posted on Thu 13 Jun 2019 4:57 PM
AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (14 June), Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is scheduled to brief the Security Council on the UN/AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and the special report of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and the UN Secretary-General on the strategic assessment of UNAMID (S/2019/445), requested in resolution 2429. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour is also expected to brief. Consultations will follow the briefing.

The discussion is likely to be influenced by the significant political and security developments in Sudan and their impact on the situation in Darfur and the work of UNAMID. On 15 May, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the opposition alliance, called the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces announced that they had agreed on a three-year transition to civilian rule. However, key differences on issues such as the composition of the transitional body were not resolved, and in the midst of this stalemate, the TMC began to crack down on protestors.   Last week more than 100 people died, and some 800 others were injured, in violent clashes in Khartoum and other provinces, according to media reports. Most of the casualties occurred in Khartoum after security personnel responded violently to demonstrators on 3 June, including the use of live ammunition. Healthcare workers and facilities were reportedly targeted for helping the injured. On 3 and 5 June, intercommunal clashes were reported in East Darfur, leaving more than 50 people injured. On 4 June, the TMC announced that it would stop negotiating with the opposition alliance, cancel the agreement reached on 15 May on a three-year transition to civilian rule, unilaterally form an interim government, and hold elections within nine months.

On 4 June, the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, briefed Council members under “any other business” at the request of Germany and the UK, the co-penholders on Darfur. Members were unable to agree on elements to the press condemning the killing and injury of civilians the previous day and calling for a solution to the current crisis. China and Russia objected, taking the view that this would constitute interference in the internal affairs of Sudan. Instead, current and previous EU members of the Council made a joint statement at a press stakeout that day, condemning the violent attacks by Sudanese security services against civilians, and calling for the cessation of all acts of violence and an agreed transfer of power to a civilian-led government.

Council members may be interested in hearing further details about the role of the AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in addressing the situation as well as how the Council can best support these efforts. On 6 June, the AU Peace and Security Council issued a communiqué suspending Sudan from all AU activities; demanding the resumption of negotiations without preconditions; calling on IGAD “to scale up its engagement”; and deciding that should the TMC fail to hand over power to a civilian-led Transitional Authority, the PSC would “automatically impose punitive measures on individuals and entities”. The three African members of the Council (A3), along with the Permanent Observer Mission of the AU to the UN, made a joint statement at a press stakeout on 6 June, expressing their alignment with the AU PSC communiqué and calling for an investigation of the events on 3 June and a return to dialogue between the parties. The joint statement also underlined the primacy of African-led initiatives to solve the crisis in Sudan. On 8 June, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and current IGAD Chairman, Abiy Ahmed, held meetings in Khartoum with the parties, following which they reportedly agreed to resume talks.

It seems that the positions expressed by the AU, the AU PSC and the A3 on the current situation contributed to the Council members reaching agreement on a press statement, which was issued on 11 June.  It strongly condemned the recent violence, called for respect for human rights, and encouraged the Secretary-General to continue to support regional and international efforts, in particular, those led by the AU, to facilitate and agree on a national transitional process (SC/13836).

During tomorrow’s briefing, Lacroix is expected to highlight key aspects of the strategic assessment report on UNAMID, which covers 14 July 2018 to 15 May 2019. The strategic assessment team concluded that:

“…while a number of challenges remained in Darfur, there had been no strategic reversal of the positive trajectory with regard to Darfur, since the previous mandate renewal. The recent political developments in Khartoum, however, necessitate a responsible exit strategy for the mission. While the current dynamics do not warrant a change of the exit date, in June 2020, the mission should implement a gradual drawdown.”

It should be recalled that resolution 2429, renewing UNAMID’s mandate in July last year, took note of the recommendations of the Secretary-General and Chairperson of the African Commission in the Special Report (S/2018/530) on the exit of the mission in June 2020 “provided that there is no significant change in the security situation in Darfur and key indicators are fulfilled”.

The strategic assessment report also states that the situation in Darfur is “no longer of a peacekeeping nature and therefore proposed that the strategic focus and mandate of UNAMID shift to political and peacebuilding support…[which] requires an adjustment of the mission’s posture, footprint and operational capabilities”. The report also recommends that the benchmarks and indicators of achievement for the exit of the mission set out in the Secretary-General’s report of 12 October 2018 (S/2018/912) “be streamlined to serve as long-term progress indicators, beyond the departure of UNAMID” along three priority areas: developing an updated strategy on the Darfur peace process; strengthening Sudanese rule of law institutions; and long-term support to stabilisation, including durable solutions for internally displaced persons.

Given that the strategic assessment report only covers the situation until 15 May, prior to last week’s violent crackdown by security forces, some Council members are likely to be interested in hearing Lacroix’s assessment of the impact of recent events on the situation in Darfur and on UNAMID’s operations, in particular in the context of the mission’s reconfiguration and drawdown. Such an assessment may be useful in further informing Council members’ views ahead of UNAMID’s mandate renewal later this month.

Continuing differences amongst Council members on the situation in Darfur were apparent during the last formal briefing on UNAMID on 17 April (S/PV.8513). Germany said that “decisions on the future of UNAMID must be shaped by developments on the ground” and emphasised the need to “take a close look” at the timeline for the mission’s exit. The UK said that “the latest political developments have a direct impact on Darfur” and called for “a gradual and sensible approach, guided by the situation on the ground”. Other members, such as Belgium, France, and Peru expressed similar positions. The US expressed concern over “the impact of the events in Khartoum on the security and stability of Darfur” and stressed the need for “measurable and sustainable progress on prioritized benchmarks, in particular, demonstrating the government’s ability and capacity to protect and provide for the Darfur people and addressing the root causes of the conflict”. However, Kuwait expressed the need for the Council “to continue the implementation of UNAMID’s exit strategy”, saying that “what is happening in Sudan is a domestic affair that should not be interfered with”. Russia said that the Council “has no mandate to discuss the evolving political processes in that country” and that UNAMID’s withdrawal should progress; China similarly called for “non-interference in the internal affairs of states”.

Several factors are likely to influence Council members’ positions tomorrow, including the findings and conclusions of the strategic assessment report, events in Sudan since the start of last week, and the position taken by the AU. The fact that Council members were able to reach agreement on a press statement this week after an earlier failure to do so could perhaps signal a degree of consensus ahead of tomorrow’s briefing.

Looking ahead, the Council will be actively engaged on Darfur during the rest on the month. On 19 June, the Council will receive the semi-annual briefing of the ICC Prosecutor related to the court’s work on Darfur. Ambassador Joanna Wronecka (Poland), chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, is scheduled to provide the quarterly briefing to Council members on the Committee’s work on 26 June. The Council is also scheduled to renew the mandate of UNAMID on 27 June.