posted on Wed 26 Jun 2019 9:46 PM
UN-AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) Mandate Renewal

Tomorrow (27 June), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution extending the mandate of the UN-AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) until 31 October. The initial draft was circulated by the UK and Germany, the penholders on Darfur, last week. A revised draft was put under silence until 10 am yesterday (25 June), but China, Indonesia, Kuwait, and Russia broke silence. A revised draft, circulated yesterday evening, passed silence at noon today (26 June), and is now in blue.

The issue of the scope and pace of UNAMID’s drawdown, reconfiguration, and eventual exit has been contentious among Council members for some time (see our What’s In Blue stories on past UNAMID mandate renewals in 2017 and 2018). Resolution 2429, renewing UNAMID’s mandate in July last year, took note of the recommendations of the Secretary-General and Chairperson of the African Union Commission in the Special Report (S/2018/530), which stated that the mission would exit in June 2020 “provided that there is no significant change in the security situation in Darfur and key indicators are fulfilled”.

The first draft placed under silence would have extended the current mandate of UNAMID until 20 December. Following the breaking of silence, the draft in blue reflects a concession to those preferring a shorter extension, at least in part because they believed that a six-month renewal would have been too long for a resolution rolling over the mandate; hence, the four-month renewal until 31 October.

Standard practice in past years has been for a one-year renewal, but tomorrow’s technical rollover of the mandate reflects the view held by the penholders and most other Council members, including the three African members, that the current evolving situation in Sudan, as well as the significant political and security developments in recent months, merit pausing the mission’s drawdown and reconfiguration. A violent crackdown on 3 June by security forces in Khartoum resulted in the death of over 100 civilians and drew widespread international condemnation, including by the Security Council in a press statement issued on 11 June. Meanwhile, the Transitional Military Council (TMC), which took power after the military’s ousting of President Omar al-Bashir in April, has yet to hand over power to a civilian-led transitional government, as called for by the AU Peace and Security Council and others.

The draft in blue decides that UNAMID should continue to implement its mandate from the most recent UNAMID resolution (resolution 2429 of 13 July 2018), without specifying the elements of that mandate. In this regard, the text is concise, consisting of only five preambular paragraphs and four operative paragraphs. (UNAMID’s mandate focuses on the protection of civilians, the facilitation of humanitarian access, mediation between the government and rebel groups, and inter-communal mediation, among other issues.)

The draft in blue also decides “to extend, temporarily and exceptionally, the period of drawdown for UNAMID’s military personnel outlined in paragraph 5 of resolution 2429…in order to maintain the Mission’s self-protection capacities”. Paragraph 5 of resolution 2429 had decided that UNAMID’s troop ceiling would be “reduced over the course of this mandate renewal period to consist of up to 4,050 personnel unless the Security Council decides to adjust the scope and pace of the reduction”.

Neither of the drafts placed under silence, including the draft now in blue, included language from earlier versions authorising UNAMID “to temporarily and exceptionally exceed its authorised troop ceiling by 325 personnel, in order to maintain its self-protection capacities, so long as deemed necessary by the Mission”, following objections from some members during negotiations to authorising this potential increase in the troop ceiling.

The draft in blue contains a request for the Secretary-General to provide the Security Council with an oral update on the situation on the ground 60 days after the adoption of the resolution. It also requests the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission to provide the Council with a special report by 30 September containing an assessment of the situation on the ground and recommendations on the appropriate course of action regarding the drawdown of UNAMID, as well as a joint AU-UN political strategy detailing options for a follow-on mechanism to UNAMID. The request for the special report was contained in earlier drafts, although the timeframe for its submission was amended based on the shortening of the mandate extension.

Language specifying the contents of the special report was added to the first draft placed under silence and retained in the draft in blue; this reflected the view of the penholders, in particular, that there should be an explicit call for options to be presented to the Council regarding a follow-on mechanism to UNAMID.

The idea of extending or rolling over the mission’s current mandate—that is, without authorising any further changes to the role of the mission or further reductions to its troop and police ceiling—was put forward by the UK and Germany in their statements at the UNAMID briefing on 14 June (S/PV.8549). The UK said this approach would be “prudent”, as it “would provide time for progress on the broader political situation…time for the issue regarding the handover of UNAMID’s team sites to be resolved, and it would enable the United Nations and the African Union to develop a political strategy to address the outstanding challenges that will remain following UNAMID’s departure.” Germany expressed a similar view. Other members, including Belgium, Equatorial Guinea, and France, expressly supported a technical rollover of the mission’s mandate in their statements.

Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, and South Africa, along with several other members, emphasised their support for the AU Peace and Security Council communiqué issued on 13 June, which expressed deep concern over the safety of civilians and UNAMID staff in Darfur; rejected the TMC Decree Number 102 of 13 May calling for UNAMID to hand over assets to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF); indicated that UNAMID’s exit should not create a vacuum and expose the long-suffering civilian population to renewed risks; and stated that UNAMID should not, in any circumstances, hand over security responsibility to the RSF. (The TMC subsequently cancelled its decree of 13 May.)

Some members have emphasised the importance of respecting Sudan’s sovereignty, including at the 14 June briefing. Russia said that some Council members were “using this agenda item not to discuss the parameters for withdrawing a peacekeeping operation but to voice their opinions of the domestic political situation in the Sudan”. Kuwait similarly stressed that “what is happening in the Sudan is an internal affair”, and expressed hope for a new mandate that would lay out exit options and specify priority areas. Indonesia reaffirmed the principle of non-interference and respect for Sudanese sovereignty as well as the primacy of African-led initiatives for a lasting solution in Sudan. As a result of these positions, the draft in blue also contains a preambular paragraph reaffirming the Council’s “strong commitment to the sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity of Sudan”, which was added to the revised draft that passed silence.