Members Echo Sudan’s Representative in Describing Recent Events as Internal Matter Not Warranting External Discussion, Interference
The planned withdrawal of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) by 30 June 2020 is on track, but the political situation in Sudan has changed drastically and could affect implementation of the mission’s mandate going forward, the Joint Special Representative of the African Union and the Secretary-General for the country’s western Darfur region told the Security Council today.
Speaking via videoconference from Khartoum, where the Military Transitional Council seized power on 11 April, he said the Operation is establishing contacts and working relationships with the new authorities. The international community can also start a dialogue with the new rulers to help create a conducive environment for UNAMID’s departure and for an international follow-up engagement in Darfur, he added.
“The current situation, much as it may not be desirable, provides a chance for the Sudanese to seize the opportunity to resolve all their conflicts, including the one in Darfur,” he continued. “The Council should urge the people of Sudan to have a holistic and all-inclusive approach that is representative of all Sudanese.” Noting that the changes at the federal level have had an obvious impact on Darfur, he cited acts of violence by internally displaced persons and other protesters targeting premises associated with the previous regime. In the midst of those developments, UNAMID has remained vigilant, maintaining a particularly robust posture in Jebel Marra, where clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW) faction have continued.
Briefing on the humanitarian situation, the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator said the direct impact of recent political events on humanitarian operations has been limited so far and regular operations have continued, including a major campaign to vaccinate children against polio and measles. However, due to the economic crisis, the prices of food and medicines are rising, with the price of sorghum 70 per cent higher than it was a year ago and imports of medicine in 2018 down by one third from 2017, she said. An estimated 5.8 million people, including 1.9 million in Darfur, are presently food-insecure, she noted, predicting that, with the lean season due to start in May, that number will increase.
On the other hand, Darfur has seen significant improvements in security, with some displaced people returning home but 1.6 million remaining displaced, she said. Humanitarian partners are appealing for $1.1 billion to help 4.4 million of the most vulnerable people, including 2.4 million in Darfur. Noting the presence of nearly 150,000 refugees from South Sudan, she stressed that the situation in Sudan has implications for the broader region. Meanwhile, humanitarian access has improved significantly in recent years, she said, adding: “At this critical time, it is essential to ensure that the people of Darfur and the rest of Sudan receive the support they need.”
Germany’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Council President for April declared: “We cannot simply delink the political developments in Khartoum from our joint work on UNAMID.” Speaking in his national capacity, he underlined the need for a collaborative relationship among the national decision-making authorities, the international community and the United Nations. “If we want to develop a way forward for the planning post-UNAMID, it is essential that we have an in-depth conversation with Sudan,” he emphasized, while pointing out the absence of a counterpart on the Sudanese side with whom to engage in dialogue.
The United Kingdom’s representative reiterated the African Union’s call for a swift return to civilian rule in Sudan, urging the Military Transitional Council to heed the voices of the people, protect protestors and uphold human rights. The representative of the United States said the upcoming strategic review of UNAMID should take into account the impact of recent events on Darfur, including the Government’s ability to protect and provide for the region’s people. If the Government cannot do that, he added, the United States is in favour of the Council considering all options.
South Africa’s representative said the people of Sudan must seize the opportunity to address their differences in an inclusive manner because Darfur’s development is linked to that of the country and the wider region. A credible and transparent transition process will help to unify the nation, he said, urging the Council to rally behind the people’s ambitions and to be guided by regional approaches through the African Union, notably the bloc’s communiqué of 15 April.
Kuwait’s representative was among speakers who emphasized that events unfolding in Sudan constitute a domestic matter in which outside entities must not interfere. China’s delegate stressed the importance of respecting the decisions made by the people of Sudan and of adhering to the principle of non-interference, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. The Russian Federation’s representative underlined the absence of grounds for linking the events of 11 April with UNAMID’s future.
Sudan’s representative emphasized the domestic nature of events in his country since December, saying that, in keeping with the United Nations Charter, there is no justification for the Council to discuss it. The exceptional situation calls for the greatest caution in order that all stakeholders can complete a smooth transition and democratic change, he added. He went on to reiterate his country’s commitment to respect all its agreements, including those with the United Nations regarding UNAMID’s deployment and humanitarian access.
Also speaking were representatives of the Dominican Republic, France, Peru, Côte d’Ivoire, Belgium, Poland, Indonesia and Equatorial Guinea.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:10 p.m.
JEREMIAH NYAMANE KINGSLEY MAMABOLO, Joint Special Representative of the African Union and the Secretary-General for Darfur, spoke via videoconference from Khartoum, stating that “a lot has happened in Sudan in general and in Darfur in particular” since the issuance of the latest report of the Secretary-General on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) (document S/2019/305). The Military Transitional Council has announced several steps to stabilize the situation, including the replacement of unpopular Government officials, he said, adding that the Head of the Council has stated that the transitional period will last no more than two years, ending with the handover of power to a civilian arrangement. However, protests continue in Khartoum and other parts of Sudan, he said, noting that the Military Transitional Council has started a dialogue with the Declaration of Freedom of Change on an all-inclusive transitional mechanism. He cautioned that the Military Transitional Council is likely to view as a setback the call on 15 April by the African Union Peace and Security Council for the Council to install a transitional civilian authority within 15 days or face suspension from African Union activities.
He said that the changes at the federal level have had an obvious impact on Darfur, with internally displaced persons and other protesters engaging in violent acts, including arson on premises of the National Intelligence and Security Services and the former ruling party, as well as the homes of community leaders seen to have collaborated with the previous regime. In the midst of these developments, UNAMID has remained vigilant and maintained a robust posture, particularly in the Jebel Marra area of responsibility where peacekeeping troops are deployed. Day-to-day operations are continuing, patrols have been intensified, and the Operation is still interacting with partners on the ground, he said, noting that United Nations staff have not been targeted so far. Since the adoption of resolution 2429 (2018), the mission is continuing its reconfiguration and drawdown, with the reduction of its military component from 8,735 to 4,050 troops by 30 June on track. The strength of UNAMID police has also decreased from 2,500 to 2,283, he said. The security situation in Darfur remained relatively calm during the reporting period, with the exception of intermittent clashes in Jebel Marra between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW) faction.
Incidents of intercommunal clashes remained low, he said, noting that humanitarian partners continued to provide aid, focusing on life-saving assistance to vulnerable groups despite restrictions on access in some parts of Jebel Marra. Implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur continued to face challenges due to capacity and resource constraints, he said, noting that the Military Transitional Council’s call for non-signatory armed movements to join the ongoing dialogue has yet to draw a tangible response. However, the Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minawi (SLA-MM) and the Gibril Ibrahim faction of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM/Gibril) have indicated their intention to pursue the peace process in a manner that addresses the underlying causes of the conflict, he said. However, SLA-AW leader Abdul Wahid Nour, has rejected the Military Transitional Council as an attempt to reproduce the previous regime, he said, urging he Council to call upon him to seize the opportunity and engage politically with the authorities.
He concluded by stating that while UNAMID’s drawdown remains on track, the political situation in Sudan has changed drastically and has the potential to affect the implementation of its mandate going forward. In that context, the Operation is establishing contacts and a working relationship with the new administration at the federal and state levels, he said. “Darfur is not and cannot be immune from what is happening at the national level,” he emphasized, expressing hope that the situation does not deteriorate and have a negative impact on UNAMID’s exit. The international community has an opportunity to start a dialogue with the new authorities by helping to create a conducive environment for the mission’s departure and an international follow-up engagement in Darfur. “The current situation, much as it may not be desirable, provides a chance for the Sudanese to seize the opportunity to resolve all their conflicts, including the one in Darfur.” he stressed. “The Council should urge the people of Sudan to have a holistic and all-inclusive approach that is representative of all Sudanese.”
URSULA MUELLER, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that humanitarian needs in Darfur and other parts of Sudan were already growing well before the latest development due to the prevailing economic crisis. The direct impact of recent political events on humanitarian operations has so far been limited and regular operations have continued, including a major campaign to vaccinate children against polio and measles. Due to the economic crisis, food and medicine prices are rising, she said, citing World Food Programme (WFP) reports that the price of sorghum is 70 per cent higher than it was a year ago, impacting people’s power to purchase the staple. According to the latest analysis, 5.8 million people, including 1.9 million in Darfur, are presently food-insecure, up from 3.8 million the previous year. With the lean season due to start in May, the number will increase, she predicted, pointing out that imports of medicine in 2018 dropped by one third from 2017.
However, Darfur has seen significant improvements in security, with some displaced people returning home but 1.6 million remaining displaced, she said. The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocated $26.5 million last week to help vulnerable people in areas increasingly affected by food insecurity. The Sudan Humanitarian Fund is providing more than $20 million in complementary funding, she said, while emphasizing that more support is needed. Humanitarian partners are appealing for $1.1 billion to assist 4.4 million of the most vulnerable people, including 2.4 million in Darfur. Noting the presence of nearly 150,000 refugees from South Sudan, she stressed that the situation in Sudan has implications for the broader region. However, humanitarian access has improved significantly in recent years, she pointed out. “At this critical time, it is essential to ensure that the people of Darfur and the rest of Sudan receive the support they need.”
NIELS ANNEN, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Germany and Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity, declaring: “We cannot simply delink the political developments in Khartoum from our joint work on UNAMID.” Not all challenges can be addressed by a peacekeeping mission, he pointed out, emphasizing that the transition process from peacekeeping to peacebuilding, therefore, becomes increasingly important. There is need to ensure that the Operation delivers against its mandated tasks in the areas of mediation, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, he said, noting UNAMID’s progress in supporting capacity-building in the areas of rule of law and human rights, as well as in finding lasting solutions for internally displaced people and host communities. “We must keep this up,” he stressed.
He went on to underline the need for a collaborative relationship among the national decision-making authorities, the international community and the United Nations. “If we want to develop a way forward for the planning post-UNAMID, it is essential that we have an in-depth conversation with Sudan,” he said, adding that the conversation has to do with strengthening the capacity of rule-of-law institutions, revitalizing the political process for Darfur – including by establishing the presence of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) – and cooperation with the Peacebuilding Commission. He pointed out, however, that there is currently no counterpart on the Sudanese side with whom to engage in this important conversation.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), expressing support for the African Union’s statement on the recent removal of the President, urged the Military Transitional Council to heed the voices of the people, protect protestors and uphold human rights. Noting that the Council has an opportunity to build trust with the people and the international community and end decades of oppression, he reiterated his delegation’s support for the African Union’s call for a swift return to civilian rule, emphasizing that women must play an important role in the transition process. The United Kingdom also supports calls for accountability, including through cooperation with the International Criminal Court, he emphasized. Regarding the eventual drawdown of UNAMID, he stressed the need for a gradual and sensible approach that takes developments on the ground into account. He asked how two UNAMID police units responded to the recent killing of people in a camp for the internally displaced.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) expressed concern over recent events in Khartoum, the uncertainty among Sudan’s people and the high humanitarian cost. Pointing out that people are only seeking to be heard, he called for calm and avoidance of bloodshed at all costs, emphasizing that the time has come to leverage this opportunity for a democratic and peaceful transition. The Sudanese people deserve political renewal and economic recovery, as well as the chance to be compensated for their suffering, he said, adding that it is also time for an all-inclusive political system that respects human rights and the norms of international law while restoring trust among the people.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) expressed concern over the impact of events in Khartoum on the situation in Darfur, where UNAMID must redouble its efforts in responding to acts of violence. The United States expects the upcoming strategic report on UNAMID to take into account the impact of recent events on Darfur, including the Government’s ability to protect and provide for the region’s people, he said, emphasizing that if it cannot do that, his delegation is in favour of the Council considering all options. He went on to urge all parties in Sudan to work towards the installation of a civilian transitional authority.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), noting the continued reduction in violence and the relatively calm security conditions, welcomed the allocation of funding from CERF to meet humanitarian needs. Emphasizing the importance of observing benchmarks when considering the transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding, he called upon Council members to ensure that any measures taken lead to stability and respond to the people’s aspirations. He went on to urge all parties concerned to prioritize national interests, while pointing out that what is unfolding is a domestic affair. No outside entities should interfere, he stressed.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) called for the establishment of a civilian Government and the holding of free, inclusive and transparent elections. The transitional authority must be led by civilians and hear the voices of the people, she said. Justice is essential and, therefore, the perpetrators of grave crimes, including sexual violence and violence against children, must be brought to justice, she said, emphasizing that France supports cooperation with the International Criminal Court. Regarding UNAMID, he said that his delegation has always supported a gradual exit, adding that, given the situation on the ground, the Council should be even more prudent before setting the timetable for withdrawal.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) urged the Military Transitional Council to restore the constitution, lift the state of emergency and free detained prisoners. In Darfur, all sides must cease hostilities and resolve substantive matters through dialogue, he emphasized, expressing deep concern over the grave human rights situation in the region, including violations of the fundamental rights of internally displace persons. UNAMID must be able to implement its mandate throughout Darfur, including Jebel Marra, with the Government guaranteeing unfettered humanitarian access, he said. On the Operation’s withdrawal, he said it must proceed cautiously, taking the current situation into account.
GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire), noting the Sudan is passing through an “alarming period of uncertainty”, urged the military authorities to spare no effort to maintain peace and security while engaging in consultations with all stakeholders. He called upon the armed groups in Darfur to work with national authorities to ensure a definitive end to hostilities. He went on to call upon the authorities and the international community – including the United Nations, the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) – to safeguard the gains made in the Darfur peace process so far.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) urged the Military Transitional Council to avoid violence and uphold human rights, including the rights to freedom of assembly and protest. Expressing support for the communiqué issued by the African Union on 15 April, he emphasized the urgent need for the military to hand over power to civilian authorities. Release of political prisoners can contribute to national reconciliation. The Council should support the African Union and IGAD, which play a critical role in the region, he said, adding that his delegation looks forward to a joint African Union-United Nations report and strategic review to determine whether UNAMID has a sufficient presence in Darfur. Stressing the central importance of fighting impunity, since human rights abuses are among the root causes of conflict, he said Belgium supports a Council resolution calling upon Sudan and all parties to cooperate with the International Criminal Court, which has issued arrest warrants for five individuals.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) urged continued support for the Darfur peace processes and for helping internally displaced persons who depend on humanitarian assistance. Emphasizing that humanitarian aid must transition into reconstruction and development support as UNAMID eventually exits Sudan, he said the country’s people, meanwhile, must seize the opportunity to address their differences in an inclusive manner because Darfur’s development is linked to that of Sudan and the wider region. A credible transition and transparent process will help to unify Sudan, he said, stressing that the Council should rally behind the people’s ambitions and be guided by regional approaches through the African Union, notably its 15 April communiqué. In addition, support for the economy must address the population’s socioeconomic needs, which are among the root causes of the current impasse. On accountability, he stressed that the people must have the space to use their own internal mechanisms and chart their future trajectory. The Council must call for a peaceful resolution of the situation through inclusive political dialogue, he said, urging the continued leadership of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel in seeking peace in Sudan.
MARIUSZ LEWICKI (Poland) stressed the need to hold all perpetrators of crimes in Darfur to account, reiterating that there can be no other solution to the conflict there than a political one. During the transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding, particular emphasis should be placed on improving the socioeconomic conditions – providing basic services, jobs, education, economic infrastructure and agriculture, as well as establishing the rule of law, he said. Cooperation among the Government, local authorities in Darfur, UNAMID and the United Nations country team is key for a successful transition, he said. “We believe that the international community should join efforts on the ground and support the recovery and development of Darfur,” he said cautioning: “Otherwise, we might risk the relapse of the conflict.” Turning to UNAMID’s drawdown, he said the Council must continue to monitor the impact of its downsizing closely to ensure that the gains achieved not be compromised.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) urged Council members to avoid statements or actions that could be interpreted as interference in Sudan’s internal affairs. The situation in Darfur remains stable overall, he said, adding that, given positive developments, the drawdown of UNAMID’s military component must continue. Emphasizing that the fulfilment of donors’ pledges and the easing of unilateral sanctions will contribute to peacebuilding and security in Darfur, he said that although his delegation is satisfied that all provisions of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur are being implemented, it regrets that non-signatories are trying to start a new wave of violence. External sponsors of the Sudanese opposition should encourage it to make more responsible demands that will move the peace process forward, he said, stressing that his delegation sees no grounds for linking the events of 11 April with the future of UNAMID and the sanctions regime.
MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia), welcoming the declaration of a nationwide ceasefire, said the plight of civilians in Darfur should be reason enough to revitalize the peace process. As UNAMID’s withdrawal proceeds, Sudan’s ability to bear primary responsibility for security in Darfur must be ensured, he said, emphasizing that socioeconomic development is critical to preventing a relapse into conflict. On the wider situation in Sudan, he reaffirmed Indonesia’s respect for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. “No parties should take advantage of the situation in Sudan to let Darfur backslide into conflict,” he stressed, calling for calm, maximum restraint and a climate of peace.
WU HAITAO (China), noting the current stable security situation overall, recalled that discussions on reconfiguring UNAMID began in the second half of 2018, emphasizing that it is imperative to advance the peace process in Darfur in order to ensure a smooth transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding. It is vital to avoid the use of force, he said, stressing that the opposition and armed groups should abandon the military option. Long-term stability demands humanitarian and economic support, including assistance to those internally displaced persons returning home, as well as the development of infrastructure and agriculture, he stressed. Urging the parties to jointly advance the political process, he underlined the importance of respecting decisions made by the people of Sudan and adhering to the principle of non-interference.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), while expressing concern over the latest violence at a camp for the internationally displaced following the President’s removal, said the latest political developments are nevertheless in favour of the Sudanese people. Commending the negotiations under way between the Military Transitional Council and political parties with a view to establishing a civilian Government, he noted the African Union’s calls for Sudan to work towards civilian rule. Emphasizing the need to end land disputes, he welcomed UNAMID’s collection of weapons in its effort to bring stability to Darfur. Given the current situation, the international community should place some trust in the Military Transitional Council to establish a transitional Government and hold peaceful elections, he said.
YASIR ABDALLA ABDELSALAM AHMED (Sudan) said that while the Sudanese Armed Forces are confronting the Abdul Wahid movement in Jebel Marra, the security situation in central Darfur has improved with the collection of weapons and the restoration of State authority in anticipation of the return of internally displaced persons and the harvest season. Describing parts of the Secretary-General’s report as obsolete in the wake of the revolution, he reiterated his remarks from the 12 April Council meeting on the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), that Sudan is committed to respecting all its agreements, including those with the United Nations regarding UNAMID’s deployment and humanitarian access. Sudan very much wants to cooperate in the implementation of UNAMID’s drawdown strategy, as per resolution 2429 (2018), so that all elements of the mission can exit by June 2020, he said.
Underlining that events in Sudan since December constitute an internal matter, he said that, in keeping with the Charter of the United Nations, there is no justification for the Council to discuss it. It is an exceptional situation that calls for the greatest caution so that all stakeholders can complete a smooth transition and democratic change, he said. The Secretariat must stick to its mandate when preparing its reports, he added. Going forward, Sudan has full confidence that the Council will take no initiatives that have negative repercussions, he said, describing Sudan’s revolution as a peaceful one that will bring the change that the Sudanese people want.
Mr. MAMABOLO, the Joint Special Representative of the African Union and the Secretary-General, took the floor again in response to questions from Council members. He explained that the clashes at the Kalma camp in South Darfur involved supporters and opponents of Abdul Wahid. UNAMID units on the scene gave first aid to the injured, engaged with community leaders and began mediation efforts to defuse the situation, he said. On whether events in Sudan will change the proposed timetable for UNAMID’s exit, he said that is up to the Council to decide on the basis of the upcoming strategic review.