‘Visible’ Consensus Emerging in Sudan, Top United Nations Official Tells Security Council, While Stressing Need to Correct ‘Current Trajectory’
Permanent Representative Says Secretary-General’s Report Contains ‘Exaggerated or Wrong’ Information on Sexual Violence Claims
“Visible” consensus has emerged around several aspects of efforts to establish a functional transitional Government in Sudan, the senior United Nations official in that country told the Security Council today.
However, Volker Perthes, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), warned: “Unless the current trajectory is corrected, Sudan will head towards economic and security collapse, as well as significant humanitarian suffering.”
Presenting an overview of the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the Mission, he noted that Sudan has been without a functioning Government since the military coup d’état of 25 October 2021, while demonstrations against the coup and their violent repression are continuing. As a result, and in the absence of political agreement on a return to an accepted transitional path, the economic, humanitarian and security situations are deteriorating, he said, cautioning: “Time is not on Sudan’s side.”
The United Nations-led broad consultations on a political process — involving more than 800 participants from all parts of the country — have found consensus on many issues, he said, citing the need to end the violence, establish a technocratic Government and an oversight body, and adopt critical legislation. There was also wide-reaching agreement on the need to reconsider the role, size and membership of the Sovereignty Council, he added.
The consultations also found common ground on a minimum of 40 per cent representation of women in transitional institutions, and on mechanisms to advance women’s rights, he continued. Moreover, an overarching consensus emerged around the need for a single, unified, professional army, for the establishment of judicial entities, for the conditions suitable to holding credible elections and for an inclusive constitutional process.
Going forward, he said, the United Nations, the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) will jointly lead efforts to support Sudan’s political process, drawing on their respective strengths. The intention is to facilitate an inclusive, Sudan-owned and Sudan-led political process, he added. An intensive phase of talks is expected to start in the coming weeks, with a view to returning to constitutional order and an empowered civilian-led Government to steer Sudan through the transitional period.
In the ensuing discussion, delegates welcomed the efforts of UNITAMS to facilitate an intra-Sudanese political process while also expressing concern about the economic, humanitarian and security woes confronting the country.
Ghana’s representative, also speaking for Gabon and Kenya, emphasized that the Mission’s activities should not be conducted in isolation but closely coordinated with those of IGAD and the African Union in the search for a peaceful settlement of the political impasse in Sudan. He added that cooperation between UNITAMS and the regional organizations should develop further into a systematic, operational and strategic partnership adapted to the complex security challenges facing Sudan.
China’s representative called for the early lifting of sanctions against Sudan, stressing the urgent need to strengthen the country’s security capacity. In that regard, benchmarks for lifting the measures must be developed by 31 August, as set out in the relevant resolution, he said.
The United Kingdom’s representative welcomed the collaboration between the United Nations and the African Union on the next phase of talks, aimed at restoring the transition, saying his delegation is also encouraged by the consensus around the need for a civilian cabinet, justice and accountability, and a role for women in the transition.
Sudan’s representative said the role of UNITAMS must be limited to facilitating dialogue between the parties, without attempting to influence the outcome of their consultations. He went on to note that the Government of Sudan continues to implement economic reform and to address the inherited distortions of the economy, including the most recent measure to completely liberalize the exchange rate for the Sudanese pound against foreign currencies. Concerning the Secretary-General’s report, he said it includes “many exaggerated or wrong information, especially on allegations of sexual violence and violations of human rights”. He called for more accurate, impartial documentation.
Also speaking today were representatives of France, United States, Russian Federation, India, Ireland, Albania, Norway, Brazil, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates.
The meeting began at 10:18 a.m. and ended at 11:56 a.m.
VOLKER PERTHES, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), presented an overview of the Secretary-General’s 90-day report (document S/2022/172), noting that, unfortunately, the situation has not improved since his last briefing to the Council in January. Sudan has been without a functioning Government since the coup of 25 October 2021 while demonstrations against the coup and their violent repression are continuing. As a result, and in the absence of a political agreement to return to an accepted transitional path, the economic, humanitarian and security situation are deteriorating, he said, cautioning: “Time is not on Sudan’s side.” Sudanese stakeholders increasingly feel a sense of urgency, he emphasized.
Demands for an end to military rule continue, with frequent protests in Khartoum and elsewhere, he continued, saying protestors continue to be killed or to suffer serious injury from live ammunition. Additionally, as of 22 March, 16 women were reportedly raped during protests in Khartoum. In response to a pattern of sexual violence against women, he reported, the Working Group on Sexual Violence — comprising the United Nations, local civil society partners and the Government’s Unit for Combatting Violence against Women under the Ministry of Social Affairs — continues to meet regularly to coordinate and strengthen responses to sexual violence.
He went on to state that after Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s resignation on 2 January, UNITAMS launched intensive consultations on a political process for Sudan, adding that the report on those consultations, published on 28 February, provides a summary of the opinions expressed, as well as areas of convergence and divergence. The Mission heard from the military, political parties, armed movements, civil society, women’s groups, resistance committees, youth, Sufi leaders, the business community, nomads, internally displaced persons, the diaspora and other State and non-State actors, he said, noting that women accounted for one third of the participants.
Consensus was “visible” on many issues, he continued, citing the need for an end to the violence, for a technocratic Government, and for a transitional legislative council to serve as an oversight body and adopt critical legislation. There was wide-reaching agreement on the need to reconsider the role, size and membership of the Sovereignty Council, for meaningful representation of women in transitional institutions at a minimum of 40 per cent, and mechanisms to advance women’s rights, he said. There is also an overarching consensus around the need for a single unified professional army, for the establishment of judicial entities, for the creation of conditions for credible elections and for an inclusive constitutional process. There was also significant agreement around the need for robust engagement by the international community in support of the political transition, including the possibility of serving as guarantors of any agreement, he reported. As one commentator remarked: “The UNITAMS-led consultations have shown the Sudanese that they agree on more substantial points than they are aware of.”
He went on to state that the United Nations, the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have agreed on joint efforts to support Sudan through the next phase of the political process, drawing on their comparative advantages and respective strengths. The intention is to facilitate an inclusive, Sudan-owned and Sudan-led political process, with the full and meaningful participation of women, focusing on a limited number of urgent priorities required to address the current crisis and restore constitutional order, he stressed. Based on the outcome of the initial consultations, priorities include: interim constitutional arrangements, among them agreeing on the executive, legislative and judicial organs of the transitions, as well as their structure and functions; criteria and mechanism for appointing a Prime Minister and Cabinet; and a road map for the transitional period, as well as a government programme focusing on an achievable set of priority areas, including the type, timing, and necessary conditions for elections at the end of that period.
An intensive phase of talks is expected to start in the next couple of weeks, he said. However, the upcoming talks have a narrow and clearly defined aim: to return to constitutional order with an empowered civilian-led Government to steer Sudan through the transitional period and address the critical priorities. If those political talks are to have a chance of succeeding, favourable conditions must be created, he noted, underlining the need to ensure an end to violence and the right of peaceful demonstrations; the release of political detainees; and a firm commitment to phase out Sudan’s current emergency status. “The stakes are high,” he said, while warning: “The aspirations of Sudanese women and men for a prosperous, civilian-led, democratic future are at risk.” Unless the current trajectory is corrected, Sudan will head towards economic and security collapse, as well as significant humanitarian suffering, he said, urging all stakeholders to be prepared to make compromises in the interests of stability and prosperity for the people.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) said the civilian-led Government inherited enormous challenges in 2019, but Sudan is on a path to a more peaceful, prosperous and stable future, despite difficulties that transition faces. Regrettably, the coup has put gains at risk, including on economic reforms, the peace process and human rights, he noted. Welcoming the collaboration between the United Nations and the African Union on the next phase of talks, aimed at restoring the transition, he said there is a great opportunity to end the political crisis. The United Kingdom is encouraged by the consensus around such issues as the need for a civilian cabinet, justice and accountability, and the role of women in the transition. Turning to the economic hardship and growing humanitarian needs across Sudan, he said the actions of the military have led to a pause in international economic support. The early restoration of a credible, civilian-led transitional Government can create the conditions for the resumption of much-needed economic reforms and for international support, he added.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France), emphasized that whereas the road map presented by the Special Representative is in no way a prescribed course of action, it identifies areas in which dialogue can resume. The immediate priority is to re-establish a democratic transition. The suppression of demonstrations, sexual violence and harassment of civil society are exacerbating tensions every day, she noted, condemning the violence that has left nearly 90 people dead since 25 October and many injured. It is up to the military authorities to provide a way out of the crisis by returning to constitutional order, guaranteeing fundamental freedoms, freeing political detainees, and prosecuting those responsible for atrocities against civilians, she stressed. They must also guarantee the right of the Sudanese people to express their views peacefully, without fear of violence. Noting the increasing violence in Darfur, she encouraged the authorities to pursue their contacts with groups that have not signed the Juba agreements, as well as their efforts to calm tensions in eastern Sudan. France will remain beside the Sudanese people, she pledged, vowing: “We will continue our cooperation with civil society, and this is why we will maintain our humanitarian assistance, as will the European Union, whose humanitarian aid has amounted to €55 million.”
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that Sudan needs a transition framework that moves the country towards free and fair elections, reworks the role of security services as participants in Government, and that is broadly acceptable to the people to facilitate a Sudanese-led political process that will restore a civilian-led transition to democracy. For such a process to be effective, she said, the military and security services must create an environment in which all actors can participate safely in negotiations. She went on to emphasize that the authorities must immediately end the unjust detention of civil society activists, politicians, journalists, cultural figures and humanitarian workers; allow media outlets to reopen; and end communications blackouts. Moreover, State actors must stop the terrible violence perpetrated against peaceful protesters, she stressed, calling upon the authorities to hold those responsible for human rights abuses and violations to account without delay. Reaffirming her country’s support for Sudan’s pursuit of a democratic and prosperous State, the United States will continue to use the tools at its disposal to stop violence, press for restoration of the democratic transition, and to ensure sustained and unhindered humanitarian access to all conflict-affected and displaced populations. Expressing concern about continued clashes in Darfur and violence elsewhere in Sudan, she urged the authorities to implement the Government’s own national plan for civilian protection.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), also speaking for Gabon and Kenya, noted the assessment by the African Union and IGAD that “the current political impasse in Sudan is more complicated than widely appreciated”. There is mistrust of externally led interventions on both sides, he said. Noting that the activities of UNITAMS should not be conducted in isolation, he emphasized that they must be coordinated closely with those of IGAD and the African Union in pursuit of a peaceful settlement of the current political impasse. The role of regional leaders remains indispensable to the transition process, as does the support of international partners, he stressed.
The partnership between UNITAMS and the relevant regional organizations, he continued, should develop further into a systematic, operational, and strategic partnership rooted in shared values and a strong commitment to international cooperation adapted to the complex security and socioeconomic challenges facing Sudan, which remain immense. Recalling that a sharp rise in food prices was at the heart of the Sudanese people’s uprising against the Government in 2019, he pointed out that the challenge has worsened today, with the interruption of access to markets and the suspension of financial assistance programmes. He went on to state that the higher prices of goods and services, shortages of basic goods — including food and medicines - are projected to worsen with the ongoing war in Ukraine.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) pointed out that the political crisis in Sudan is not subsiding and that acute humanitarian and socioeconomic challenges remain, compounded by the near-complete suspension of donor assistance. Welcoming the military’s stated intention to hold general elections in June 2023, she called on all Sudanese parties to be guided by national interests and refrain from taking steps that could lead to new clashes. Objecting to the biased, politicized approaches contained in the Secretary-General’s most recent report, she pointed out that, rather than focusing on tasks like creating institutions to facilitate the holding of general elections, it focuses on secondary matters such as human rights, the rule of law and gender dimensions. She called on the United Nations special political mission to fully comply with its mandate and accord due attention to all components thereof. Also noting that some Council members and Western media have blamed the Russian Federation for global economic instability — particularly in the energy and food sectors — she stressed that any potential food crisis will not be caused by her country’s special military operation in Ukraine, but by unlawful, unilateral economic sanctions imposed by the West. Against that backdrop, she called on countries currently experiencing economic difficulties to “not give in to anti-Russian slogans but look at the situation through the lens of their own vital interests”.
T.S. TIRUMURTI (India) said that political insecurity in Sudan reflects the tenuous state of the democratic transition process and has negatively affected the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement. He called on all stakeholders to demonstrate the political will to build consensus and foster national unity, stressing that the 2019 constitutional document should guide the way forward. Noting efforts by the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), he expressed hope that such efforts will return Sudan to the path towards civilian rule, democracy and peace. On the economic front, he expressed hope that the international community will reconsider its decision to cease economic support given the adverse impact on the country’s civilian population, adding that “Sudan needs our collective support”. The support of UNITAMS will be critical over the coming months — particularly in assisting with the political transition and implementing the Peace Agreement — and he called on the same to focus on implementing its core mandate in close partnership with the African Union and IGAD.
DAI BING (China) said the situation in Sudan is generally moving in the right direction, cautioning against creating artificial division while welcoming the launch of a political process by the Special Representative with 110 groups involved. Turning to Sudan’s letter to the Council President, the Secretary-General’s report should reflect the situation on the ground more accurately. The security in Darfur is largely stable. Sudan faces difficulty in relaunching its economic growth, he said, expressing regret that some international organizations suspended support and calling on UNITAMS to be mobilized to assist Sudan’s economy. Sanctions against Sudan should be lifted as soon as possible, as there is an urgent need to strengthen the country’s security capacity. In this regard, benchmarks for lifting such measures must be developed by 31 August, as set out in the relevant resolution. Unilateral sanctions only create new economic and humanitarian troubles.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), noting the horrific reports of the gang rape of a teenage girl in Khartoum two weeks ago by a large group of uniformed Sudanese security forces, said the systematic terrorizing of the civilian population by those forces has been facilitated by granting them new powers and immunities. She commended the young woman’s bravery in coming forward and called on the Sudanese authorities to carry out an investigation into the heinous crime. Also voicing concern about the continued detention of protestors, activists and leading political figures, she underscored the need to return to the path of transition, peacebuilding and the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement. The hard won economic and governance reforms have been unwound by the coup before they had a chance to fully deliver for the people, she said, adding that Sudan is vulnerable to the knock-on effects of the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, which is driving up the cost of basic food staples. To effectively address the looming economic and humanitarian catastrophe, there must be a return to constitutional order and a civilian-led democratic transition. Meanwhile, the European Union and the international community will ensure that humanitarian support continues to flow to those that need it most in Sudan. Noting the political consultative process facilitated by the African Union and IGAD, she called on all parties to engage with that process in good faith, adding that the meaningful participation of women will be critical to ensuring its lasting success.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said that continued violence, an influx of refugees from Ethiopia, the impact of climate change and a lack of essential services have made a difficult situation in Sudan worse, exacerbated further by food insecurity caused by Russian aggression in Ukraine. Expressing concern over human rights violations — especially those committed by security forces — he underscored that the Sudanese authorities must respect the rights of protestors and supported human-rights reporting by UNITAMS. Such authorities must also immediately release all political prisoners, he stressed, as “peaceful solutions through negotiations cannot be found when main interlocutors and actors are behind bars”. Lack of implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement risks further instability, which has recently spread from Khartoum to other parts of the country — including a particularly noticeable surge of violence in Darfur. To avoid a total political and economic collapse and endless conflict, authorities must meet key benchmarks and accelerate the implementation of transitional security arrangements contained in the Peace Agreement, he added.
MONA JUUL (Norway), welcoming UNITAMS’ role in concluding the first phase of political consultations, supported close cooperation in the next between the United Nations, the African Union and IGAD. It is key to build on lessons learned from 2019, and the process must be inclusive, representative of historically marginalized groups and ensure the full, equal and meaningful participation of women. Noting the deteriorating situations in Darfur and South Kordofan, she expressed concern over increased military mobilization, political exploitation of intercommunal clashes, new displacement, increased food insecurity and grave violations against women and children. National authorities bear the primary responsibility for protecting civilians and preventing conflict across the country, and she called for the swift implementation of the national plan for civilian protection, with support from UNITAMS. She added that only an inclusive political settlement will enable her country to engage as it did before the coup and, further, that such a settlement is the surest path to economic recovery, an improved humanitarian situation and strengthened protection for civilians.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) welcomed the first round of inclusive consultations on a political process, describing it as a task that the Council clearly mandated to the special political mission in Sudan. It is far from a simple, straightforward duty, but the first round has stimulated Sudan to reach further convergence. These broad consultations have also enabled diverse voices to take part in the political debate once again. Women, men, girls, boys and young Sudanese citizens have all been part of the transformation since 2019. Inclusivity is key to the way forward. Cautioning that foreign-led processes are even close to replacing local ownership, he stressed that Sudanese inputs are all essential to build consensus and then help breaking the stalemate that has beset politics in Sudan and risked hard-earned milestones in the country and all the region.
JUAN GÓMEZ ROBLEDO VERDUZCO (Mexico), recognizing the talks’ inclusive process, where the voices of civil society, political parties, activists, academia and journalists were heard, underscored that a third of those who participated were women and were representatives of women’s rights organizations. Expressing concern with violence in Darfur and other parts of Sudan, he condemned the intercommunal violence, the sexual aggression against women and the serious violations of the rights of children, including the disappearance of minors. It is deplorable that the broad powers given to security forces have been translated into an abuse of force and violations of human rights, he said. In that context, there must be direct interaction with the expert designated by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to assess the situation in Sudan, he said, calling upon government authorities to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court. Noting the increase in the number of people experiencing food insecurity, as well as the attacks on and pillaging of supplies and offices of the World Food Programme (WFP), he called on the authorities to guarantee security for both humanitarian staff, as well as for the supplies that they provide. He also called on the Sudanese authorities to redouble their efforts to guarantee the full implementation of the national plan for the protection of civilians and to make progress on the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), Council President for March, spoke in her national capacity, pointing out that despite the economic reforms that Sudan has implemented over the last two years, the suspension of international assistance has negatively affected its economy. Noting that inflation averaged 350 per cent in 2021, she said food prices have risen sharply and the provision of basic goods and services has been severely constrained. She cautioned that a projected 14 million people will require humanitarian assistance in 2022. She also highlighted that less than 5 per cent of Sudanese are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, calling for investment in the national health system. Concerning the security situation, she welcomed steps to make the Darfur Permanent Ceasefire Committee operational, while noting that requires international donors to allocate adequate logistical and financial resources. She went on to underscore the international community’s primary responsibility to incentivize greater progress and a successful political transition in Sudan, while calling upon that country’s friends and partners — including the Council — to support Sudanese aspirations in a manner that respects that country’s sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity.
AMMAR MOHAMMED MAHMOUD MOHAMMED (Sudan) said that to surmount the political situation in his country requires consensus around a comprehensive vision based on the four elements proposed by the President of the Sovereignty Council: they are engaging in in-depth dialogues involving all political and social actors in the country, except the former governing party; establishing a Government; undertaking amendments to the Constitution; and holding free and fair elections at the end of the transitional period. Sudan’s political leadership welcomes the Mission provided that the entire process is Sudanese-owned, he said, emphasizing that its role must be limited to facilitating dialogue between the parties, without attempting to influence the outcome of their consultations. Turning to the security situation and implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement, he said the Government is coordinating fully with the parties to the peace process in implementing the terms of the Peace Agreement. He stressed that the greatest challenge to the Agreement’s implementation is the failure by the parties and international entities to fulfil their obligations.
He called upon the international community to provide financial support, considering especially the very costly and complex organizational, logistical and financial aspects. Sudan continues to implement economic reform measures, he said, noting that although such steps are quite severe for large segments of the citizenry, they are necessary to address the inherited distortions in the structure of the national economy. Among the measures Sudan has taken over the past few days, he added, is the complete liberalization of the exchange rate for the Sudanese pound against foreign currencies — part of an integrated and sustainable monetary policy reform that aims to stabilize the exchange rate and increase the banking system’s ability to attract resources. Sudan looks forward to resuming cooperation and development assistance from its bilateral partners, as well as from international financial institutions, he said, adding that it also hopes to resume support for its social protection programme. He went on to call for international humanitarian assistance to help Sudan to care for hundreds of refugees from neighbouring countries.
Turning to the Secretary-General’s report and the Mission’s objectives, he noted that UNTAMS did not make much progress during the reporting period. Although the report covers the past three months, it returns unnecessarily to previous events not covered by the Council’s reporting period, he emphasized. “The report included many exaggerated or wrong information, especially on allegations of sexual violence and violations of human rights,” he said, pointing out: “Most of what happened incorporated in the report is far from true and is not similar to the Government’s report of those events.” Therefore, for the Security Council to objectively assess the situation correctly, the Mission’s reports must be more credible, impartial and professional, he stressed. Noting that Sudan has provided the Council with its comments on the document, he affirmed that partners will continue their efforts to make the transition a success.