What's In Blue

Posted Fri 19 Apr 2024

Sudan: Briefing

This afternoon (19 April), 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. The anticipated briefers are Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, Director of OCHA’s Operations and Advocacy Division Edem Wosornu, and Chair of the AU High-Level Panel on Sudan Mohamed Ibn Chambas.

Today’s meeting takes place against the backdrop of the one-year anniversary of the 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). One year into the conflict, the fighting continues to have devastating consequences for civilians. As at 14 April, more than 15,500 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 that collects conflict-related data.

In 2023, the RSF made significant advances, taking control of parts of Darfur, Khartoum, and Kordofan. It also made gains in Al-Jazirah state, capturing Wad Madani in December, which had served as a hub for humanitarian operations since the onset of conflict. The SAF launched a counter-offensive earlier this year and expanded its aerial operations across several parts of Sudan. It scored its first major victory in March, recapturing parts of Omdurman, including the national broadcasting headquarters, and also expanded operations in Al-Jazirah state. Several media reports have attributed SAF’s recent advances to the extensive use of combat drones, reportedly supplied by Iran.

The fighting has intensified in some areas over the past few weeks, despite several calls for a ceasefire from regional stakeholders and the broader international community, most recently through Council resolution 2724 of 8 March. In a 13 April statement, Secretary-General António Guterres expressed concern about escalating tensions between armed actors in El Fasher in North Darfur, which is the only capital city in the Darfur region outside the RSF’s control. He said that an attack on El Fasher “would be devastating for civilians in the city and could lead to an expansion of the conflict along intercommunal lines across the five Darfur states”. Clashes erupted last week between the warring parties in the northern part of the city, which reportedly killed at least 25 civilians and injured dozens. The Joint Force of Armed Struggle Movements, a coalition of armed groups from Darfur, constituted and deployed in North Darfur to protect civilians and humanitarian convoys, reportedly renounced its neutrality in the conflict and pledged support to the SAF. In its statement, the Joint Force, apparently cited RSF’s provocations, including attacks on its positions and threats to block humanitarian aid, as the reason for its decision.

At tomorrow’s meeting, Wosornu is expected to describe how the conflict is driving the spiralling humanitarian situation in the country. According to OCHA, more than 25 million people—approximately 51 percent of Sudan’s population—remain in need of humanitarian assistance, 14 million of whom are children. Since the start of the conflict, approximately 8.6 million people have been displaced, out of which 1.8 million people have sought refuge in Sudan’s neighbouring countries—the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. According to UNICEF, more than four million children have been displaced by the violence, making Sudan the largest child displacement crisis in the world. At the same time, 15 million people in Sudan continue to lack access to healthcare, and around 70-80 percent of health facilities remain non-functional.

Council members have been closely following the food insecurity situation in Sudan. On 20 March, the Council held a briefing on OCHA’s white note of 15 March on food insecurity in Sudan. The note said that nearly 18 million people across Sudan are currently facing acute food insecurity, described by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC)—used by relief agencies to measure hunger levels—as crisis level conditions or worse (IPC Phase 3 or above). It further noted that approximately 730,000 children in Sudan, including over 240,000 in Darfur, are projected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition, the most severe form of childhood malnutrition. According to the projections released by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS) for February-September, catastrophic conditions (IPC Phase 5) are expected in parts of  Khartoum and across the Darfur region, particularly among the displaced population in hard-to-reach areas. (For more information, see our 19 March What’s in Blue story.)

At today’s meeting, the briefers and several Council members are expected to call on the warring parties to enable full and rapid humanitarian access through all modalities—including cross-line (across conflict lines within Sudan) and cross-border (across Sudan’s borders with some of the neighbouring countries)—and criticise impediments to such 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. In her remarks during the 20 March Council meeting, Wosornu said that despite the adoption of resolution 2724, which called for full and unhindered humanitarian access, there has not been any major progress in this regard. Recalling Sudan’s 5 March decision to facilitate the entry and delivery of humanitarian aid through several routes, including from Chad through the Tina border crossing, Wosornu noted that “the procedures for the use of this crossing are yet to be elaborated or put in place”. (For more information, see our 6 March What’s in Blue story.)

The briefers and several Council members may take note of the outcomes of the ministerial-level international humanitarian conference for Sudan and its neighbours, which took place on 15 April in Paris. Conference participants pledged € 2.3 billion in 2024 to support civilian populations in Sudan and people seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. At the conference, several member states—including Council members France, the UK, and the US, as well as some of the participating international and regional organisations—adopted a “Declaration of Principles” which, among other things:

  • urged all foreign actors to cease arms and material support to the warring parties;
  • called on all relevant stakeholders to fully support a consolidated Sudan peace initiative; and
  • urged the warring parties to cease hostilities immediately and to abide by their commitments made in the previous rounds of the Jeddah talks.

At today’s meeting, DiCarlo is likely to update the members on the ongoing mediation efforts at resolving the Sudanese crisis. On 8 April, the special envoys and representatives on Sudan of France, Norway, the UK, the US, and the EU held a meeting in Oslo to discuss the current situation in the country. In a joint statement, the envoys and representatives called on the warring parties to agree to a sustained ceasefire immediately and adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law. They also emphasised the need for the relevant stakeholders to coordinate their efforts in finding a solution to the conflict. Some members are likely to echo these points in their interventions today.

DiCarlo and some members may welcome the plans to resume the Saudi-US facilitated talks. Following a suspension of nearly four months, these talks recommenced in October 2023, with the participation of a joint representative of the AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), but were again suspended in December 2023. In a 15 April post on X (formerly Twitter), following a meeting with the Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister on the sidelines of the Paris conference, recently appointed US Special Envoy Thomas Perriello announced that the talks would recommence within three weeks.

Chambas is expected to brief on the work of the AU High-Level Panel on Sudan, appointed on 17 January. He is likely to update members on the panel’s engagement with the warring parties and international and regional interlocutors. The panel concluded its first round of its shuttle diplomacy on 11 March, following visits to Port Sudan, Cairo, Djibouti, and Addis Ababa. According to a 12 March press release, the panel shared its vision to end the devastating conflict in Sudan, and noted the urgent need to convene an all-inclusive Sudanese political dialogue to exchange views on a common vision for the country and to agree on a transitional process.

The AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) met yesterday (18 April) to consider the situation in Sudan and to receive briefings on the ongoing mediation initiatives. In a communiqué released following the meeting, the AUPSC condemned the ongoing war in Sudan and denounced the atrocities, including indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, and the reported incidents of sexual and gender-based violence; requested the AU Commission to present options for the investigation of atrocities and measures for accountability; appealed to all actors to refrain from providing military support to the belligerents; requested the AU High-Level Panel on Sudan to initiate a planning process for the all-inclusive Sudanese political dialogue; and decided to undertake a visit to Port Sudan to engage with the stakeholders.

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