been using satellite imagery from affected locations to ascertain the extent of the security breach and the resultant losses incurred, according to the Secretary-General’s report.

At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members are likely to condemn the violence in Sudan and emphasise the need for a ceasefire and unhindered humanitarian access. They may also emphasise the need to ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel and assets, as well as the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure. The Secretary-General’s report documented 32 security incidents affecting personnel of the UN, intergovernmental organisations, and NGOs. Most of the incidents occurred in Khartoum, including an attack on an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) convoy that was evacuating civilians, which resulted in several civilian casualties and injuries to three ICRC staff members.

In a statement issued on X (formerly Twitter) today (6 March), UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan Clementine Nkweta-Salami announced that the Sudanese government has agreed to facilitate humanitarian access from Chad through the Tina border crossing; from South Sudan through the Renk border crossing; and through humanitarian flights accessing airports in the cities of El-Fasher, Kadugli, and El-Obeid. Several members are expected to welcome this development at tomorrow’s meeting.

Members may encourage the Sudanese authorities to continue engaging with the UN on UNITAMS’ liquidation process and the requisite transfer of tasks. Some members may emphasise that the mission’s departure should not mean the end of the Council’s engagement on the situation in Sudan. These members may also reiterate concerns that they expressed during the adoption of resolution 2715, including about a potential gap in monitoring and reporting on human rights violations in Sudan following the termination of UNITAMS’ mandate.

Guterres and some Council members may refer to the upcoming international humanitarian conference for Sudan and its neighbours, which is scheduled to be held at ministerial level on 15 April in Paris. They are likely to call for scaling up the international humanitarian response to the Sudanese crisis, including through enhanced funding. Sudan’s 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), which required $2.57 billion, had received $1.1 billion at the end of last year, $12 million less than the 2022 HRP. At the time of writing, Sudan’s 2024 HRP, requiring $2.7 billion, was only four percent funded.

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