Permanent Representative Underlines Khartoum’s Commitment to Civilian Protection, Calls Urgently for Lifting Sanctions
On the heels of considerable political progress in Sudan, the global community should help the country weave together its patchwork of recent peace agreements into a “single, unfractured vision of the future”, senior officials said today, as they briefed the Security Council on latest developments.
Key to that vision, they said, should be efforts to ease the economic and humanitarian challenges wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented flooding; continued intercommunal clashes, especially in the Darfur region; and the upcoming transition to a new special political mission following the expiry of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) mandate in December.
“Sudan’s political transition continues to move in the right direction,” said Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs. On 31 August, the Transitional Government joined two of Sudan’s main opposition groups — the Sudan Revolutionary Front alliance and the Sudan Liberation Army Minni Minnawi faction — in initialling a peace agreement, to be formally signed on 3 October. In a further development, she added, the Government and the Abdelaziz al-Hilu faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North met to sign an “Agreement on Principles”.
Commending the parties for staying committed to the peace process — even amid the pandemic — she said the various accords must now be moulded into a single, coherent framework, with the parties forming a joint vision of the way forward. Challenges remain, as the country recently declared an economic emergency following a collapse in the value of the Sudanese pound, she emphasized, citing also the re-emergence of protests, rising inflation, severe flooding and a large spike in food insecurity. Noting that the structure and priorities of the new United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) — which will succeed UNAMID after its December drawdown — are currently being elaborated, she added: “The solutions to [the country’s] long-standing difficulties remain with the Sudanese, and UNITAMS is being configured to accompany them in their efforts.”
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, described the peace agreements as an important milestone “signifying hope for a more peaceful and prosperous future”. However, he noted that key players — including the Sudan Liberation Army of Abdul Wahid — have yet to join the process, and that the patchwork of negotiated documents still needs to be woven into a single vision of the future. Recent clashes and protests in Darfur signal anxiety over the decisions being made in the capital, he said, calling for enhanced efforts to bring all parties on board.
Turning to UNAMID’s work, he said the mission is providing critical life support — including working with the Transitional Government to implement its protection-of-civilians plan — even as its operations and movement continue to be affected by COVID-19. The mission is also working with national authorities to combat the spread of the virus and mitigate its impact. Citing a notable increase in intercommunal violence in Darfur, he said a joint African Union-United Nations working group is currently developing options to address civilian-protection needs and challenges after the expiry of UNAMID’s mandate, which will be presented to the Security Council.
As Council members took the floor, many applauded the peace agreements, some describing them as historic and in line with the principle of “African solutions to African problems”. Speakers also echoed the briefers’ concerns over escalating humanitarian needs, especially rising food insecurity, while calling for steadfast international support. Several delegates welcomed the establishment of the new special political mission, while stressing that the recent spikes in intercommunal violence outlined by the briefers does not significantly alter the situation and should not be allowed to push UNAMID’s drawdown off track.
South Africa’s representative also spoke on behalf of Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, noting the international community’s steadfast commitment to supporting Sudan for more than a decade. He also welcomed the Government’s pursuit of political reforms and peace efforts — including the peace agreements with armed groups — and its attempts to address economic challenges. Those positive developments are occurring against a backdrop of several dire humanitarian and economic challenges, he pointed out, underlining the need to lift all unilateral sanctions still imposed on Sudan.
Belgium’s delegate said the establishment of UNITAMS must fully reflect the Council’s goals and observations of the situation on the ground, while voicing outrage over lingering human rights violations. Such matters should be addressed in a balanced manner during planning for the new Mission, she said, welcoming significant recent strides in the peace process as well as the fact that parties are “not dodging” such crucial issues as the return of internally displaced persons, land ownership and social justice.
The Russian Federation’s representative was among speakers advocating for UNAMID’s final withdrawal on schedule, saying the mission has successfully completed its mandated tasks to it. She also echoed calls for the full lifting of economic sanctions against Sudan, pointing out that the country remains on the United States list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and that the unilateral measures are based on issues unrelated to the peace process.
Sudan’s representative outlined the terms of the peace agreements reached after a year of candid negotiations, declaring: “This is a Sudanese peace made with our own hands and by our own efforts.” He underlined his Government’s commitment to protecting civilians and listed a range of actions undertaken in response to recent intercommunal clashes, noting that the signing of the new peace deals will undoubtedly be helpful. Sudan has also created a dedicated mechanism for cooperation with UNITAMS, he said, expressing his delegation’s expectation of further consultations between the United Nations and his country’s Transitional Government on the Mission’s modalities. He went on to emphasize the urgent need to remove Sudan from the United States list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, saying its listing is blocking key elements of economic relief for the country.
Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, Germany, China, France, Indonesia, Estonia, Dominican Republic, United States and Viet Nam.
The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and ended at 11:46 a.m.
ROSEMARY DICARLO, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, recalled her last briefing to the Council in April, when she highlighted the fact that COVID-19 was compounding Sudan’s challenges. While that broad assessment remains valid, there have since been a range of new developments, she said. “Sudan’s political transition continues to move in the right direction,” she added, spotlighting the initialling, on 31 August, of the peace agreement between the Transitional Government, the Sudan Revolutionary Front alliance and the Sudan Liberation Army Minni Minnawi faction. Those parties agreed on a transitional period of 39 months, effective from the date of signing, which is planned for 3 October. In a further development, she reported, the Transitional Government and the Abdelaziz al-Hilu faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) signed an “Agreement on Principles” in Addis Ababa on 3 September.
Commending those groups for remaining committed to the peace process — even amid the COVID-19 pandemic — she urged parties that remain absent from the agreements to come to the negotiation table, emphasizing: “It is not too late.” Calling attention to significant challenges ahead, she stressed that the various accords and respective peace agreements on regional issues must be moulded into a single, coherent framework. The parties and the Transitional Government must form a joint vision on the way forward and uphold their respective commitments, she said, underlining also the need to set realistic funding expectations. All Governments are struggling amid the pandemic, she added, pointing out that donor capacity is likely to be reduced.
She went on to recall that the Government recently declared an economic emergency following a collapse in the value of the Sudanese pound. The announcement followed months of soaring inflation, a spiralling exchange rate and shortages of basic commodities. Meanwhile, economic frustration continues to grow, as evidenced by the re-emergence of protests across the country, she said. Despite those challenges, the Transitional Government has moved forward with important reforms, including the removal of fuel subsidies, as part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to move towards debt relief. Calling upon partners to fulfil their pledged commitments — and to address any impediments to Sudan’s full integration into the international economic community — she welcomed recent progress on delisting the country from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism maintained by the United States.
Citing a range of challenges, she said they include a spike in the number of food-insecure people, to 9.6 million; rising inflation; the impacts of COVID-19; and the worst flooding in decades, which has affected 730,000 people. It is against that backdrop that a new special political mission — known as the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan, or UNITAMS — is now being drawn up in line with resolution 2524 (2020). Noting that the Mission’s proposed structure and geographical deployment are outlined in a report of the Secretary-General (document S/2020/912), she said it will seek innovative ways to foster maximum cooperation among United Nations actors. Gender issues have been mainstreamed across the Mission, which will support the implementation of Sudan’s national plan for civilian protection, she said. “The solutions to [the country’s] long-standing difficulties remain with the Sudanese, and UNITAMS is being configured to accompany them in their efforts.”
JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, echoed Ms. DiCarlo’s sentiments welcoming the recent agreement between the Transitional Government, the Sudan Revolutionary Front and the Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minnawi. “This is an important milestone in the often-troubled history of Darfur, signifying hope for a more peaceful and prosperous future,” he said, cautioning, however, that much work remains to be done. Key players, including the Sudan Liberation Army of Abdul Wahid, have yet to join the process, he pointed out. Moreover, the recent agreements — still a patchwork of documents negotiated on different tracks — are yet to be woven together into a single, unfractured vision of the future of Sudan.
Outlining several much-needed security arrangements, he said continued clashes and protests in Darfur signal anxiety over the decisions being made in Khartoum and Juba. “Now more than ever, we must work together to bring all stakeholders on board and work towards preventing a relapse into conflict,” he said, adding that financing will be a key challenge with which the international community can assist. An estimated $13 billion will be required over 10 years, with $7.5 billion committed by the Government of Sudan itself. Noting that the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and the United Nations as a whole stand ready to help, he said the Mission continues to engage with the Transitional Government — including on implementing its national protection of civilians plan and “training trainers” on such issues as international human rights law, and the protection of women and children.
Even as COVID-19 continues to impact UNAMID’s operations and movement, he said, the Mission is focused on providing critical life support and is working with the authorities to combat the virus and mitigate its impact. He expressed concern over intermittent clashes between Government forces and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid, as well as in-fighting within the latter’s different factions — reportedly over disagreement over whether the group should join peace agreement negotiations. UNAMID is working to protect civilians amid a notable increase in intercommunal violence, but its capacity remains limited in some parts of the country, he said. A joint African Union-United Nations working group is currently developing options — to be presented to the Council — to address civilian-protection needs and challenges following the expiration of UNAMID’s current mandate, he added.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) welcomed progress on legal reforms and the inclusion of women in the appointment of civilian governors, while noting that despite those positive developments, Sudan faces numerous challenges, including flooding, desert locusts, a polio outbreak and inflation, all aggravated by COVID‑19. Humanitarian needs are unfortunately increasing, and Sudan cannot face them alone, he said, emphasizing that the international community must step up. For its part, the United Kingdom donated more than $100 million towards a family-support programme and contributed $76 million in humanitarian assistance to the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, he said. Calling for the rapid deployment of UNITAMS with adequate resources and geographic presence, he also urged the swift appointment of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, noting that the delay is undermining the Organization’s ability to support Sudan’s people. He went on to call upon parties outside the peace process to engage without preconditions, while expressing concern over the security situation in Darfur.
GUENTER SAUTTER (Germany) said the establishment of UNITAMS represents a new chapter in partnership between the Council and Sudan. Expressing his country’s desire for Sudan to succeed and for its people to cash in on the peace and democracy dividends, he recalled that Germany hosted the Berlin Partnership Conference in June, which marked a new era in the relationship between Sudan and the international community. Partnership also means being frank about the challenges ahead, he said, emphasizing the need to ensure justice for past crimes, including massacres. UNITAMS can make a significant difference on the ground but it must be fit for purpose, he said, expressing hope that the Mission is equipped with adequate resources for protection and human rights mandates and that the Special Representative will be appointed shortly. Given UNAMID’s footprint, Germany hopes that United Nations Police are represented in all UNITAMS offices, he said, adding that Germany will make voluntary contributions to the Mission.
DAI BING (China) said this is a critical period of political transition for Sudan and called upon the international community to increase assistance. He went on to urge Sudanese parties to remain united and to formally sign the agreement as scheduled. “This is a new starting point,” he said, calling for a smooth transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding. Expressing worry over deteriorating humanitarian conditions, he called for debt relief for Sudan, pledging that China will stand by the country and support its sustainable development. Emphasizing that the core tasks of UNITAMS should not exceed its mandate, he said the Mission should not intervene in Sudan’s internal affairs and must avoid overlaps with UNAMID in the mobilization of resources. Stressing that Sudan bears primary responsibility to protect civilians, he also said the Council should conduct a timely review of sanctions and lift the existing unilateral measures.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), also speaking on behalf of Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said the international community has stood steadfast for more than a decade in its commitment to supporting Sudan. “As we turn to a new chapter […] we must ensure that all of us continue to preserve gains and bring peace,” he added. Welcoming Government efforts to pursue political reforms, peace efforts, and to address economic challenges — as well as the peace agreements recently reached with armed groups — he noted that those positive developments are taking place against a backdrop of several dire humanitarian and economic challenges. In that context, he called for the lifting of all sanctions still imposed on Sudan, which are hindering the country’s further progress. As UNAMID draws down, its staff must continue to work with national stakeholders and the United Nations country team to ensure the continued protection of civilians and a smooth transition, he said, emphasizing the need for prompt appointment of the Special Representative. The Council should continue to ensure stability in Sudan — a strategically located and pivotal country in Africa — at this critical time in particular, he added.
KAREN VAN VLIERBERGE (Belgium) said the establishment of UNITAMS must fully reflect the Council’s goals and observations of the situation on the ground. She went on to express outrage over lingering violations against children, urging the Government to include the protection of children in its national plan for civilian protection. Such matters should be addressed in a balanced manner during planning for the new Mission, she said. Noting recent significant strides in the peace process, she called upon those still absent to come to the negotiating table. Belgium welcomes the fact that the peace process is “not dodging” such crucial issues as the return of internally displaced persons, land ownership and justice, she said, welcoming the cooperation between the Government and UNAMID to ease tensions in Darfur, where civilians remain vulnerable to attack amid increasing violence.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) urged the Transitional Government to create the conditions for UNAMID’s withdrawal, emphasizing that it is up to the Security Council to decide by 31 December based on assessments of the situation on the ground. UNITAMS has a broad mandate to support human rights and the building of police capacity, she noted, adding that it is essential to take full advantage of synergies between UNAMID and UNITAMS in the months to come. There is no doubt that mobilizing UNAMID’s capacity and footprint can help to accelerate the transition towards UNITAMS, she said.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) highlighted the importance for Sudan to address intercommunal violence by intensifying dialogue and community engagement. Welcoming the formation of a national committee on protection of civilians, he said the humanitarian situation is inseparable from the political process. Calling upon UNAMID to cooperate with the Government on aid delivery, he said a smooth transition to UNITAMS can only be achieved through close coordination among the United Nations, Sudan, the African Union, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The success of UNITAMS must be a priority of all parties, he emphasized.
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) recalled that, in 2019, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok arrived at the United Nations to introduce the Transitional Government’s efforts to bring peace, stability and prosperity to Sudan, and great progress has been achieved since. Encouraging parties that have not yet joined the peace agreement to do so urgently, he expressed hope that the accord will lead to lasting peace. “As with any peace agreement, implementation is key,” he said, underlining the importance of addressing the root causes of conflict and expressing hope that the parties will feel the full weight of the international community’s support. He also expressed hope that UNITAMS will continue to push forward Sudan’s important reforms, declaring: “Sudan needs continued support to heal its crippled economy.” Given the country’s immense challenges, UNITAMS requires proper resourcing and capacity, he emphasized.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) said UNITAMS offers a genuine opportunity to help Sudan achieve lasting peace. “The fact that the Mission enjoys the unanimous support of this Council should not be taken for granted,” he stressed. Noting the intense pressures facing Sudan and its people — including the COVID-19 outbreak, rising food insecurity, flooding and increasing intercommunal violence — he said human rights violations are also rising. He applauded recent important legal amendments — including the prohibition of female genital mutilation and the abolition of the death penalty for minors under 18 years old — while also calling for a mechanism for monitoring and reporting violations. Welcoming the recent agreement by armed groups, he said the protection of civilians must be a priority for all. In a similar vein, he welcomed the development of a national plan for civilian protection, underscoring that supporting it should be an important component of the UNITAMS mandate. He went on to note with concern that the inclusion of women in the peace process remains marginal, adding that the political transition remains tenuous. More tangible progress is still needed on the protection of human rights, justice and inclusive governance.
CHERITH NORMAN-CHALET (United States) commended the efforts by of Sudanese parties to reach an agreement that could usher in a new era throughout Sudan. It’s now up to them to implement the agreement transparently and in a timely manner, she said, adding that it can bring long-term peace, justice, and stability to those who have endured cycles of widespread violence and been victims of atrocities committed with impunity. Her delegation strongly believes that UNITAMS can fulfil its mandate to support the political transition and peace process, assist peacebuilding, development, and humanitarian assistance efforts, and provide critical assistance for security sector reform, police training, rule of law, and inclusive civilian governance. Local authorities and the civilian-led Transitional Government must do more to prevent further militia attacks on civilians, including internally displaced persons, and to hold those responsible for the horrific violence at Masteri and elsewhere.
DINH QUY DANG (Viet Nam) said that the peace agreement will open a new chapter in Sudan, and COVID-19 cannot undermine the Sudanese people’s genuine wish for peace. Full implementation of the Constitutional Declaration and the peace agreement is crucial, he said, welcoming the appointment of interim governors in 18 states while urging the armed groups outside the agreement to engage without a delay. Expressing a concern over intercommunal violence, he said its root causes must be addressed. He went on to urge UNAMID, in its drawdown process, to help Government security forces build its own capacity. Welcoming the Berlin Partnership Conference, he called on the international community to extend both financial and political support to the Transitional Government.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) welcomed the principled peace agreement as a historic development, in line with the concept of “African solutions to African problems”. However, Sudan still faces a range of economic and humanitarian challenges, and the Council must not disappoint its people, she emphasized. Advocating for UNAMID’s final withdrawal on schedule she said it has successfully completed its mandated tasks and the time has come to focus on restoring economic development across the region. Recent intercommunal violence does “not change the overall picture” on the ground, she said, noting further progress on a national strategy for the protection of civilians. However, the main spoiler of the peace process, Abdul Wahid Mohamed al Nur, persists in refusing to join the peace process, she said, calling upon those with influence over him to exert it promptly. She went on to call for the full lifting of economic sanctions against Sudan, pointing out that the country remains on the United States list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and that the existing unilateral measures imposed on it are based on issues that have nothing to do with the peace process.
OMER MOHAMED AHMED SIDDIG (Sudan) said that, after a year of candid negotiations, the Government and several of his country’s main armed opposition groups have now reached a comprehensive peace agreement. Its terms include provisions on resource-sharing, land ownership, social justice, governance and equality at the national level, as well as clauses on such matters as humanitarian relief, the safe return of internally displaced persons and refugees, and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants. “This is a Sudanese peace made with our own hands and by our own efforts,” he stressed. Reiterating his call on Abdul Wahid Mohamed al Nur and his group to join the peace process, he underlined the Government’s commitment to protecting civilians.
He went on to describe the actions taken in response to recent intercommunal clashes, including the deployment of 15,000 additional army and police forces, a nationwide arms collection campaign and enhanced criminal-justice mechanisms. Also citing the appointment of civilian governors as an important step towards preserving stability and security, he recalled that in May, the Government shared its civilian-protection plan — which is guided by best practices — with the Council. The signing of the new peace deal will undoubtedly help the protection of civilians, he added.
Meanwhile, Sudan established a national mechanism for cooperation with UNITAMS and appointed a veteran diplomat to lead it, he said, adding that the Government will spare no efforts in working with and supporting the new Mission. Expressing his delegation’s expectation that further consultations will be held between Sudan and the United Nations on laying out the Mission’s structure and priorities, he said a new Special Representative should be appointed shortly. In conclusion, he called for Sudan’s urgent removal from the United States list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, saying its listing is blocking key elements of economic relief for the country.