What's In Blue

Sudan: Closed Consultations*

Tomorrow morning (29 April), Security Council members will convene for closed consultations* to discuss the security and humanitarian situations in Sudan. Malta, April’s Council president, scheduled the meeting following bilateral consultations with some Council members and the parties concerned. Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations (DPPA-DPO) Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee and Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya are expected to brief. The meeting was initially scheduled as a private meeting, but after further discussion the presidency decided to change the format to closed consultations.

Tomorrow’s meeting comes against the backdrop of a severe escalation of violence across several parts of Sudan, particularly in the city of El-Fasher, the capital city of North Darfur state. One year into 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 the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (also known as Hemeti), 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. El-Fasher remains the only capital city in the Darfur region outside the RSF’s control. The final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, dated 15 January, noted that amidst initial violence in April 2023 local authorities in El-Fasher had brokered a ceasefire agreement, dividing the city between the SAF, the RSF, and the armed movements in Darfur, which are signatories to the Juba Peace Agreement. This arrangement allowed the SAF and the RSF to maintain positions on the west and east sides of the city, respectively, with a central area designated as a buffer zone under the control of the joint force of the armed movements. Recently, the joint force reportedly renounced its neutrality in the conflict and pledged support to the SAF, apparently citing the RSF’s provocations, including attacks on its positions and threats to block humanitarian aid, as the reasons for its decision.

In recent days, several UN officials have raised the alarm about the potential outbreak of full-scale fighting in El-Fasher and the resulting humanitarian consequences. In a 13 April statement, Secretary-General António Guterres expressed concern about escalating tensions between armed actors in El-Fasher, noting that an attack on the city “would be devastating for civilians…and could lead to an expansion of the conflict along intercommunal lines across the five Darfur states”. He reiterated his call for an immediate ceasefire and a durable cessation of hostilities. He also called on the warring parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law to protect civilians and facilitate full and unrestricted humanitarian access to all areas in need.

On 19 April, Council members met to discuss the situation in Sudan, at the request of the UK, the penholder on Sudan. In her remarks, Msuya said that on 13 April, following weeks of rising tensions and airstrikes, RSF-affiliated militias attacked and burned villages west of El-Fasher. Since then, she added, there have been continuing reports of clashes in the eastern and northern parts of the city. She further noted that the continuing violence poses an extreme and immediate danger to the 800,000 civilians residing in the city and risks triggering further violence in other parts of Darfur—where more than nine million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. At the same meeting, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo informed the members that in the north of El-Fasher, clashes had erupted between the RSF and SAF-aligned members of the joint force in the district of Mellit. She added that “fighting in El-Fasher could unleash bloody intercommunal strife throughout Darfur…[and] would also further impede the delivery of humanitarian assistance in an area already on the brink of famine”. (For background and more information, see our 19 April What’s in Blue story.)

At tomorrow’s meeting, Msuya is expected to provide an update on the humanitarian situation in the region in light of the evolving security developments. A 26 April OCHA press release said that the security situation has effectively cut off humanitarian access to El-Fasher—which serves as an important hub for reaching other parts of Darfur, including for aid shipments through the Tine border crossing from Chad and from Port Sudan. It added that more than a dozen trucks with lifesaving supplies for 122,000 people remain stranded in Ad Dabbah in the Northern state, due to persisting insecurity and lack of guarantees for safe passage.

On 27 April, Council members issued a press statement, co-authored by the UK and members of “A3 plus one” grouping (Algeria, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Guyana). The statement expressed concern about the escalating tensions and military operations around El-Fasher. Members called on the SAF and RSF to end the build-up of military forces, take steps to de-escalate the situation and comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law. They reiterated their call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, leading to a sustainable ceasefire. In addition, they urged all member states to “refrain from external interference which seeks to foment conflict and instability and instead to support efforts for a durable peace” and reminded the Sudanese warring parties and all member states to comply with the arms embargo obligations, imposed by resolution 1556 of 30 July 2004 and most recently renewed by resolution 2676 of 8 March 2023. Several members are expected to reiterate these points at tomorrow’s meeting.

Another key issue that is likely to feature in tomorrow’s discussion is the flow of arms into Sudan in violation of the arms embargo. The 15 January final report of the Panel of Experts indicated that since the onset of the conflict, the RSF had been able to secure new supply lines to and through Darfur for weapons, vehicles, and logistics, including through eastern Chad, Libya and South Sudan. The report noted that the accusations levelled by the SAF that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Chad had provided military support to the RSF through Amdjarass were found credible. Furthermore, the report found that, from July 2023 onwards, “the RSF deployed several types of heavy and/or sophisticated weapons including Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs), howitzers, multiple-rocket launchers and anti-aircraft weapons such as MANPADS [Man-Portable Air Defence Systems]”, which had a massive impact on the balance of forces, both in Darfur and other regions of Sudan—in violation of the arms embargo.

Today (28 April), Sudan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Al-Harith Idriss al-Harith Mohamed, apparently sent a letter to the Council claiming that the UAE’s support to the RSF represents a “flagrant violation” of the UN Charter and the Sudan sanctions regime. The letter requested the Council to convene an emergency meeting to discuss the “UAE’s aggression against Sudan…[and] hold it responsible for the crimes committed against the Sudanese people”. The UAE has denied these allegations on several occasions, most recently in a 21 April letter addressed to the Council, which said that “[a]ll allegations of the United Arab Emirates’ involvement in any form of aggression or destabilization in Sudan, or its provision of any military, logistical, financial or political support to any faction in Sudan, are spurious, unfounded, and lack any credible evidence to support them”.


*Post-script (29 April, 9:50 am EST): After the story’s publication, the format of the meeting was changed from private meeting to closed consultations. An earlier version of the story indicated that Sudan will participate in the meeting under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure. After the changing of the meeting’s format this was no longer possible, as closed consultations do not allow participation of non-Council member states. The story was amended to reflect these changes.

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