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Sudan (Darfur)

Expected Council Action

In September, the Security Council will hold a briefing on the report of the Secretary-General on the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).

The mandate of UNAMID expires on 30 June 2018.

Key Recent Developments

The level of armed hostilities in Darfur has continued to be significantly lower than in previous years. Sudanese government forces now dominate Darfur and occupy most of the territory previously controlled by rebel groups. The unilateral ceasefire, declared by the government of Sudan in mid-2016 and extended for a further three months in July, reportedly continues to be largely observed. While the overall security situation is improving, the region remains fragile, and an environment of instability persists.

Several key issues remain to be addressed, notably the presence of Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid (SLA/AW) fighters in the Jebel Marra region, unresolved intercommunal disputes over land and other resources, the prevalence of weapons and criminal violence, and weak rule-of-law institutions. On 7 August, the Sudanese government launched a campaign to collect illegal arms and unlicensed vehicles in the Darfur region, which Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has said is a top priority for the government. However, the campaign is so far reportedly facing several challenges, including refusals by tribal militias to hand over their arms.

There have been no reports of major displacements in 2017, but existing groups of internally displaced persons (IDPs) continue to require significant protection and humanitarian assistance. The reported occupation of villages and land by armed militia previously associated with government forces, particularly in Jebel Marra, and general lawlessness have impeded the return of IDPs. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi paid his first official visit to Sudan in August. During his trip, he met President al-Bashir and welcomed the president‘s assurances that Sudan will continue providing safety to those fleeing conflict and persecution—including those who arrive from South Sudan and other countries in the region. According to OCHA, 4.8 million people require humanitarian assistance in Sudan, while only 23 percent of the $804 million needed for humanitarian aid in Sudan for 2017 has so far been received.

On 29 June, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2363, renewing UNAMID’s mandate for an additional year. The Council expanded the mandate to incorporate peacebuilding activities in currently stable areas while significantly reducing the mission’s force structure. The changes are largely in line with recommendations made in the 18 May AU-UN strategic review, including a process of restructuring and redeployment, to be completed over the course of two successive six-month phases. By the end of phase one, the authorised numbers of troops and police will be reduced from 15,845 and 3,403 to 11,395 and 2,888, respectively; by the end of phase two, the mission will consist of 8,735 troops and 2,500 police. Ahead of the second phase, beginning 1 January 2018, the Council requested the Secretary-General and the chairperson of the AU Commission to provide an assessment, allowing the Council an opportunity to delay or alter the second phase if needed. The assessment is expected to address progress in implementing phase one of UNAMID’s reconfiguration, the impact of the phase one reductions on areas that UNAMID has withdrawn from, the government’s cooperation with the mission, the removal of bureaucratic obstacles to the mission, and whether conditions on the ground are conducive to further reductions. The resolution also shortened the reporting period for UNAMID from 90 days to 60 days.

The Council was last briefed on UNAMID on 14 June by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, El-Ghassim Wane, on the AU-UN strategic review. Wane reported on the changes in UNAMID’s operating environment and recommended the proposed restructuring, redeployment and refocusing of UNAMID to reflect the mission’s “new realities”. Key changes to UNAMID’s priorities discussed by Wane included the recommended increased focus on the effective implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur and an increased focus on the protection of civilians in the greater Jebel Marra area. On 8 June, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, briefed the Council on the situation in Darfur and the ICC’s work pursuant to resolution 1593. Bensouda requested that the Council take action to respond to ongoing instances of non-compliance or non-cooperation relating to the situation in Darfur and the outstanding ICC arrest warrants.

Sanctions-Related Developments

The 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee met on 3 July to discuss the report of the chair, Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko (Ukraine), on his 14 to 18 May visit to Sudan. Yelchenko briefed Council members in consultations on the work of the committee on 24 July.

Key Issues and Options

A key issue that Council members will want to follow closely is the effect of the troop reduction on the security situation.

Another key issue for the Council is to support efforts to break the ongoing impasse in the negotiations between the government and Darfuri rebel movements, leading to a durable cessation of hostilities and a final settlement. An option moving forward could be for the Council to consider seeking an African member as co-penholder on Darfur to share the pen with the current penholder, the UK, to enhance African involvement on this issue in the Council.

The Council may also need to tackle how to promote intercommunal reconciliation, given the high levels of intercommunal fighting in Darfur in recent years. An option for the Council could be to request the Joint Special Representative for Darfur and head of UNAMID Jeremiah Mamabolo to brief on the issue. Another option would be to organise an Arria-formula meeting with experts on intercommunal violence, to discuss its root causes and ways to bring opposing parties together.

Regarding the Sudan Sanctions Committee, the chair of the committee might consider holding the briefing in an open session, rather than in closed consultations, to enhance the transparency of the committee’s work.

Council Dynamics

In a departure from previous years, and within a context of longstanding divisions in the Council regarding Darfur, improvements in stability in many parts of the region have created an opportunity for apparent unity amongst Council members on certain issues, including agreeing on improvements in the overall security situation, troop reductions, and the government’s efforts to improve humanitarian access. Traditionally, some Council members, notably China and Russia, have tended to emphasise the importance of upholding the sovereignty of Sudan and improvements in the security situation in Darfur. Other members of the Council, such as France, Italy, Sweden, the UK, Ukraine, Uruguay and the US, have been critical of the government for committing human rights violations, restricting the operations of UNAMID, and fostering a culture of impunity in Darfur. While concerns remain, a number of these states have expressed the view that the government is making an effort to improve humanitarian access in the region and have welcomed reduced violence in Darfur. The US, which has had longstanding bilateral sanctions against Sudan, is currently reviewing these measures.

The UK is the penholder on Darfur; Ukraine chairs the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.

UN Documents on Darfur

Security Council Resolutions
29 June 2017 S/RES/2363 This was a resolution renewing the mandate of UNAMID for an additional year.
8 February 2017 S/RES/2340 The resolution renewed the mandate of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee Panel of Experts until 12 March 2018.
Secretary-General's Reports
30 August 2017 S/2017/746 This was the report of the Secretary-General on UNAMID.
30 August 2017 S/2017/747 This was the Secretary-General’s assessment of the status of implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur.
18 May 2017 S/2017/437 This was the special report of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and the Secretary-General on the strategic review of UNAMID.
Security Council Meeting Records
14 June 2017 S/PV.7969 This was a briefing by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, El-Ghassim Wane, on the joint AU-UN strategic review on UNAMID.
8 June 2017 S/PV.7963 This was a briefing by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, on the situation in Darfur and cooperation with the ICC’s work pursuant to resolution 1593.
Sanctions Committee Documents
5 July 2017 SC/12903 This was a press statement regarding the report of the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee’s visit to Sudan, which took place from 14 to 18 May 2017.
9 January 2017 S/2017/22 This was the Sudan Sanctions Committee final report.

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