Despite Increased Stability in Darfur, Reconfiguration of Peacekeeping Mission Must Not Compromise Gains, Special Representative Tells Security Council

SC/12775
4 April 2017
7912th Meeting (AM)

Despite Increased Stability in Darfur, Reconfiguration of Peacekeeping Mission Must Not Compromise Gains, Special Representative Tells Security Council

Sudan’s Delegate Says UNAMID No Longer Right Framework for International Presence

Against the backdrop of significant security progress and improved cooperation with the Government of Sudan, the United Nations and the African Union should consider amending the mandate of their joint peacekeeping Operation in Darfur, stressed the head of that mission today as he briefed the Security Council on recent developments.

Jeremiah Mamabolo, Joint Special Representative of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), said a strategic review was already under way to plan for the eventual departure of the 10-year-old mission.  In the meantime, its “pragmatic reconfiguration” — which must not compromise the gains made so far — would be necessary.

Describing recent progress made in Darfur, he said fighting between the Government and the three main armed movements that were non-signatories to the 2011 Doha Document for Peace had considerably diminished.  Meanwhile, the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid (SLA/AW) had been weakened and was no longer capable of mounting and sustaining significant military operations.  The Government had been able to take control of areas previously held by that movement in and around the heartland of Jebel Marra, leaving the group with a few pockets of resistance.

In addition, he said, the unilateral ceasefire that was extended by another six months in January was largely holding and other armed factions had also declared an end to hostilities.  However, SLA/AW consistently refused to do so, and against the backdrop of economic hardship and social depression, banditry and criminality continued to be wide-spread.  Durable solutions were also needed to enable the return of thousands of civilians displaced during 2016, he said.

Following the briefing, Council members expressed support for UNAMID’s committed work over the past decade, even as some speakers echoed calls for its drawdown and reconfiguration.  Egypt’s representative declared:  “The Security Council must change the way it deals with the situation in Darfur in a manner commensurate with the developments on the ground.”  Calling for international support to the African Union High-level Implementation Panel’s peace process and regional mediation efforts, he added that the Council should consider taking action against the military leaders that refused to join the process or obstructed its progress.

While several speakers welcomed the increased cooperation between UNAMID and the Government of Sudan, others voiced concern that the latter was still not doing enough to protect civilians.  The representative of the United States, in that regard, said the Government had tried to obstruct UNAMID from day one and continued to stand by when local disputes turned bloody.  The Council must determine whether the mission’s size and force structure were appropriate; meanwhile, it should also assess Government progress against the benchmarks set and be willing to act if necessary.

The representative of the Russian Federation agreed with other speakers that many challenges remained in Darfur and expressed concern that the peace process was at a standstill.  However, “the Government can hardly be blamed for this”, he said, emphasizing that negotiations had fallen apart because of the rebels.  Stressing that the Council should consider imposing sanctions on those intractable groups, he warned against “foot-dragging” in UNAMID’s drawdown and exit strategy, which could have negative implications for its relationship with the host country.

Sudan’s representative also addressed the Council, emphasizing his Government’s “unprecedented progress” in ensuring stability and security in Darfur.  Nevertheless, the opposition movement remained obstinate and continued to receive outside support.  The great improvement in Darfur’s security and humanitarian conditions, as well as the reduced activity of rebel groups, proved that UNAMID was no longer the right framework for the international presence, he said, urging a shift in focus towards development and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants.

At the meeting’s outset, the Council President for the month, Nikki Haley (United States), expressed condolences to the people and Government of the Russian Federation for the 3 April deadly attack on the Saint Petersburg Metro.

Also speaking were the representatives of the United Kingdom, Uruguay, Ethiopia, Japan, China, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Italy, France, Ukraine, Bolivia and Senegal.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11:53 a.m.

Briefing

JEREMIAH MAMABOLO, Joint Special Representative of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), said the three strategic priorities established by Security Council resolution 2148 (2014) continued to provide a framework within which the mission implemented its protection of civilians mandate, mitigated intercommunal conflicts and mediated between Government and non-signatory armed movements.  Stressing that the primary responsibility for the protection of Sudanese civilians rested with the Government, he said Darfur today was a very different place from what it was in 2003 when the conflict began.  Fighting between the Government and the three main non-signatory armed movements had considerably diminished and the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid (SLA/AW) was no longer capable of mounting and sustaining significant military operations.

In addition, he said, the Government in recent years had been able to take control of areas previously held by SLA/AW in and around the heartland of Jebel Marra, leaving that group with a few pockets of resistance.  The unilateral ceasefire that was extended by another six months in January 2017 was largely holding, and the Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi (SLA/MM) and the Gibril Ibrahim faction of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM/Gibril) armed groups had declared a ceasefire.  However, SLA/AW consistently refused to do so, and against the backdrop of economic hardship and social depression banditry and criminality continued to be widespread.  Meanwhile, efforts by the African Union High-level Implementation Panel, with the support of UNAMID, to get parties to sign a cessation of hostilities agreement and begin negotiations, had remained inconclusive.  SLA/AW continued to refuse to join the peace process, he said, urging the Council and those with influence and leverage on that group to persuade it to do so.

Noting that the past three months had also seen a continued reduction in the number of intercommunal security incidents, he said 97,400 people were nevertheless newly displaced in 2016.  Some 39,600 of those had reportedly returned, and no new displacement had been seen in 2017.  Calling for durable solutions to enable their return, he noted that cooperation with the Government had improved, with significant improvements in UNAMID’s freedom of movement.  The mission, along with the United Nations country team, had repeatedly been able to visit previously off-limits areas in Jebel Marra, he said, adding that there had also been some improvement in the issuance of visas and the clearance of essential equipment.  Describing joint efforts of the African Union, the United Nations and the Government on how best to configure a strategy for UNAMID’s eventual departure from Darfur, he said that a “pragmatic reconfiguration” of the mission — without compromising the gains made so far — would be necessary going forward.

Statements

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) welcomed the absence of violence between the Government and opposition groups, as well as the vital humanitarian assessments that were under way.  He urged Sudan to tackle a culture of criminality in Darfur, end the flow of small arms and light weapons, and bring to justice, including through the International Criminal Court, all those who had failed to respect international law.  He urged the Government to shift away from counter-insurgency towards peace, work which would require the Council’s support.  A political agreement was needed between the parties to conflict and he called upon them to engage with the African Union High-level Implementation Panel in that regard.  Further, the mission required unfettered access to Darfur on a sustained basis, and he expressed concern that the Government was imposing unnecessary access restrictions.  Finally, he said UNAMID must evolve alongside the security situation and the strategic review would be crucial in that regard.  All must be confident that the Government was able to protect all civilians, which required it to commit to the mission’s operational flexibility and to its own ability to protect civilians.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) noted that no armed conflicts had been reported in Darfur.  It was important that the break in hostilities hold in order to end violence against civilians, and encourage the voluntary return of both internally displaced persons and communities.  He welcomed that the Government the non-signatories of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur were sticking to the ceasefire, urging them to establish a formal agreement on the cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access, with political negotiations paving the way towards an end to the conflict.  He urged UNAMID to focus on internally displaced persons, who numbered more than 2.5 million, and on conflict prevention and mediation.  He expressed support for reconciliation efforts and peace processes at the intercommunal level.  Uruguay was always concerned when a State pursued unilateral actions that hampered peacekeeping.  While he noted the improvement of visa issuance, he said those actions were State obligations and reiterated that, in line with the Status of Forces Agreement, Sudan must take all measures to remove bureaucratic impediments and ensure the mission could fulfil its mandate, which included unimpeded access to Darfur.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said the situation in Darfur continued to show progress, commending the Government for extending the ceasefire another six months.  The Council should bring pressure to bear on armed movements to negotiate seriously and hold spoilers to account.  SLA/AW should be called on to join the process without preconditions.  He welcomed that the Government had established the Darfur Peace Follow-up Office, stressing the need to address the challenge of internally displaced persons and noting Sudan’s facilitation in that regard.  It was important those efforts were supported by the United Nations.  Calling the national dialogue a step in the right direction, he said the Government had started to implement the national dialogue document, support for which was critical so that peace prevailed throughout Sudan.  Further, those with leverage on parties outside the dialogue process should bring pressure on them to join those efforts, while the Government should foster inclusivity.  Noting improvements on visa and customs clearance, he expressed hope that UNAMID operational challenges would be resolved by taking advantage of the current situation.  He welcomed the improved relationship between Sudan and South Sudan, as well as with Chad and Uganda.

AMR ABDELATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) declared that “the Security Council must change the way it deals with the situation in Darfur in a manner commensurate with the developments on the ground”.  Pointing to major security improvements, he said more attention should now be paid to the root causes of conflict and the search for a lasting political solution.  UNAMID should not remain in Darfur indefinitely without an adjustment of its mandate or an exit strategy, he stressed, reaffirming the role of the joint working group and the Tripartite Mechanism in crafting such a strategy.  Noting that the recent improvements did not mean that no challenges remained, he called for reconciliation, rebuilding of institutions, good governance and economic and social development.  Support should extended to the African Union High-level Implementation Panel and regional mediation efforts, he said, adding that the Council should seriously consider taking action against the military leaders that refused to join the Darfur peace process and obstructed its progress.

YASUHISA KAWAMURA (Japan) urged the parties to reach a permanent peace agreement based on the African Union High-level Implementation Panel road map and encouraged the Government to further cooperate with UNAMID in the implementation of its mandate, with full freedom of movement.  Expressing hope that the soon-to-be-formed Government of National Reconciliation would make efforts to implement the outcome of the national dialogue and play an active role in achieving more inclusive political participation, he said more needed to be done to address the root causes of intercommunal violence in Darfur, such as conflicts over land and water.  Describing a joint project of the African Union, UNAMID and Japan to rehabilitate natural water storage areas in Darfur, he noted that his Government had also committed an additional $4.3 million to United Nations efforts to support the region’s internally displaced persons and prevent a relapse into conflict.

LIU JIEYI (China) said the complex situation in Darfur must be resolved in a comprehensive manner, with the international community committing its support to regional mediation efforts aimed at reaching a sustained and peaceful political solution to the conflict.  Expressing hope that donors would assist the Government to achieve sustained economic development, he pointed out that 2017 marked 10 years since UNAMID’s deployment and said the mission had carried out significant and important work over the past decade.  Going forward, he hoped that the mission’s exit strategy would be crafted in close consultation with the Government.  “The Security Council should support Africa in resolving African issues in an African way,” he stressed, adding that it should lend its support to the African Union and other regional organizations.  United Nations peacekeeping missions should follow the will of host countries and work to optimize their resources, he said, noting that China had been one of UNAMID’s founding troop-contributing countries and would continue to work to restore peace, development and stability in Darfur.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) welcomed the unilateral ceasefire declared by the Government on 15 January, expressing support for the inclusive political process under the African Union High-level Implementation Panel.  The creation of the post of Prime Minister and reconstitution of the National Assembly to make it more representative were also steps in the right direction.  Stressing the need to respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Sudan, and the Government’s ownership of the political process, were crucial for peace in Darfur.  He underscored the importance of the Tripartite Group on the mission’s drawdown, noting that UNAMID’s gradual reduction, based on the ability of the Government and armed movements, should ensure continued progress towards peace, which in turn, called for more effective spending of United Nations resources.  The joint strategic review mission report, due in May, should provide more directives.  UNAMID’s rightsizing should be implemented in parallel with the development assistance to the country, especially for addressing the issue of internally displaced persons.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) welcomed efforts to implement the conclusions of the national dialogue and preparations for forming a Government of National Reconciliation, a process that must remain open to further adjustment as a comprehensive agreement was developed.  Impediments to UNAMID’s freedom of movement must be urgently addressed.  The Government’s cooperation during the reporting period was important, as the Council must have a balanced assessment of the mission’s effectiveness ahead of the mandate renewal in June.  To ensure UNAMID was appropriate to the context, ground developments must be reflected in its next mandate, which must address how the United Nations as a whole could help sustain peace in Sudan.  The United Nations country team and UNAMID must continue to identify areas for cooperation in addressing the root causes of instability, he said, voicing concern at findings in the Secretary-General’s report of human rights violations and stressing the need to be alert to challenges at the regional level, aggravated by drought and refugee flows.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) said Sudan had shown its will to find a political solution, as seen by its unilateral ceasefire, signing of the road map and willingness to negotiate with non-signatories to the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur.  Those groups continued to delay.  He renewed the call for the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) to join the political process, and for the Justice and Equality Movement, SLA/MM and others to sign the road map.  Indeed, it was time to assess the credibility of those claiming to want peace.  He expressed hope the Doha Document could be rapidly completed.  More broadly, he said Darfur suffered from lack of development and Italy would continue help Sudan at a bilateral level in that regard.  He condemned intercommunal conflict, banditry, human rights violations, impunity, and attacks on internally displaced persons, calling on the Government to address those issues.  The upcoming strategic review recommendations would help determine the mission’s exit strategy, he said, also taking note of the assessment made in the Secretary-General’s report.

PETR ILIICHEV (Russian Federation), welcoming improvements in the situation in Darfur, as well as Khartoum’s efforts to implement the Doha Document for Peace, said that many challenges nevertheless remained.  It was troubling that the peace process was at a standstill, he said, stressing that “the Government can hardly be blamed for this”.  Peace talks had fallen apart because of the rebels themselves, in particular the SLA/AW group’s refusal to join negotiations.  Urging all foreign sponsors of such armed movements to exert their influence and press them to join the peace talks, he added that the Council could also consider imposing sanctions on those intractable groups.  Among the internally displaced persons in Darfur many were aligned with the radical opposition groups.  Pointing to great improvements on the part of the Government in granting humanitarian access, he called on UNAMID to continue to cooperate with Khartoum and warned against “foot-dragging” in the design of the mission’s exit strategy, which could have negative implications for its relationship with the host country.

ALEXIS LAMEK (France), stressing that the Council should continually assess the results of the peace operations it deployed, recalled that he had visited Darfur last week to learn more about the situation on the ground.  He had visited two camps for internally displaced persons, including one in Jebel Marra, and met with various officials, he said, noting that many people living in the camps were unable to return to their homes because they had been occupied by members of the armed opposition groups.  Against that backdrop, the Government must shoulder its responsibility to protect civilians.  Establishing stability throughout the region also meant addressing the root causes of conflict, including weapons proliferation, land and resources disputes, and impunity.  Given the evolving challenges in Darfur, UNAMID needed to change, too, he said, adding that his delegation eagerly awaited the outcome of the joint African Union–United Nations strategic review team and the Tripartite Mechanism in that regard.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) welcomed that security in most parts of Darfur had been stable in recent months, stressing that attacks against internally displaced persons by armed militias must be halted.  He expressed hope that the unilateral ceasefires declared by the Government and non-signatory movements of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur would continue to hold.  He called on SLA/AW to join the peace talks.  He expected that all parties would continue efforts to preserve positive momentum, with a view to resolving critical issues related to the return of internally displaced persons.  Also, progress on the political track had been visible.  He urged Sudan and opposition parties to continue to implement the national dialogue recommendations and looked forward to the resumption of talks facilitated by the African Union High-level Implementation Panel.  Finally, UNAMID’s mandate and tasks deserved close attention.  He looked forward to the conclusions of the strategic review mission, stressing that the priority should be to ensure the gradual transfer of tasks to the country team.  He expressed concern over restrictions on UNAMID’s work, such as delays in the clearance of containers carrying supplies for the Hybrid Operation, as well as the denial of access to parts of Darfur.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) welcomed the improved situation in Darfur and encouraged non-signatories to the Doha Document, including SLA/AW, to work on a formal agreement that outlined their commitment to peace in Darfur.  He urged the African Union High-level Implementation Panel to continue its efforts to advance peace in Darfur, stressing that regional cooperation was vital in the search for a political solution.  He welcomed the reduction in intercommunal violence and Government efforts to reduce tensions, noting that there were 2.6 million people exposed to violence.  He urged support for the Government plan for the voluntary return of internally displaced persons.  On the UNAMID exit strategy, he welcomed the activities of joint working group from a belief that its recommendations could contribute to the joint United Nations-African Union report to be published following the strategic review of the mission.  He also welcomed improved relations between Sudan and South Sudan.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) recalled that his country had deployed 800 troops to Darfur, two formed police units, eight observers and eight police officers, bringing the total to 1,976 Senegalese working for UNAMID.  He deplored the numerous reports of human rights violations, particularly attacks against internally displaced persons, calling for the safe voluntary return of those populations.  He welcomed the national dialogue and called for implementation of the related recommendations.  He also welcomed progress made on visa issuance and the release of containers at ports, thanks to Sudanese authorities, which had appointed a focal point for those issues.  Yet, some containers were still being held, which led to difficulties for troop-contributing countries, including Senegal.  He called for greater cooperation on the part of Sudan to release those containers, and looked forward to the joint report by United Nations and African Union on the strategic review of UNAMID.

NIKKI HALEY (United States), Council President for April, spoke in her national capacity, recalling that, in 2007, Darfur was among the most brutal places on Earth, with people in camps petrified that the Government would murder them.  The mission was never perfect:  it was the most expensive and the Government had tried to obstruct it from day one.  Ten years on, the Government still failed to protect its people in Darfur, and in some places, did almost nothing when local disputes turned bloody.  She urged Sudan to support an inclusive peace process, protect civilians and work to stop community violence.  In the past year, the Government had held back hundreds of containers; the mission was waiting for 182 to be released.  She pressed Sudan to grant the freedom of movement to aid workers, release the mission’s equipment and grant visas, including for human rights staff, and called on the Council to stand by its calls in that regard.  She welcomed that the Government and opposition groups had adopted unilateral ceasefires, which she said must turn into peace talks.  She called on SLA/AW to declare a unilateral cessation of hostilities and join the peace process.  As the situation changed, the Council must determine whether the mission’s size and force structure were appropriate.  UNAMID should review how to reposition its forces and quickly reach those in need.  The Government must show its readiness to govern all parts of the territory and work with the United Nations to provide basic services.  The Council must assess Government progress against the benchmarks set.  “If the Government is ready to govern, it must show us,” she said, including by addressing communal conflicts through mediation.  If it fell short, the Council had the responsibility to act and must be willing criticize the Government.  UNAMID should be reconfigured to make it more effective, while Sudan’s leaders must disarm militias, support peacekeepers to accomplish their missions and commit to building sustainable peace.

OMER DAHAB FADL MOHAMED (Sudan), voicing his delegation’s full agreement with Mr. Mamabolo’s assessment of the situation in Darfur, emphasized that region’s “unprecedented progress” following Government efforts to ensure stability and security.  Nevertheless, the opposition movement remained obstinate, with its leader, Abdul Wahid al-Nur, continuing to receive outside support.  Stressing that the displacement of civilians in 2016 had been a result of that group’s activities, he noted that no displacement had been seen in 2017 and that the existence of camps for internally displaced persons — even after major breakthroughs in ensuring peace and stability — was unjustifiable.  Indeed, the Government had undertaken significant efforts to equip villages for the voluntary return of internally displaced persons, though there remained a lack of resources and cooperation on the part of the international community.

On the political track, he emphasized the centrality of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur and urged its continued implementation, adding that any failures to adhere to that strategy should be referred to the Implementation Follow-up Commission.  The great improvement in Darfur’s security and humanitarian conditions, as well as the reduced activity of rebel groups, proved that UNAMID was no longer the right framework for the international presence in Darfur, he said, urging a shift in focus towards development and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants.  In that regard, he expressed hope that the recommendations of the joint working group would be seriously considered as a gradual drawdown of UNAMID was designed and vowed to continue to cooperate with the mission until its final departure.

For information media. Not an official record.