Amid Sweeping Political Change in Sudan, Peacekeeping Chief Says Security Council Must Carefully Weigh Options for Drawdown, Liquidation of Darfur Mission

SC/13843
14 June 2019
8549th Meeting (AM)

Amid Sweeping Political Change in Sudan, Peacekeeping Chief Says Security Council Must Carefully Weigh Options for Drawdown, Liquidation of Darfur Mission

Khartoum Events Unrelated to Situation in Western Region, Permanent Representative Says, Rejecting Calls for Delayed Exit

Given the significant political developments unfolding in Sudan, the Security Council must carefully consider the options for the drawdown and liquidation of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), the head of United Nations peacekeeping said today.

“While the impact of the post-11 April events on the prevailing situation in Darfur has been so far moderate, the uncertainty of the negotiations’ outcome may have repercussions well beyond Khartoum and lead to escalation of violence,” said Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix, recalling that Sudan’s President was removed on 11 April and the Transitional Military Council is currently negotiating the nature and structure of the governance system with the opposition group.

Presenting the findings from a joint assessment of UNAMID by the United Nations Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, he said conflict trends in Darfur have remained the same since 2016, with the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid — the only “rebel group” active there — restrained to pockets of Jebel Marra.  The assessment concludes that peacekeeping is no longer the most appropriate tool to address the situation in Darfur.  The mission’s posture, operations and capabilities must be adjusted towards the final stages of its existence.

The conclusions point to UNAMID’s continued drawdown and exit in 2020, he said, in line with one of the proposed options, which were carefully crafted to shape a gradual and responsible drawdown that reflects current realities.  The assessment recommends that UNAMID focus on revitalizing the political process, strengthening Sudan’s rule-of-law institutions and supporting long-term stabilization through rights-based solutions for internally displaced people across Darfur.

Briefing on the human rights situation, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour welcomed a decrease in violence between armed militias and State security forces in Darfur, but expressed concern over reports of killings, abduction, sexual violence and other violations.

He said protests across Sudan and political developments in Khartoum have had a ripple effect on Darfur, where many protests were violently repressed by security forces, including Rapid Support Forces.  The human rights component of UNAMID has documented the killing of 47 civilians in various regions of Darfur between 11 April and 12 June, with another 186 injured.  The mission has also received accounts of intensified attacks, harassment of civilians and the looting of homes and livestock by the same Rapid Support Forces involved in suppressing the Khartoum protests.

Any transition map, he emphasized, should include measures that permit the people of Darfur to regain confidence in law enforcement bodies, the rule of law and broader State institutions, as well as a belief that there will be accountability for excessive use of force and serious rights violations.

In the ensuing debate, Council members expressed their positions on the future of UNAMID, with several delegations proposing a technical rollover of its mandate.  The United Kingdom’s delegate said UNAMID’s departure must be carried out responsibly without creating a security vacuum.  A technical rollover would allow the Council, African Union and other stakeholders time for careful considerations.  Germany’s delegate agreed, as the mission is at the intersection of peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

The Russian Federation’s delegate cautioned against proposing a specific course of action through “megaphone diplomacy”, especially when the Council has just begun discussing the options for mandate renewal.  Welcoming Ethiopia’s mediation effort, he said the Sudanese people can reach an agreement much faster without external interference.

Indonesia’s delegate said deliberations on UNAMID’s future should be guided by the options set out in the strategic assessment.  Priority should go towards building upon UNAMID’s achievements and supporting a transition to peacebuilding.  The United States’ delegate meanwhile urged all parties to work towards a civilian transition in an atmosphere of calm, adding that his Government is ready to work with its partners in the Council and the region to support these efforts.

Sudan’s delegate rejected attempts to postpone or suspend the drawdown, reminding Council members that the deadline for UNAMID’s exit is June 2020 and urging them to respect the principle of “African solutions to African problems”.  The situation in Darfur is not affected by political developments in Khartoum, he asserted, pointing out that Sudan’s internal political affairs should not have been a topic of today’s discussions.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Côte d’Ivoire, Belgium, Peru, Poland, China, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Dominican Republic and Kuwait.

The meeting began at 10 a.m. and ended at 12:02 p.m.

Briefings

JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, presenting the joint assessment on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) by the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (document S/2019/445), said the document was finalized against the backdrop of significant national political developments which led to drastic changes in the 30‑year‑old system of governance in Sudan.  Since then, further developments have taken place, resulting in an increasingly unpredictable situation.  On 11 April, Sudan’s President was removed, and the Transitional Military Council is currently negotiating the nature and structure of the governance system with the opposition group.  “While the impact of the post‑11 April events on the prevailing situation in Darfur has been so far moderate, the uncertainty of the negotiations’ outcome may have repercussions well beyond Khartoum and lead to escalation of violence,” he said.

Currently, two particular challenges are impacting UNAMID’s operations, he said:  the 14-15 May looting of El Geneina super camp by civilians and members of the Sudanese security forces, and the Transitional Military Council’s decree on 13 May, requesting the mission to hand over all “camps” to the Rapid Support Forces, which contravenes United Nations rules and procedures.  As such, the mission had no choice but to suspend the handover of UNAMID sites to Sudanese authorities until the decree is rescinded.  The latest assessment found that conflict trends in Darfur remained the same since 2016.  The only “rebel group” active there — the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid — is restrained to pockets of Jebel Marra, has limited operational capabilities and is fragmented by infighting factions.

He said the other two “rebel groups”, while having lost their foothold in Darfur, remain active in the region and have become part and parcel of the conflict in Libya.  While the assessment concluded that intercommunal violence has visibly declined, the conflict drivers related to access to land and resources, environmental degradation and violation of human rights must be addressed.  The political process in Darfur meanwhile is in a stalemate, despite a brief breakthrough in December 2018 achieved through intensive negotiations led by the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security.  Implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur continued at a slow pace, and the Darfur internal dialogue and consultations process was completed in all Darfur states at the local level, formulating proposed solutions for internally displaced persons and sustaining peace in Darfur.

He said the assessment also concluded that peacekeeping is no longer the most appropriate tool to address the situation in Darfur, requiring adjustments to the mission’s posture, operations and capabilities towards the final stages of its existence.  The report points to its continued drawdown and exit in 2020, in line with one of the proposed options, which were carefully crafted to shape a gradual and responsible drawdown that reflects current realities.  The assessment proposes a review by November.  With the final exit in mind, it recommends that UNAMID focus on revitalizing the political process, strengthening Sudan’s rule-of-law institutions and supporting long-term stabilization through durable, rights-based solutions for internally displaced people across Darfur.  He urged the Security Council to carefully consider the options for the mission’s drawdown and liquidation.

ANDREW GILMOUR, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, welcomed a decrease in violence between armed militias and State security forces in Darfur, but expressed concern that the human rights situation has deteriorated amid reports of killings, abduction, sexual violence and other violations.  Protests across Sudan and political developments in Khartoum have had a ripple effect on Darfur, where many protests were violently repressed by the security forces, including Rapid Support Forces.  The human rights component of UNAMID has documented the killing of 47 civilians in various regions of Darfur between 11 April and 12 June, with another 186 injured.  There have been reports of arbitrary arrests and detention to restrict freedom of movement and assembly and to suppress acts of solidarity with the Khartoum protests.  The mission has also received accounts of intensified attacks, harassment of civilians and the looting of homes and livestock by the same Rapid Support Forces involved in suppressing the Khartoum protests.  “We believe that many cases in Darfur remain invisible and underreported due to lack of access to some parts of the region,” he said.

In some areas of Jebel Marra, where the security forces are reported to be the main perpetrators of violations against civilians, he said UNAMID’s presence has had a positive effect, with the human rights section acting to defuse fighting.  Given the atmosphere of violence and uncertainty, upholding the mission’s mandate to protect civilians and human rights is paramount.  “We believe the strengthened mission’s civilian presence will have a positive impact on protection of civilians,” he stressed, noting also its ongoing efforts to reinforce the human rights capacity of national institutions.

The violence and uncertainty seen in Darfur in recent months is likely to continue until the causes of the conflict are addressed, he said.  The incident in Deleij village in central Darfur on 9 and 10 June in which at least 17 people were killed — an incident related to intercommunity violence but involving State actors — demonstrates the direct link between human rights and security.  Any transition map should include measures that permit the people of Darfur to regain confidence in law enforcement bodies, the rule of law and broader State institutions, as well as a belief that there will be accountability for excessive use of force and serious rights violations.  He concluded by expressing strong support for the African Union Peace and Security Council’s call on 13 June for Sudan to ensure full protection of civilians and respect for human rights and freedoms.

Statements

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said the Transitional Military Council had a choice of heeding people’s legitimate demands and respecting their human rights, and thus gaining the support of the international community.  Instead, it chose brutal violence.  Expressing support for the African Union’s effort to find a durable solution, he said the Rapid Support Forces continue to target civilians in Darfur.  This group consistently appears on a list of perpetrators of sexual violence.  The Transitional Military Council meanwhile shows no sign of abiding by previous agreements.  The remaining UNAMID team sites should not be handed over to the Rapid Support Forces.  In the absence of a willing host State partner, UNAMID’s departure must be responsible, carried out without creating security vacuum.  The Council should take a step back, review recent developments and consider the assumptions for UNAMID’s immediate future.  The most prudent approach is a technical rollover, which will allow the Council, the African Union and other stakeholders time for such considerations.  He expressed hope that the Transitional Military Council will make the right choice as it has obligations for a better tomorrow for the people of Sudan.

JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany), citing a recent Security Council statement urging respect for human rights, joined calls for an investigation into violations, including sexual violence, by the Rapid Support Forces and agreed with the Under‑Secretary-General that UNAMID team sites should not be handed over them.  Turning to the future of UNAMID, he said protection needs are growing amid an increase in intercommunal clashes and looting.  Recalling the mission’s mandate under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, he stressed the importance of protecting civilians and enhancing the rule of law and said current conditions do not allow for rapid implementation of the mission’s exit strategy.  Its new mandate should reflect the current fluid situation, he said, noting that the African Union Peace and Security Council calls for suspension of the drawdown.  He therefore proposed a technical rollover, at a time when the mission is at the intersection of peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France), condemning the recent violence in Sudan and recalling the African Union’s deadline of 30 June for a transition to civilian rule in Khartoum, called on all parties to resume dialogue.  She called on Sudan’s partners, particular those countries in the region with influence, to support the African Union’s mediation efforts.  Given the fragile state of affairs in Darfur, UNAMID must maintain as robust a posture as possible.  More than ever, the mission’s exit must be responsible and prudent.  The remaining five UNAMID bases cannot be transferred to Sudan so long as there is no legitimate and reliable interlocutor in Khartoum, she said, emphasizing that the mission will remain essential for months to come and supporting a technical rollover of the mission’s mandate.

KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire) said he warmly hopes that the Prime Minister of Ethiopia’s mediation efforts in Sudan will lead to a peaceful transition.  All parties must engage in an inclusive dialogue to resolve the crisis as soon as possible.  On Darfur, he said the Doha Document for Peace must be implemented diligently.  Any decisions regarding UNAMID’s exit must be based on a realistic assessment of the situation on the ground.  He called on the mission to continue to support reconciliation in Sudan and protect civilians, with a particular focus on Jebel Marra.  Warning against acting too hastily, he called on the United Nations, African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to remain firmly engaged in Sudan.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), expressing shock at recent developments in Sudan, said a peaceful and orderly transition to a civilian, democratic and representative Government is the only lasting way to resolve the crisis and to stop violence from spinning out of control.  The situation in Darfur, where the peace process has been “at death’s door” since January and human rights violations by the Rapid Support Forces have continued, cannot be seen in isolation.  Questioning how the Council could imagine turning UNAMID installations over to the same people who created the situation for which the mission was deployed, he asked Council members to put their differences aside, consider all options and envisage a technical rollover of UNAMID’s mandate.  “The last thing we want is for Darfur to slide back into conflict after UNAMID’s withdrawal,” he said.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said that, given the uncertainty in Sudan, UNAMID’s exit strategy must be reassessed so as not to endanger progress that has been achieved.  Welcoming Ethiopia’s mediation efforts, and condemning the looting of UNAMID’s West Darfur headquarters, he said the mission must be able to carry out its mandate throughout Darfur, particularly in Jebel Marra.  He reiterated Peru’s support for the African Union, IGAD, United Nations and the mission, encouraging them to unite their efforts.  Countries in the region must also support the peace process and deter spoilers with the aim of achieving peace and security to Darfur, he added.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) strongly condemned the latest violence by the Sudan’s security forces against demonstrators in Khartoum, which led to deaths and injuries, saying that “there is no justification for the use of force against peaceful protestors”.  She expressed concern over the activities of armed groups in the neighbouring countries.  As a Chair of both the Sudan and South Sudan Sanctions Committees and together with Germany, Chair of Libya Sanctions Committee, she intends to hold a joint meeting of these three bodies next week to provide the Security Council with the space to discuss this issue in depth.  Developments in Khartoum have a direct effect on Darfur and its future, she stressed.

WU HAITAO (China) said the situation has improved in Darfur and Sudan’s Government has the capacity to assume security responsibilities.  What is needed now is bilateral and multilateral support for economic recovery in the region.  Reiterating that the primary responsibility for stabilization in Darfur rests with Sudan’s leadership, he said the international community can assist national capacity‑building.  China fully supports the peace process, he said, urging armed actors to abandon a military solution.  Highlighting the need for humanitarian and economic assistance, including support for the return of the internally displaced, he welcomed contributions by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Peacebuilding Commission.  The drawdown of UNAMID should continue and the mission should complete its mandate, as planned, in 2020.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said that, given the notable improvement of security in Darfur and the normalization of humanitarian affairs, the Security Council was right in its decision to reduce military components of UNAMID, with a view to its exit in 2020.  In advocating for a technical rollover of the mandate, some Council members were selective.  His delegation finds no reason for a different course of action from that set out in resolution 2429 (2018).  He wondered why some Council members abruptly declared such an option in an open meeting, when discussions on that matter just started at the technical expert level, warning that this “megaphone diplomacy” is something the Council had agreed to stay away from.  Amid growing deficits in the United Nations peacekeeping budget, some Western States in the Council are pushing for savings.  But, they are seeking a pause in the drawdown of UNAMID, while advocating for an exit in Kosovo.  The exit from Darfur can save much more.  In a recent press statement, the Council rejected external inference, yet some Council members ignored this element.  Welcoming Ethiopia’s mediation effort, he said the Sudanese people can reach an agreement much faster without such external interference.  He asked the Under-Secretary-General about technical barriers to a drawdown and the timeframe for a full exit.

MARTHINUS VAN SCHALKWYK (South Africa) expressed concern over a growing number of security incidents and human rights violations, including sexual violence.  His delegation supports the position of the African Union Peace and Security Council on the responsible drawdown of UNAMID.  The Security Council should reject the decree of the Transitional Military Council, he said, urging the latter to protect civilians and return to internal dialogue through the framework established by the African Union.  Welcoming the IGAD initiative to bring parties to the negotiation table, he said Sudan shares borders with seven countries, and its instability will negatively affect the wider region.  He stressed the importance of economic recovery and development.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), noting that his country has contributed troops to UNAMID since 2008, said the mission’s drawdown and exit must be responsible and not create a vacuum that would expose civilians to renewed risks.  The Council’s deliberations on UNAMID’s future should be guided by the options set out in the strategic assessment.  Priority should go towards building upon UNAMID’s achievements and supporting a transition to peacebuilding, he said, emphasizing the need for sustained international engagement and promoting socioeconomic development.  While Indonesia is very carefully observing developments in Sudan and their potential impact on Darfur, it reaffirms the principle of non-interference and respect for that country’s sovereignty, as well as the primacy of African-led efforts towards a lasting solution, he said.

AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea), urging the Council to support the African Union’s response to developments in the Sudan, praised UNAMID’s work, including its weapons collection programme, but expressed regret at the slow progress on the political front in Darfur.  Events in Khartoum cannot be ignored, she added, welcoming the African Union’s efforts to ensure that the will of the noble Sudanese people is fulfilled.  Equatorial Guinea calls on the Transitional Military Council to rise to the occasion and facilitate a transition to democracy led by civil society.  On the renewal of UNAMID’s mandate, she advocated caution, saying it would be counterproductive to change its configuration.  Expressing support for a technical rollover of its mandate until the situation has stabilized, she urged the international community, including Council members, to refrain from interfering in Sudan’s internal politics.

JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) said Darfur remains an area full of injustices and human rights violations, especially against women and children.  In places like Jebel Marra, UNAMID’s protection of civilians is essential.  Expressing concern that the Rapid Support Forces are part of the Transitional Military Council, he advocated caution as Sudan goes through a political crisis.  Underscoring the impact of climate change and environmental degradation, he warned of significant food shortages and mass migration if recent drought trends continue.  On UNAMID’s future, he said the Council must rethink its exit strategy with a focus on the mission’s capacity to protect civilians and monitor human rights violations.

JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States), emphasizing that stability in Darfur is intertwined with the rest of Sudan and the region, said the gravity of recent incidents in Darfur call into question the Transitional Military Council’s commitment to respect the rights of Darfuris and to act in good faith to find durable peace.  Calling on UNAMID to investigate the 9 June attack in Al-Deleij, he said international support for the mission must be considered in the context of good faith efforts by the Transitional Military Council to responsibly maintain basic services for the Sudanese people and its progress in facilitating a sustainable political solution.  Allowing an independent investigation of last week’s events in Khartoum, and holding those responsible to account, would be a welcome first step.  He urged all parties to work towards a civilian transition in an atmosphere of calm, adding that the United States is ready to work with its partners in the Council and the region to support these efforts.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), Council President for June, said in his national capacity that there are other ways than peacekeeping to address the drivers of conflict in Darfur.  He recommended innovative approaches, such as UNAMID cooperating with the United Nations country team on peacebuilding.  With most benchmarks and indicators for UNAMID’s drawdown and exit having been achieved, priority should go towards a political solution.  The mission and the strategy should not be hostage to those not yet willing to join the peace process, he said, expressing hope that a renewal of UNAMID’s mandate will be clear and succinct with regard to an exit strategy.  Urging the Sudanese to place the interests of their nation first, he emphasized that what is happening in Sudan in an internal affair and called on Council members to confine their discussions to UNAMID.

OMER AHMED MOHAMED AHMED (Sudan) said the strategic assessment reaffirmed continued improvement of security in Darfur, noting that the situation allows for a transition from peacekeeping to support for economic recovery, development and stability.  Sudan is looking forward to working with the United Nations and the Security Council to complete the exit of UNAMID.  Stressing that Sudan is an independent State with sovereignty guaranteed in the United Nations Charter, he reaffirmed the country’s commitment to all agreements signed with the United Nations and its mission concerning the handover of team sites.

His Government rejects any attempt to postpone or suspend the drawdown of UNAMID, he said, reminding Council members that the deadline for its exit is June 2020, with assets to be liquidated by the end of that year.  The exit would allow for more economic investment.  The situation in Darfur is not affected by the political developments in Khartoum, he said, urging the Council to respect the principle of “African solutions to African problems”.

Today, some Council members discussed Sudan’s internal political affairs, however, the Council does not have a mandate to discuss such internal matters; the scope of discussions should be limited to the situation in Darfur.  Regarding the latest security incidents, the Transitional Military Council established a commission to investigate them and the result will be announced on 15 June.  The Prosecutor-General also established a judicial committee to bring legal proceedings against perpetrators.  These actions show how determined the transitional body is to fight impunity.

Mr. LACROIX, taking the floor a second time, said some technical issues, including logistical constraints and some lengthy procedures, impede the pace of UNAMID drawdown.  Stressing the importance of interactions with Sudan’s authorities, he said recent developments have impacted those exchanges, which could be further affected if the security situation deteriorates beyond Khartoum.

For information media. Not an official record.