Meeting today to discuss the updated situation in Darfur, Security Council members focused on the first of two phases for the reconfiguration of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), while noting developments with regard to the political process and the humanitarian situation on the ground.
Presenting the joint assessment of the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission on the mission’s phase one reconfiguration (document S/2018/12), Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, also outlined recent developments in Darfur in the context of the Secretary-General’s latest 60-day report on UNAMID, issued on 27 December 2017 (document S/2017/1113).
Mr. Lacroix highlighted the Council’s authorization of a reduction of the mission’s uniformed and civilian personnel, and the handing over of 11 UNAMID team sites to the Government of Sudan, as well as a request for a written assessment by 1 January of the first six months of the reconfiguration. That assessment was carried out by a joint African Union‑United Nations team, with representation from the Organization and humanitarian country teams. Phase one of that reconfiguration had been completed before the deadline of 31 December, and 11 team sites had been closed and handed over by 31 October. During that phase, the Government had been cooperative in facilitating the repatriation of contingents and the timely closure and hand-over of the sites, he said.
In addition, while the reporting period did not see any armed clashes between the Government forces and the Darfur armed movements, a key feature of that time was the initiation of the “forceful” stage of the weapons collection campaign, he said. As UNAMID moved towards the implementation of phase two, he recommended for the Council’s consideration that a review should take place to consider a new mission concept, in the context of the renewal of the Hybrid Operation’s mandate.
Sudan’s representative said that the changes in Darfur should be adapted to, given that the only remaining crises were ones of development and of internally displaced persons, which were issues directly linked to the peacekeeping agenda. While the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur had not been implemented in its entirety, it remained the constitutional basis for the peacekeeping operation.
He went on to note that, so far, 11 sites had been closed during the first phase of the reconfiguration, and the second phase would lead to the withdrawal of the mission. His Government was also in the process of implementing development projects and weapons collection, and had approved the establishment of a temporary operating base in the area of Golo.
The representative of Ethiopia also referred to the weapons collection campaign, noting that he hoped it would continue to reduce the level of armed violence in Darfur and create the necessary conditions for the return of internally displaced persons. That was among the biggest challenges to achieving sustainable peace, he said.
It was urgent that the international community supported projects for internally displaced persons, Bolivia’s representative noted, so that those persons could have access to basic services to improve their quality of life. On a positive note, the fact that there had been no clashes between the Government and armed movements represented significant progress, as that environment would help both the State and the Hybrid Operation focus on development and the political process.
The representative of Equatorial Guinea also underscored that, as clashes between the Government and the armed movements had dropped significantly, the focus could now be on the political process. The conflict should be resolved through that process, dealing with land disputes, as well as the disarming of the civilian population and militias, he said.
The representative of Kazakhstan, Council President for January, speaking in his national capacity, expressed encouragement for continued progress and welcomed the Government of Sudan’s decision to extend the ceasefire. With the hope that other parties would suspend hostilities to invigorate efforts that supported an inclusive political process, he said that action must move towards fulfilling the Doha agreement.
The representatives of Peru, Côte d’Ivoire and Kuwait also spoke.
The meeting began at 3:07 p.m. and ended at 4 p.m.
JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, presented the joint assessment of the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission of the Mission’s phase one reconfiguration (document S/2018/12), and outlined recent developments in Darfur in the context of the latest 60-day report of the Secretary-General on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), issued on 27 December (document S/2017/1113). He said that the Security Council in June 2017 endorsed the recommendations of the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union in their special report of 18 May 2017 (document S/2017/437) for a two-pronged approach that focused on protection in the Jebel Marra area and on stabilizing the situation in other parts of Darfur. The Council also authorized a reduction of the mission’s uniformed and civilian personnel in two phases, including the handing over of 11 UNAMID team sites to the Government of Sudan, while requesting a written assessment by 1 January of the first six months of the reconfiguration. The assessment was conducted by a joint African Union-United Nations team, with representation from the Organization and humanitarian country teams.
Introducing the main findings of the assessment, he noted that the conflict trends indicated in the special report of 18 May 2017 continued as, following the military victory against the armed movements, the Government of Sudan was firmly consolidating its control and State authority across Darfur, except for pockets in the Jebel Marra area, which were controlled by a weakened Sudan Liberation Army‑Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW). Thus far, the humanitarian indicators illustrated a continuing emergency situation, with 2.7 million people displaced, out of which 2.1 million were in need of assistance across Darfur, while 1.6 million were living in camps and settlements.
The phase one reconfiguration of UNAMID was completed before the deadline of 31 December, with 11 team sites closed and handed over to the Darfur state governments by the end of October, he continued. The military component currently stood at 11,461 (against an authorized strength of 11,395 at the end of phase one), the police component at 2,666 (against an authorized strength of 2,888) and the number of civilian staff positions had been reduced by 558. During phase one of the reconfiguration, the Government had been cooperative in facilitating the repatriation of contingents and the timely closure and hand-over of team sites. However, the mission was facing some difficulties in obtaining visas for international staff, in particular for those working on human rights.
While the reporting period did not witness any armed clashes between Government forces and the Darfur armed movements, the initiation of the “forceful” stage of the weapons collection campaign across Darfur and its launching in the internally displaced person camps constituted its key features, he said. In addition, the start of the migration season continued to generate violence among communities, although at lower levels than in previous years. No tangible progress was noted in the Darfur political process or in the implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur. As the Hybrid Operation moved towards the implementation of phase two, he recommended for the Council’s consideration that a review would take place to consider a new mission concept with adjusted priorities in the context of the renewal of the UNAMID mandate in June.
TAKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said he was encouraged that the security situation in Darfur continued to show significant progress, and in that connection, he commended the Government for extending the unilateral ceasefire. The humanitarian situation and the operating environment for humanitarian actors continued to improve, he noted, adding that he was encouraged to see the significant decrease of intercommunal conflict. He hoped the weapons campaign would continue to reduce the level of armed violence and create the necessary conditions for the return of internally displaced persons, which constituted among the biggest challenges to achieving sustainable peace in Darfur. He expressed disappointment that progress towards achieving a negotiated political settlement remained difficult, in part due to the unrealistic expectations of the armed groups. In that regard, he called on the Council to exert pressure on those groups to wilfully take part in the political process, or to face consequences. The Doha agreement represented a comprehensive framework towards a political solution, and in that context, he urged all armed groups to lay down their weapons and commit to that agreement. It was noteworthy that the Government continued with its efforts despite the difficult regional dynamics. Emphasis must be placed on peacebuilding endeavours, as well as development projects that supported peace. He noted the large number of refugees from South Sudan that had arrived in Darfur, which now topped 192,800; calling it a situation that only served to exacerbate the humanitarian situation there.
GUSTAVE MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) called the progressive stability in Darfur encouraging, highlighting the importance of the ongoing efforts to collect weapons. He was concerned that there were continued violations of human rights, emphasizing that it was the Government’s responsibility to protect civilians and punish those who had carried out the worst crimes. He expressed concern about delays in establishing a temporary base in Golo, which would be essential for ensuring that UNAMID was able to focus its resources on sustainable development, while addressing the root causes of the conflict. He noted the difficulties in delivering humanitarian aid and said it was essential to remove bureaucratic hurdles in delivering such assistance. He also welcomed the initiative by UNAMID and the county team to implement the integrated strategic framework.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said that he wished to highlight the positive things mentioned in the report, for example the improvement in security. The fact that there had been no clashes between the Government and armed movements represented significant progress. That environment would help the Government and UNAMID focus on development and the political process. He also noted progress with regard to the weapons collection campaign, and the success of that process was necessary to help build sustainable peace. In the humanitarian sphere, the improvement of security conditions had made it possible for their not to be any further displacements. It was urgent that the international community supported projects for internally displaced persons to have access to basic services to improve their quality of life. One of the current challenges was the revitalization of the political process. He stressed the only possible solution to the crisis in the area was the political process to help solve disputes between the parties with regard to land ownership.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said that positive developments could be seen in the report. Clashes between the Government and the armed movements had dropped significantly, allowing the focus to be on the political process. The conflict should be resolved through a political process allowing it to deal with land disputes, as well as the disarming of the civilian population and the militias. All involved in that process should work hard with the Government to achieve peace through a dialogue that was frank and inclusive. The Government should continue to work closely with UNAMID to ensure success and to help the State to re-establish authority throughout the territory. He urged the international community to strongly support Sudan, to consolidate the positive developments achieved.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) welcomed the improvement in the security situation in Darfur, marked by a significant reduction of clashes since the extension of the unilateral ceasefire and the weapons collection campaign. He was concerned by the delayed implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur and worried that the current political deadlock would result in a return to the previous situation, particularly the massive displacement of civilians. Peace must include national reconciliation, a permanent cessation of hostilities and political dialogue, he said, calling on all parties to return to a posture of peace. He welcomed the joint assessment that had been carried out between the Secretary-General and the African Union and the successful roll-out of phase one of the reconfiguration of the hybrid force. He urged the Government to ensure UNAMID troops enjoyed freedom of movement and circulation and called on the Sudanese authorities to facilitate the necessary administrative procedures that would allow the mission to carry out its normal duties.
BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) reiterated the importance of supporting Sudan and said the implementation of development projects was vital, as doing so would lead to the return of internally displaced persons, while providing them with a decent standard of living. It was important for all parties to take part in a peaceful political process and to reduce the number of weapons in Darfur, he said, stressing the need to respect the sovereignty, unity and independence of Sudan.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), Council President for January, spoke in his national capacity, expressing encouragement for continued progress in Darfur and welcoming the Government of Sudan’s decision to extend the ceasefire. With a hope that other parties would suspend hostilities to invigorate efforts supporting an inclusive political process, he said action must move towards fulfilling the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur. UNAMID activities should be adjusted to prioritize its peacebuilding capacities during its June mandate renewal. Meanwhile, the Government needed international support, accompanied by investments in development projects, to resolve the issue of internally displaced persons and succeed in its arms collection campaign.
OMER DAHAB FADL MOHAMED (Sudan) said that he had examined the report of the Secretary-General, noting that such reports were very similar and did not really contain anything new. The Secretariat was only looking at minor incidents and crimes at the level of the police officer. That was not the way to prepare a report submitted by the Secretary-General to the Council, he said. The short reporting period could weaken a report, and it would be better to have an interval of 80 days between such items.
The changes in Darfur must be adapted to, he said, noting that the only remaining crises were issues of development and internally displaced persons, and they were directly linked to the peacekeeping agenda. The United Nations and the international community should work with his country’s Government to address those challenges.
He welcomed the tireless efforts of Qatar for peacebuilding in Darfur, noting that both that Gulf State and other countries had provided aid for the construction of villages and to provide basic services so that internally displaced persons could return to their original locations. He noted that the Doha agreement had not been entirely implemented, and said that it was the constitutional basis for the peacekeeping operation.
He said that the Government of Sudan, supported by its people, was in the process of implementing development projects and weapons collection. So far, 11 sites had been closed during the first phase of reconfiguration and now the second phase was under way, which would lead to the withdrawal of the mission in accordance with Security Council resolution 2363 (2017). The Government had also approved the establishment of a temporary operating base in the area of Golo.