Sudan’s New Transitional Government Presents Chance to Restore Long-Term Stability in Darfur, United Nations, African Union Officials Tell Security Council
Permanent Representative Urges Members to ‘Revisit’ Restrictions on Movement of Arms, Troops within Troubled Region
The establishment of a new transitional Government in Khartoum on 17 August creates an opportunity to restore long-term stability to Darfur, senior United Nations and the African Union officials told the Security Council today, as the two organizations consider the future of their joint mission in that western region of Sudan.
With the security situation in Darfur still largely unchanged, intermittent clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces/Rapid Support Forces and the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid faction continue in Jebel Marra, the Under‑Secretary‑General for Peace Operations told members. However, the positive developments in Khartoum could mean revisiting the timeline for resuming the drawdown of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), he added.
Both the African Union and Sudanese interlocutors, he continued, have proposed convening a meeting of the Tripartite Mechanism on the margins of the upcoming General Assembly to further discuss future African Union-United Nations engagement in Darfur. “This is an opportunity to put a definitive end to the conflict in Darfur,” he declared. Such an effort will require an irreversible transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding, as well as engagement in the peace process by groups that have not been part of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, he emphasized.
The African Union’s Commissioner for Peace and Security said that, at this critical juncture, the international community must come up with a coordinated approach to see how best to support the peace process and ensure inclusivity and a successful outcome. It is also imperative that those parties remaining outside the peace process are persuaded to join it, he added. “The current political environment and the changes taking place in Sudan provide a unique opportunity for ending the armed conflicts and for achieving comprehensive and lasting peace in Darfur and Sudan as a whole,” he said. “The international community should seize this opportunity to demand a constructive engagement of all concerned actors.”
In the ensuing debate, Council members hailed the agreement signed on 17 August by the Transitional Military Council and the Forces of Freedom and Change, under which the joint military-civilian Sovereign Council will govern Sudan for 39 months, after which elections will be held. They also praised the mediation efforts of the African Union and Ethiopia, supported by the United Nations and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
Several speakers cautioned, however, that Darfur has yet to attain lasting peace and that UNAMID’s withdrawal must not leave a security vacuum. Côte d’Ivoire’s representative hailed the mediation and good-offices efforts of Ethiopia, the African Union and the United Nations, with support from IGAD, as a virtuous example of preventative diplomacy, while cautioning, however, that the security situation in Darfur remains fragile. Reconciliation and sustainable peace will not be possible until the guns fall silent and dialogue takes root, he emphasized.
Reinforcing that sentiment, Equatorial Guinea’s representative urged the relevant parties swiftly to resume negotiations to end the conflict in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, without preconditions. The recent political developments in Khartoum demonstrated that Africans are best placed to address the continent’s problems, he said, while warning that the challenges facing the new Government cannot be underestimated.
Germany’s representative declared: “Peace in Khartoum must be extended to Darfur,” underlining that securing lasting peace in the region must be at the core of the new Government’s agenda. UNAMID, which continues to play an important role in protecting civilians, could be succeeded by a special political mission with a strong focus on peacebuilding and mediation, he suggested.
Kuwait’s representative said that, in light of such post-conflict issues as land ownership and the plight of internally displaced persons, a peacekeeping mandate is no longer adequate. He went on to commend UNAMID’s achievements while emphasizing the importance of maintaining those gains and stressing the vital need for a gradual withdrawal of the mission. Its upcoming mandate should be short and clear, he said, with a focus on supporting the rule of law, enhancing national ownership and cooperating with the United Nations country team.
South Africa’s representative said the people of Sudan have yearned too long and sacrificed too dearly for peace, and their aspirations for stability, reconciliation, development and prosperity must translate into tangible dividends on the ground. The situation in Darfur continues to improve, but remnants of insecurity still find expression in the form of human rights and humanitarian challenges, he added.
The Dominican Republic’s representative said there is a risk that UNAMID will leave Darfur with no comprehensive peace agreement in place. For the mission to consolidate its achievements, the Council must provide it with sufficient flexibility to adjust transitional activities to the political environment, he said, emphasizing the crucial need to plan UNAMID’s exit process in concert with a viable peace process that includes all parties in order to ensure sustainable peace.
Sudan’s representative concluded the meeting by emphasizing how his country has changed. “Sudan is now a country that upholds democracy, justice, rule of law, transparency and liberty,” he said. Given the political realities, peacekeeping is not the right option for Darfur, he said, calling upon Council members to pave the way for UNAMID’s withdrawal by June 2020. He also asked the Council to revisit resolution 1591 (2005), particularly the restrictions imposed on the movement of arms and troops to and within Darfur, stressing the essential need to maintain law and order and to prevent a relapse into violence. He went on to point out that Darfur is adjacent to volatile hot spots where terrorist organizations like Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Al-Qaida and Boko Haram are active, and where illegal migration and human trafficking are rampant.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Indonesia, France, Russian Federation, Peru, China, United States, Belgium and Poland.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 11:47 a.m.
JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, spoke by video teleconference from Paris, saying important developments have taken place in Sudan since his last briefing on 14 June. On 17 August, the Transitional Military Council and the Forces for Freedom and Change signed agreements on transitional arrangements for the forthcoming 39-month period, he reported, adding that 21 August saw the swearing in of a Sovereignty Council comprising five military personnel and six civilians, including two women. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan assumed that body’s presidency, the Transitional Military Council was dissolved and Abdallah Hamdouk, a renowned economist and United Nations veteran, became Prime Minister, he said, noting that a Cabinet is expected to be sworn in by 1 September. The transitional arrangements entail a pledge to end all outstanding conflicts in Sudan, which could bring long-term stability to Darfur and other marginalized areas. Talks are expected to take place between the new Government and various armed groups, including the Sudan Revolutionary Front that includes some Darfur groups, he said.
Focusing on Darfur, he reported that the security situation in that western region of Sudan remains largely unchanged, with intermittent clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces/Rapid Support Forces and the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid (SLA/AW) faction continuing in Jebel Marra. There have been no signs of renewed military activity among armed groups that are not yet part of the national political process, but they remain a risk to sustainable peacebuilding, he emphasized. With the establishment of the Sovereign Council, the timeline for resuming the drawdown of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) may be revisited after the end of the “pause” at the end of October, he said, adding that the mission is developing a road map for the handover of facilities to the Sudanese authorities for civilian use. UNAMID and the United Nations country team continue to provide transition support through State liaison functions in four key areas — rule of law, livelihoods, immediate service delivery and human rights, he said. An interim transition team established by UNAMID and the country team in Khartoum earlier this year relocated in April to Darfur, where it is expected to become a fully functional joint transition cell in September, he continued.
Looking ahead, he said the Department of Peace Operations has initiated discussions with the African Union on developing a joint political strategy for post-UNAMID engagement. Once a new Cabinet is formed, discussions will begin on such issues as the mission’s drawdown, planning for the transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding, next steps in the Darfur peace process and post‑UNAMID engagement. Noting that both the African Union and Sudanese interlocutors have proposed a meeting of the Tripartite Mechanism on the margins of the General Assembly to further discuss future African Union-United Nations engagement in Darfur, he declared: “This is an opportunity to put a definitive end to the conflict in Darfur.” However, that will require an irreversible transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding, as well as engagement in the peace process by groups that have not been part of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, he emphasized. Donor support will be more critical than ever in facilitating the simultaneous transitions in Darfur and the wider Sudan, particularly considering the economic crisis that triggered the political change, he cautioned, while announcing his intention to travel to the country with the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security in early October for discussions with the new Government on post-UNAMID engagement.
SMAIL CHERGUI, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, said that, for the past decade or so, UNAMID has remained a classic illustration of synergy between the African Union and the United Nations in responding to the needs of humanity and addressing the odd effects of conflict and political instability. He went on to congratulate the people of Sudan on the signing of the landmark constitutional declaration two weeks ago, declaring: “This is a remarkable milestone, ushering the country into a new phase of its political history and towards consolidating democracy and peace.”
Given the fast-evolving political developments that culminated in the collapse of the National Congress Party Government, UNAMID continued to implement its mandate, as set out in resolution 2429 (2018), he reported, adding that the African Union supports a slower drawdown of the mission to allow it to protect its sites and installations, particularly at the logistics hub in El Fasher. The bloc, therefore, supports keeping the mission’s military component at a ceiling of 4,375 personnel, he said, pointing out that the overall security situation in Darfur remains volatile, with intermittent armed clashes between Government forces and the SLA/AW faction around Golo in Jebel Marra.
He said the political declaration and constitutional document signed recently provide for a power-sharing arrangement during a 39-month transitional period while outlining the key priorities of the Transitional Government during this period. It is important that the international community, at this critical juncture, comes up with a coordinated approach to see how best to support the peace process and ensure inclusivity and a successful outcome, he said, emphasizing that it is also imperative that those parties still outside the peace process are persuaded to join it, otherwise they will remain spoilers. “The current political environment and the changes taking place in Sudan provide a unique opportunity for ending the armed conflicts and for achieving comprehensive and lasting peace in Darfur and Sudan as a whole,” he said. “The international community should seize this opportunity to demand a constructive engagement of all concerned actors.”
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said “this is a very positive moment” for Sudan, congratulating the country’s people and the African Union, as well as the Government of Ethiopia for its mediation efforts. Reiterating his country’s support for the new Sovereignty Council, he called upon all sides, especially armed movements, to engage in the peace process constructively, immediately and without preconditions. He also urged the Sovereignty Council to take immediate steps to address the humanitarian situation, starting with the removal of bureaucratic impediments to the delivery of assistance put in place by the previous Government. Looking ahead, he said political support for the peace process, human rights monitoring and capacity‑building, as well as humanitarian and development support can best be provided by continued United Nations-African Union presence after UNAMID’s closure.
JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany), emphasizing that the new Government will require substantial international support, said the upcoming ministerial week at United Nations Headquarters will be an opportunity for an in-depth exchange on how to support the transitional process. There is no automatic peace dividend for Darfur emanating from developments in Khartoum, he emphasized, pointing out that a comprehensive peace deal remains pending. “Peace in Khartoum must be extended to Darfur,” he said, adding that securing a lasting peace in the region must be at the core of the new Government’s agenda. Turning to UNAMID, he said it continues to play an important role in protecting civilians, and could be succeeded by a special political mission with a strong focus on peacebuilding and mediation. He stressed, however, that UNAMID must be drawn down in a responsible manner to avoid a security vacuum.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic), noting that about 2 million people remain displaced in Darfur, said there is a risk that UNAMID will leave the region with no comprehensive peace agreement in place. For the mission to consolidate its achievements, the Council must provide it with sufficient flexibility to adjust transitional activities to the political environment, he said, emphasizing the crucial nee for UNAMID’s exit process to be planned together with a viable peace process that includes all parties in order to ensure sustainable peace.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) welcomed the new Transitional Government and institutions, while emphasizing that the signing of the latest agreement is only the beginning of the hard work and a stepping stone to further tangible progress, including sustaining peace and socioeconomic recovery. The security situation in Darfur remained relatively stable, with little disruption to the trends that have emerged since 2016, he said, adding that UNAMID has accomplished much over the past 12 years. Peacekeeping, however, is not a silver bullet, he cautioned, noting that present challenges require more peacebuilding and stabilization efforts. As for the joint African Union-United Nations political strategy requested by resolution 2479 (2019), there is need for ample and meaningful consultations with the Transitional Government, he said
ANNE GUEGUEN (France), applauding the close cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations, described the signing of the 17 August agreement as a major step, also welcoming the nomination of a new Prime Minister. Noting that women and young people have been driving Sudan’s revolution, she emphasized that they must be fully involved in the process going forward. Commending mediation efforts by the African Union and Ethiopia, she said Sudan faces a historic opportunity to build sustaining peace. The Security Council and the wider international community now have a legitimate authority with whom to work, she noted, adding that Sudan is now entering the peacebuilding phase. A special political mission should be deployed after UNAMID’s withdrawal, with a mandate to support implementation of the peace agreement and build capacity in the area of security, among other tasks, she said.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), recalling that the Council voted in favour of a technical rollover two months ago, noted that, at that time, the Council believed the Sudanese could overcome their problem during that period. The Council was right, he said, noting that the signing of the 17 August agreement is an important step for Sudan’s long-term stability. Commending the mediation efforts of the African Union and Ethiopia, he described them as a good example of African solutions to African problems. There has also been significant improvement in the situation of Darfur, he said, adding that the Council was once again correct in coming up with a plan for UNAMID’s exit in 2020. Emphasizing his delegation’s opposition to any changes in the drawdown plan, he said it is time to concentrate on support for peace and economic development.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) noted the positive developments in the security situation of Darfur, saying the remaining issues are those of a post‑conflict nature, such as land ownership and the plight of internally displaced persons. A peacekeeping mandate is, therefore, no longer adequate. While commending UNAMID’s achievements over the past 12 years, he emphasized the importance of maintaining those gains, stressing also the vital need for UNAMID to withdraw gradually. The mission’s upcoming mandate should be short and clear, with a focus on supporting the rule of law, enhancing national ownership and cooperating with the United Nations country team, he said.
GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) expressed satisfaction with the positive evolution of the situation in Sudan and hope that the spirit of dialogue will continue. Hailing the mediation and good-offices efforts of Ethiopia, the African Union and the United Nations, with support from the Intergovernmental Group Authority on Development (IGAD), as a virtuous example of preventative diplomacy, he cautioned, however, that the security situation in Darfur remains fragile. Reconciliation and sustainable peace will not be possible until the guns fall silent and dialogue takes root, he emphasized, encouraging the new authorities to negotiate with armed movements with a view to creating the conditions for UNAMID’s phased and orderly withdrawal.
JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) said the recent political developments in Khartoum demonstrated that Africans are best placed to address the continent’s problems. However, the challenges facing the new Government cannot be underestimated, he said, calling for the creation of mechanisms and strategies for the promotion of national reconciliation. He urged the relevant parties swiftly to resume negotiations to end the conflict in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, without preconditions and with the Council’s support, emphasizing that it is essential for the new Government to follow the path set out in the Doha Document. He went on to call upon the Government to create space for women to play their part in the new political scenario.
PAUL DUCLOS (Peru) welcomed the commitment of the parties to respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, including their affirmation of the rights of women. Emphasizing the Council’s responsibility for ensuring UNAMID’s successful exit, he said the mission’s withdrawal must not create a security vacuum or undermine its own achievements. He went on to underscore the need to establish national institutions that can prevent and resolve conflicts, promote good governance and lead the fight against impunity and corruption, while encouraging the African Union, IGAD, United Nations and donor countries to extend the necessary support to the Transitional Government.
WU HAITAO (China), noting the generally stable situation in Darfur, said the Transitional Government should continue to support recent achievements, with the international community assisting all its efforts. The Darfur peace process should restart as soon as possible, he emphasized, expressing hope that all parties will seize the current opportunity to resolve conflicts and differences through dialogue and consultations. The reconstruction process in Darfur should be accelerated, with the international community helping the Government resettle displaced persons and rebuild critical infrastructure, he said, stressing that the peace process, supported by UNAMID, remains the key to ensuring continued progress.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States), encouraged by the signing of the declaration, said the landmark agreement marks a positive development that will bring peace and security to Sudan, emphasizing the importance of implementing it. UNAMID needs access to all areas, he said, expressing concern about the lack of cooperation to ensure access. He went on to state his delegation anticipates full reports on recent clashes, underlining that perpetrators of violence against civilians must be held accountable. The United States, for its part, will continue to support the Government in all its efforts to protect civilians, among other tasks.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) welcomed the power-sharing agreement and other political developments in Khartoum, saying the people of Sudan have yearned for peace for too long and sacrificed too dearly. Their aspirations for peace, stability, reconciliation, development and prosperity must translate into tangible dividends on the ground. However, while the situation in Darfur continues to improve, there are still remnants of insecurity that find expressions in the form of human rights and humanitarian challenges. South Africa looks forward to the joint report of the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, due next month, which will provide recommendations on the appropriate course of action regarding the drawdown of UNAMID, he said.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) called for a focus on implementing the new declaration through an inclusive process that respects human rights and freedoms. Efforts must also centre on ending impunity and ensuring the protection of civilians. Expressing support for the African Union’s role in the transition period, he said that he remains concerned about the fragile situation in Darfur, noting that certain groups have rejected the 17 August agreement. That demonstrates that work remains to be done in the quest for a peaceful solution acceptable to all, he said. Yet, there is now a unique opportunity to end multiple conflicts that have ravaged Sudan for too long, he said. Leading up to its consideration of UNAMID’s mandate in October, the Council should continue to follow the situation in Sudan and particularly in Darfur, he stressed. At the same time, the mission’s exit strategy must reflect the situation across the country, he said, adding that his delegation anticipates the joint United Nations‑African Union report on options. While Sudan is undergoing a historical moment — as a result of the people’s aspirations — it faces significant challenges, and the Council must continue to lend its support, he emphasized.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), Council President for August, spoke in her national capacity, saying that such issues as respect for human rights and protection for civilians should be reflected in options for political engagement in Darfur after UNAMID’s withdrawal. To attain lasting peace in Darfur, the transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding must place a particular emphasis on socioeconomic conditions, providing health services and work places, education, trade, basic economic infrastructure, agriculture, as well as the effective rule of law across Darfur, he said, stressing that without international support and secure funding for the development of Darfur, the gains achieved through great effort over the last decades will be at risk.
OMAR MOHAMED AHMED SIDDIG (Sudan) said Darfur today is completely different from the situation that the Security Council started addressing some years ago and even Sudan is no longer the one known over the last 30 years. “Sudan is now a country that upholds democracy, justice, rule of law, transparency and liberty,” he said, emphasizing that, on the basis of these political realities, peacekeeping is not the right option for Darfur. Calling upon Council members to pave the way for UNAMID’s withdrawal by June 2020, as agreed, he also asked them to revisit resolution 1591 (2005), particularly the restrictions imposed on the movement of arms and troops to and within Darfur, explaining that it is essential to empower Sudanese law enforcement to be fully equipped as the bulwark of law and order, protecting stability and preventing any relapse or resort to violence.
He went on to note that Darfur is adjacent to volatile hot spots where terrorist organizations like Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Al-Qaida and Boko Haram are active, and in which illegal migration and human trafficking are rampant. For these and other reasons, it is imperative to adequately equip different Government agencies’ law enforcement entities in the post-UNAMID period, he emphasized. International assistance is also needed to create suitable conditions for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, and for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of armed elements, he stressed. It is also required for the rehabilitation of deserted or destroyed services infrastructure, for mitigating the negative effects of desertification and climate change, as well as for transitional justice and reparations, he said.
Mr. LACROIX responded to a question from the representative of the United Kingdom, by explaining that UNAMID is not in a position to verify whether the Rapid Support Forces have vacated camps handed over by the mission. However, there is a commitment by the Transitional Military Council, reiterated today by the representative of Sudan, that all camps will be used for civilian purposes, he said, adding that he looks forward to the Government delivering on that commitment.