Sudan Entering Crucial Period Less than Three Months before Impending Referendum, Under-Secretary-General Says in Briefing to Security Council

25 October 2010

Sudan Entering Crucial Period Less than Three Months before Impending Referendum, Under-Secretary-General Says in Briefing to Security Council

25 October 2010
Security Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6410th Meeting (AM)

Sudan Entering Crucial Period Less than Three Months before Impending Referendum,

Under-Secretary-General Says in Briefing to Security Council


Government Not Doing Enough to End ‘Culture of Impunity’, He Says,

Citing Aerial Bombardments, Attacks on United Nations, Humanitarian Staff

With less than three months remaining before the referendum in the south, the whole of Sudan was entering a crucial period, Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Security Council today in a briefing that covered the situations in both Southern Sudan and Darfur.

“In addition to the security and political challenges inherent in the referendum process, other challenges such as the situation in Darfur and the obstacles weighing on the Doha peace process continue,” said Mr. Le Roy as he presented the Secretary-General’s latest reports on the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).

He said there had been palpable progress in preparations for the referendum on the status of the South, scheduled for 9 January as part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, but very little time remained.  At an 11 October meeting of the Referendum Commission, the Commission had been urged to finalize its operational plan, including the dateline and budget, and to clarify the registration criteria for South Sudanese living in the north.

UNMIS continued to provide the Commission with technical and logistical advice, and to give additional support to the subcommittees responsible for the referendum process, he said.  UNAMID was also assisting the Commission by establishing registration and polling stations in Darfur.  In the meantime, a formal invitation to observe the referendum had been sent out to interested organizations.

He said the Commission was now in agreement that registration for the referendum would begin on 14 November and end on 30 November, and that the list of voters would be finalized on 31 December.  The International Foundation for Electoral Systems and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had furnished manuals on both processes, which should arrive in Sudan before the end of this month.

With some 3,600 registration stations in Sudan, many details had not been decided, so extra resources were being pre-positioned in order to prepare for any eventuality, he continued.  The International Organization for Migration (IOM) was now assessing needs for the registration of Sudanese voters living in eight countries abroad, but it was certain that additional resources would be needed to accommodate them in a timely manner.

National financing was a major obstacle to progress in preparations for the referendum, he said.  The Commission had initially presented a total budget of $370 million, but little had been made available.  The Government of South Sudan had recently declared that it had authorized the transfer of $51 million as its own contribution, excluding security.  For its part, the Government of Sudan had provided only $8.5 million last week, and was awaiting a detailed budget from the Referendum Commission, he said.  That delay had severely limited the implementation of concrete measures for voter registration, which must begin with the hiring of some 12,000 agents.  Noting that an extensive international support system had been established, he stressed, however, that the referendum was, above all, a national effort that could not be set up effectively without agreements on national financing.

He said serious concern had arisen over the situation of Southern Sudanese living in the north, with high officials of both the ruling National Congress Party and the South’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) stating that they could lose their citizenship rights in the event of Southern secession.  There had also been reports of Southern security forces intimidating pro-unity groups, he noted, emphasizing that the parties must allow all voters freely to express their will.  On the positive side, there had been signs of reconciliation among Southern parties, including the pardoning of military chiefs formerly opposed to the SPLM and at least one case of a pardoned chief joining the SPLM.  In addition, all parties had committed themselves to abide by a code of conduct that included equal access to the media and other conditions conducive to a fair election.

On the other hand, he expressed continuing deep concern over the lack of progress on the Abyei referendum.  No referendum commission had been established and registration criteria not yet been defined.  The parties had met recently in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to try to overcome those obstacles, as well as questions of border delimitation and other important concerns.  In the absence of agreements, however, tensions rose daily in Abyei, he said, expressing alarm also over the lack of progress on popular consultations in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

He said the Panel charged by the Secretary-General with observing the referendums had made its first visit to Sudan from 10 to 15 October, meeting with many parties and conveying its alarm over delays and mistrust between parties, and calling for immediate progress in all areas.  The Panel stood read to engage actively in all areas, including through its good offices.

Mr. Le Roy said the security situation in the UNMIS area of operation remained relatively calm, although tension had risen this month over an exchange of accusations by the national army and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), each claiming that the other was strengthening its position.  In light of a lack of cooperation on the part of local commanders, and limited aerial mobility, UNMIS had not been able to verify the situation, he said, adding however, that the information available suggested there was no major military mobilization, even if both armies had heightened their respective levels of preparation and reinforced defences in many areas.

Given the scale of security risks and the mandate of UNMIS, however, violations of the free movement of UNMIS remained alarming and the Mission continued to bring the problem to the attention of the authorities, he said.  Both forces had been ordered to allow the Mission complete freedom of movement.  Amid heightened tensions, it had worked to reinforce its capabilities in analysis and conflict-resolution, coordinating them with local armed forces.  It had also increased patrols, particularly along the North-South border, and was working with the United Nations country team both on conflict-resolution strategies and on strategies for the protection of humanitarian actors and civilians.

The Security Council had heard alarm expressed during its recent mission to Sudan about serious risk of clashes, he noted, saying there was now much interest in possibly reinforcing UNMIS in critical areas, particularly North-South border areas.  The Mission was considering various options, including the redeployment of troops to the border, which would have the obvious drawback of weakening the presence of UNMIS in other areas during the referendum.  A request for additional contingents for the sensitive areas was another option, he said, adding that he would return to the Council with proposals after consulting the parties.  However, political progress on all unresolved questions were the best possible tool for preventing war, he stressed.  In that light, it was most urgent that progress was made in upcoming meetings between the parties in Addis Ababa.

Turning to Darfur, he emphasized that the focus on the acute challenges there should not be lost as attention shifted to the referendum in the South.  The number of armed confrontations between parties had decreased, but intermittent clashes continued between the Sudanese Armed Forces on the one hand, and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and forces loyal to the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW) faction on the other.

Aerial bombardments by the Government had been used in mid-July and reportedly in early October, he said, adding that incidents of banditry, carjacking, ambushes and abductions of United Nations staff and humanitarian workers also continued.  “The Government has not done enough to stem the culture of impunity for such attacks, which remains the norm,” he emphasized, pointing out that the parties had been reminded repeatedly that attacks on United Nations personnel constituted war crimes.

He said that, since the outbreak of violence in Kalma camp for internally displaced persons in July, the situation there was calm and some 25,000 people had returned.  UNAMID continued to maintain a reinforced presence, including round-the-clock patrolling.  In West Darfur’s Hamidiya camp, where similar unrest had taken place, leaders had agreed on locations for community policing centres.  The violence in the camps highlighted the presence of weapons and armed elements inside such facilities, he said, recalling that on 2 September, an unidentified group of armed men had attacked a market in Tabarat, North Darfur, killing 37, injuring 35 others and causing the displacement of about 3,000 people.

There had been no improvement in most humanitarian indicators, he continued, pointing out that more than 280,000 people had been displaced across Darfur since the beginning of the year.  Humanitarian operations continued to be hampered by insecurity and operational constraints.  Due to insecurity, the World Food Programme (WFP) had been unable to reach more than 435,000 of its intended beneficiaries, or 11 per cent, during August.  In eastern Jebel Marra, both the Government and SLA-AW had continued to deny access to the international community.  In some camps, including Abu Shouk, distributions had continued on the basis of half-rations, as part of a strategy to shift from general food distribution to more targeted safety-net programmes for the most vulnerable.

He said the precarious human rights situation in Darfur also remained a consistent concern, noting that the state of emergency gave broad-based powers to the National Intelligence and Security Service, which were used with impunity.  Following the Council’s visit to Abou Shouk camp, where food distribution had resumed after September, internally displaced persons who had spoken to Council members had reportedly been arrested and intimidated.  The Government had been urged to release anyone being held, and to guarantee the rights of internally displaced persons to speak openly, without fear of intimidation.

Turning to the political process, he said Joint Chief Mediator Djibrill Yipènè Bassolé continued to work with the armed movements and the Government on developing an inclusive and comprehensive peace agreement.  On 19 October, the Mediation, the Government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) had met in Doha to review progress.  Significant disagreement remained over the administrative status of Darfur, power-sharing, and mechanisms of compensation and reconciliation, but Mr. Bassolé would work on compromise proposals.  The Joint Chief Mediator had also held meetings with JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim, whose group had indicated some willingness to resume its participation in the peace talks.  Abdul Wahid had also indicated willingness to consider participation.

He said that the Government, while stating its ongoing commitment to the Doha talks, had expressed its preference for a “domestication” of the peace process.  However, the movements had rejected the notion of holding talks exclusively inside Darfur, given the current security environment, Mr. Le Roy said, adding that he had, therefore, continued to stress the need for both engagement of the Darfur population, and space for negotiations with movements that showed themselves to be credible interlocutors.  He had also stressed that peace was contingent on the Government’s commitment to make significant concessions to the people of Darfur.

UNAMID had supported local-level peace initiatives and planned to facilitate a tribunal reconciliation conference in November, the Under-Secretary-General said.  But although UNAMID continued to focus on its core mandated function of protecting civilians and providing a secure environment for humanitarian operations, the Under-Secretary-General said, restrictions on its freedom of movement hampered its capacity to react and maintain situational awareness.  During the reporting period, such restrictions had occurred on 26 occasions and seven peacekeepers had been injured.

On 17 September, the Government had endorsed a new political and security strategy for Darfur, focusing on security, development, resettlement, reconciliation and negotiations, he said.  The strategy called for greater coordination with UNAMID on protection and returns, and for a shift from humanitarian assistance to development and support for returning displaced persons.  While engaging with the Government on that strategy, UNAMID stressed that success would require the Government to build confidence among the population by implementing long-overdue measures on security and impunity, while reigning in the powers of the National Intelligence and Security Service and making development funds available.

“The challenges ahead are multiple and grave,” the Under-Secretary-General said, warning that time was running out to resolve the many outstanding issues of the referendum.  While planning for the worst-case political and security scenarios continued, the core goal must be to urge the parties to reach agreement on the process and on the basis for long-term peaceful coexistence, irrespective of the outcome.

As for Darfur, he said, the Government must do more to create an enabling environment for the implementation of UNAMID’s mandate, including by tackling impunity and providing full freedom of movement.  Movements remaining outside the peace process must go beyond vague signals and demonstrate their intent to re-engage, including through recommitment to a ceasefire.

Urging the Council to consider imposing consequences for those who continued to obstruct the process, he said progress in Darfur depended on the Government’s willingness to make “maximum concessions” in the peace negotiations, and in the meantime, to implement measures that would improve the lives of Darfurians and build their trust.  Those responsibilities should be clearly conveyed, he stressed.

Following the briefing, Ali Osman ( Sudan) reaffirmed his country’s resolve to implement the last stages of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, including the conduct of a credible, impartial and transparent referendum, emphasizing that the referendum was not an end in itself but a means to achieve pace, stability and co-existence.  The principle of self-determination had been accepted with a view to ending war once and for all, he said, adding that the Government was pressing ahead in addressing such issues as popular consultations and border demarcation while making all necessary concessions.

As for post-referendum arrangements, he said the Government had signed a Memorandum of Understanding reflecting the Government’s resolve to conduct serious and objective negotiations, including on citizenship and international legal instruments.  With the participation of African Union and UNMIS officials, four working groups had been established on 19 June and time frames for their work adopted.  He agreed with the Secretary-General’s report that the security and humanitarian situation in South Sudan was alarming.

As for Darfur, he said the Council had had an opportunity to see the situation in the field and in several camps for the internally displaced.  One of the Government’s main priorities was the return of all citizens to their villages, he said.  The Government’s new strategy on Darfur, which had been explained in detail to the visiting Council members, accorded special attention to fighting impunity, particularly since those attacks against humanitarian workers were carried out by armed bandits.

He said the Joint Mediation continued and could be crowned with a sustainable and comprehensive peace agreement in Doha “in a couple of days”.  The “missing link” was Council action against those who rejected the path of peace and refused to joint the negotiations.  As for the option of raising UNAMID troop levels, he stressed the optimal solution would be for the Hybrid Operation to help the parties reach a satisfactory solution to outstanding matters.  Increasing troop levels was not the best solution, not because the Government would refuse to accept a force increase, but because such an increase would not help the parties achieve a settlement and would waste resources that could be used elsewhere.

The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and ended at 10:56 a.m.


The Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the Sudan (document S/2010/528), which provides an update on progress made in implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in the lead-up to the referendum on the status of Southern Sudan, planned for 9 January 2011, and outlines the activities of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) from 19 July to 30 September.

In the report, the Secretary-General welcomes reassurances from both the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) regarding their commitment to holding the referendum within the timeline, but notes that public anticipation and anxiety are building at an accelerated pace.  The stakes are high and it is imperative that the parties and all relevant authorities redouble their efforts to ensure that the deadline is successfully met, he says, adding that the United Nations is doing all it can, with key partners, to facilitate that effort.

The report recalls that on 24 September, a high-level meeting held on the margins of the General Assembly adopted a communiqué in which the Sudanese parties recommitted themselves to overcoming all challenges in order to hold the referendum on 9 January.  International partners are eager and ready to support full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, but it is, and must continue to be, a fundamentally Sudanese effort.  As such, it is the parties to the Agreement that have primary responsibility to ensure its success, the Secretary-General emphasizes, adding that there is simply no time remaining for political confrontation and stalemates, and calling on the parties to rise to the occasion.

In that context, preparations are well behind schedule, the report notes.  The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission must move extremely quickly in order to fulfil its mandate on time, and the parties must do everything necessary to address any obstacles.  The Secretary-General expresses deep concern about the situation in the volatile Abyei region, where preparations for the referendum are even further behind, exacerbating the volatility.  Concerns holding up the preparation can only be addressed effectively through a comprehensive package covering wealth-sharing, access to water and grazing land, residence and property ownership, and border demarcation.

Noting that he has appointed a panel to monitor the referendums, the Secretary-General urges the parties, as well as the international community, to extend to it their fullest cooperation in an effort to deliver a free, fair and credible referendum.  With political attention focused on the referendum, the parties should also ensure that popular consultations in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states receive appropriate attention and resources, and that census results from Southern Kordofan are released as soon as practical.

The report calls upon the parties to ensure the security and safety of United Nations personnel and to facilitate their operations in this critical period, saying that the continuing escalation of restrictions on the free movement of UNMIS presents a serious challenge.  He also urges the parties to answer quickly the political questions that have delayed border demarcation by preventing the relevant technical bodies from completing their assigned tasks, to engage in a dialogue with border communities, and to seek agreements and solutions that provide the least disruption in their lives.

Since the delayed reintegration of some 180,000 ex-combatants is also a serious concern, the Secretary-General urges donors to examine options for supporting that effort in the post-referendum period.  Increased donor assistance is also urgently required to guard against a serious deterioration in humanitarian conditions during the critical months ahead.  Taking note of the totality of daunting challenges in Sudan in the coming quarter, the Secretary-General concludes:  “It is incumbent upon the international community to do everything within its power to assist the Sudanese in meeting these challenges.”

Also before the Council was the report of the Secretary-General on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) (document S/2010/543), which states that, while clashes between parties to the conflict have reduced substantially, fighting between communities continues to result in fatalities.  Clashes between Government forces on the one hand, and those of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA)-Abdul Wahid on the other, have taken place in several areas of South Darfur and in Jebel Marra.  They have destabilized those areas, caused new displacements and hindered the delivery of humanitarian aid.  The Secretary-General calls on all belligerents to cease hostilities and join the peace process.

Taking note of more inter-communal clashes, particularly between the Misseriya and Rezeigat, the report says that they, and the chance of potential future ones, are kept alive by the prevalence of small arms; competition over recently vacated land; obstruction of traditional migration routes; tension at water points; weakened traditional conflict-resolution mechanisms; and ethno-political rivalry.  “Unless the Government disarms militias, enhances law and order by addressing impunity, invests in development and resolves competing land claims, such fighting is likely to continue,” the Secretary-General observes.

According to the report, the Secretary-General is encouraged by progress made by the Joint Chief Mediator, the Joint Mediation Team and UNAMID towards facilitating an agreement between the Government and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM).  He urges the parties to reach a peace agreement that addresses the root causes of the conflict.  Noting the Government’s new strategy for peace in Darfur — aimed at facilitating participation and enhancing local ownership of the peace process — he expresses hope that they will complement the outcome of the Doha consultations, leading to sustainable peace.

For negotiations to succeed, they will have to be inclusive and broad-based, the report emphasizes.  Unfortunately, the leaders of the SLA-Abdul Wahid and the JEM persist in staying away from the peace talks, and the Government has yet to demonstrate a willingness to offer them attractive concessions.  The Secretary-General urges all parties to enter into negotiations in good faith and without delay, and calls upon Member States that have influence over them strongly to encourage them to do so.  “Only a comprehensive and inclusive negotiated political settlement can bring about a credible cessation of hostilities and address the root causes of conflict in Darfur.”

Strongly condemning the recent violence in the Kalma and Hamadiya camps for internally displaced persons, the Secretary-General calls upon the parties involved to refrain from violence, irrespective of their divergent views on the peace process, recognizing that the presence of arms and armed elements in some camps is a source of insecurity that must be addressed.  He urges the Government and the armed movements to allow UNAMID personnel the freedom of movement afforded to them under the status-of-forces agreement, and to extend the same freedom to humanitarian personnel.

“Attacks and abduction of United Nations and humanitarian personnel are reprehensible and constitute war crimes,” the Secretary-General writes, calling upon the Government to pursue vigorously and prosecute the perpetrators.  Ending impunity for such crimes, whether perpetrated against UNAMID personnel or ordinary citizens, is an essential step in the transition from conflict and instability to peace and security in Darfur, the report concludes.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.