What's In Blue

Posted Thu 13 Jun 2024

Sudan: Vote on a Draft Resolution*

This afternoon (13 June), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution demanding that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a Sudanese paramilitary group, halt the siege of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, and calling for an immediate halt to the fighting and for de-escalation in and around El Fasher. The draft text was proposed by the UK, the penholder on Sudan.


Sudan continues to grapple with the devastating political, security, and humanitarian consequences of fighting that erupted in April 2023 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 RSF, led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemeti). As at 17 May, more than 16,650 people had reportedly been killed since the onset of the conflict, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a non-governmental organisation that collects conflict-related data.

Since early April, fighting, with a marked intercommunal aspect, has been particularly severe in El Fasher, the only capital in the Darfur region that is not under the RSF’s control. In an 8 June post on X (formerly Twitter), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported that since 10 May, at least 192 people had been killed and more than 1,230 have been wounded in El Fasher. Several media outlets in recent weeks have accused the warring parties of indiscriminately killing civilians and damaging civilian infrastructure. On 10 June, MSF announced that it had suspended all activities in El Fasher’s South Hospital after “RSF soldiers stormed the facility, opened fire, and looted it, including stealing an MSF ambulance” on 8 June. According to MSF, this hospital served as the main referral hospital for treating war-wounded people in El Fasher and one of the two hospitals with surgical capacity. (For background and more information, see the brief on Sudan in our June 2024 Monthly Forecast.)

Several UN officials have expressed alarm about the continuing violence and resulting grave humanitarian and other consequences, including fragmentation of Darfur along ethnic lines. In a 5 June statement, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide Alice Wairimu Nderitu noted that, between 1 April and 31 May, nearly 130,000 people are estimated to have been displaced due to fighting in El Fasher. She added that “[i]t is unquestionable that risk factors and indicators for genocide and related crimes are present, and the risks are increasing”. Nderitu also expressed serious concern about reports of ethnically motivated attacks against non-Arab communities in and around El Fasher, including by the RSF and their allied militias, while noting that there had also been reports of retaliatory attacks targeting Arab civilians in the region.

Council members have been following closely the developments in North Darfur. They adopted a press statement on 27 April, co-authored by the UK and “A3 plus one” members (Algeria, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Guyana), which expressed concern over the growing tensions and military operations around El Fasher. Since the beginning of April, the Security Council has held three meetings to discuss the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Sudan, including in El Fasher, most recently on 24 May. (For more information, see our 19 and 28 April as well as 23 May What’s in Blue stories.)

Negotiations on the Draft Resolution

The UK circulated the initial draft of the resolution to all Council members on 30 May. The penholder apparently discussed the product with Sudan before sharing the text with Council members. After receiving the first round of comments, the UK circulated a revised draft on 7 June, which was open for comments until 11 am on Monday (10 June). Later that day, the penholder circulated a second revised draft, which was put under silence procedure until 12 pm on Tuesday (11 June). It appears that China, Russia, and the “A3 plus one” members broke silence, after which several members submitted comments. Following bilateral consultations with some members, the UK placed a revised draft text in blue yesterday (12 June). It appears that several non-Council regional stakeholders also engaged on the draft text during the negotiations.

It seems that Council members recognised the importance of sending a unified and strong message in response to the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in the country. However, during the initial comments period, Russia apparently expressed the view that the proposed draft represented an excessive reaction to the situation in El Fasher and Sudan in general, and instead suggested pursuing a press statement, a product which requires consensus among Council members. Nonetheless, Russia engaged in the negotiations on the draft resolution.

In addition to calling for an immediate halt to the fighting and for de-escalation in and around El Fasher, the draft resolution in blue demands that all parties to the conflict ensure the protection of civilians, including by allowing civilians wishing to move within and out of El Fasher to safer areas to do so, and recalling that all civilians must be protected in accordance with international law. It appears that the “A3 plus one” members and Russia proposed including language on other conflict areas, such as El-Obeid in North Kordofan and Kadugli in South Kordofan. The UK sought to keep the focus of the draft resolution on the developments in El Fasher, however, and these proposals were not incorporated in the draft resolution in blue.

The initial draft proposed by the penholder apparently called for the withdrawal of fighters from all sides that threaten the safety and security of civilians, with the support of local mediation mechanisms. It seems that Russia expressed reservations about this language, arguing that Sudanese government forces remain responsible for protecting civilians and that the Council should not impede their ability to do so. The penholder subsequently tweaked the language on the matter in the draft resolution in blue, which calls for the withdrawal of all fighters that threaten the safety and security of civilians, with the support of local mediation mechanisms, where appropriate. The draft text in blue also contains language proposed by France, which calls for the parties to withdraw fighters as necessary to enable agricultural activities throughout the planting season to avoid compounding the risk of famine.

It seems that one of the difficult aspects of the negotiations pertained to language proposed by the penholder in the initial draft calling on the parties to invite the UN or another neutral actor to monitor and coordinate safe passages for civilians and the withdrawal of fighters, as necessary. The “A3 plus one” members and Russia apparently requested the deletion of this reference. It seems that the US called for retaining the language, arguing that it would allow the UN to provide recommendations on a possible monitoring mechanism. In the subsequent revised draft, the penholder apparently replaced this reference with text requesting the Secretary-General to make further recommendations as necessary for the protection of civilians in Sudan. It seems that this formulation was also unacceptable to some members, including the “A3 plus one” and Russia. In an apparent compromise, the draft resolution in blue requests the Secretary-General, in consultation with the Sudanese authorities and regional stakeholders, to make further recommendations for the protection of civilians in Sudan, building on the existing mediation and good offices mechanisms.

Another contentious aspect of the negotiations related to language on humanitarian relief assistance. It seems that Russia opposed any reference that might suggest placing the Sudanese authorities on a par with any other Sudanese entity in addressing humanitarian issues and border control. It apparently argued that any cooperation and coordination on humanitarian assistance should be carried out via channels agreed upon by the Sudanese authorities, stressing that they remain the only entity responsible for aid distribution and relief assistance. However, some other members maintained that the draft text should reference all parties to the conflict to broaden the scope of all actors needed to facilitate humanitarian aid. During the negotiations, China and Russia also apparently suggested replacing the term “Sudanese authorities” with “Sudanese government”; this proposal was not incorporated in the draft resolution in blue, however.

During the negotiations, the US apparently also proposed language calling on the Sudanese authorities to re-open the Adre border crossing at the Sudan-Chad border—used by UN humanitarian agencies and their partners for conducting cross-border humanitarian operations. (On 21 February, Sudan announced its decision to suspend cross-border aid delivery through the Adre border crossing, citing concerns about potential weapons transfers into Darfur.) It appears that some members, including China and Russia, expressed reservations about this proposal, stressing the need to respect the sovereignty of the host country in terms of cross-border and cross-line humanitarian access.

The penholder incorporated some changes to address the concerns raised by these members. The draft resolution in blue reiterates the Council’s “calls for all parties to work in close partnership with UN agencies and other humanitarian actors to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches those in need, and with the prior agreement and coordination of the Sudanese authorities, calls for them to re-open the Adre border crossing for the delivery of humanitarian assistance”. The draft text in blue further requests that parties to the conflict allow and facilitate the rapid, safe, unhindered and sustained passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need. It notes the measures taken by the Sudanese authorities in this regard and urges their further cooperation.

Another issue that required discussion during the negotiations related to a reporting requirement proposed by the penholder. The initial draft text apparently requested the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of the resolution within 30 days of its adoption. It seems that while several Council members supported mandating a reporting requirement, the “A3 plus one” members and Russia opposed supplementary reporting on El Fasher. During the negotiations, the “A3 plus one” members and Russia apparently also proposed language requesting the Secretary-General to include in his regular updates on the situation in Sudan, pursuant to resolution 2715 of 1 December 2023, a section on external interferences and their role in fuelling the conflict in Darfur and other parts of Sudan. In an apparent attempt to address these members’ concerns, the penholder amended the text, as reflected in the draft resolution in blue, to request the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of “all elements” of this resolution within his regular updates pursuant to resolution 2715.

The preambular section of the draft resolution in blue includes language voicing alarm over the catastrophic and deteriorating humanitarian situation, including crisis-level or worse acute food insecurity, and the imminent risk of famine, particularly in Darfur. It also expresses grave concern over the spreading violence, including credible reports of ethnically motivated violence, including violence perpetrated by the RSF in and around El Fasher, and in El Geneina in West Darfur state between 24 April and 19 June 2023.


Post-script: On 13 June, the Security Council adopted resolution 2736, demanding that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) halt the siege of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, and calling for an immediate halt to the fighting and for de-escalation in and around El Fasher. The resolution further demands that all parties to the conflict ensure the protection of civilians, including by allowing civilians wishing to move within and out of El Fasher to safer areas to do so, and recalled that all civilians must be protected in accordance with international law. The resolution was adopted with a vote of 14 in favour and one abstention (Russia).

Several Council members made statements following the vote. In its explanation of vote, the US said that the resolution comes at a “precarious moment”, as the people of El Fasher remain trapped and surrounded by heavily armed RSF fighters. It pointed out the scarcity of essential items, such as food and medicine, while noting the risk of famine and threat of further violence, including a large-scale massacre. It added that, if the warring parties fail to respect international humanitarian law and facilitate humanitarian access, the Security Council “should take action to ensure life-saving aid is delivered and distributed, by considering all tools at its disposal, including authorizing aid to move from neighboring countries, as this Council has done in other instances”.

Sierra Leone delivered a joint explanation of vote on behalf of the “A3 plus one” members (Algeria, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Guyana). In its remarks, Sierra Leone expressed appreciation to the UK’s efforts in leading the negotiations on the text, which it said accommodates important aspects of the concerns raised by the “A3 plus one” members. It stressed that references to the Sudanese authorities in resolution 2736 refer “only and solely” to the Sudanese government. Sierra Leone further emphasised the call on member states contained in resolution 2736 to refrain from external interference, while reminding “those who facilitate the transfer of arms and military material to Darfur in support of one of the parties to the conflict” of their clear obligations under the arms embargo measures stipulated in resolution 1556 of 30 July 2004.

In its explanation of vote, Russia argued that the resolution promotes “decisions that are questionable from the point of view of respect for the sovereignty and unity of the country”. It expressed its disagreement with the “proposed call on all Sudanese parties to ensure free humanitarian access, including cross-border shipments”, saying that the issue of controlling national borders and the passage of any cargoes is a sovereign matter for the authorities in power. Russia further argued that the resolution does not contain “any substantive proposals to address the complex situation in Sudan…[and] does not take into account the views of the Sudanese side and is not based on any new agreements”. It also claimed that the challenges in ensuring food security in Sudan “are not primarily connected with a lack of food, but rather with difficulties in its distribution in a number of areas engulfed in hostilities and the difficult financial situation of the population”.

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