Lack of Progress on Political Track Will Lead to Humanitarian Disaster in Sudan, Secretary-General’s Special Representative Warns Security Council
Khartoum Authorities ‘Cannot Act Alone’, Stresses
Permanent Representative, Calling for Support to Improve Darfur Security Situation
The lack of progress on the political track will result in humanitarian disaster in Sudan, the Head of the United Nations special political mission in that country told the Security Council today, as members diverged over the conditions under which international support should be provided.
Volker Perthes, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), told members that the situation has remained precarious since his last briefing. “Time is short for the Sudanese to reach a political solution to forge a way out of this crisis,” he warned, emphasizing that it is up to the Sudanese authorities to create an environment conducive to the success of the trilateral mechanism — involving the United Nations, the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) — to facilitate intra-Sudanese dialogue.
Outlining developments since March, he said the authorities have released 86 detainees across the country and that violence by security forces against protestors appears to have decreased overall, although violations still occur. He emphasized that, if the authorities want to build trust, “it is time for all violence to end”. He reported that his Office has urged the authorities to make clear to the public that they support dialogue as the only way to reach a political solution and to release detainees, cease arbitrary arrests and lift the state of emergency.
He went on to note that the trilateral mechanism held initial talks in April with key components of society and the political scene, with broad, diverse participation. Furthermore, on 12 May, the Office of the Special Representative began indirect talks on core issues with the parties. However, he pointed out that the effects of political instability, economic crisis, poor harvests and global supply shocks are having a “disastrous” impact. “If a solution to the current impasse is not found,” he warned, “the consequences will be felt beyond Sudan’s borders and for a generation.”
In the ensuing discussion, many Council members called upon Sudan’s military to make progress on confidence-building measures, including by releasing all political detainees and lifting the state of emergency. They stressed that restoring a civilian-led Government will enable both economic reform and the resumption of international support for Sudan. Others, while contemplating the upcoming renewal of the Mission’s mandate, emphasized the need for UNITAMS to hew strictly to its mandate in line with conditions on the ground. Members also welcomed the start of the second phase of the intra-Sudanese dialogue under the trilateral mechanism.
Kenya’s representative, also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, appealed to all actors – civilian and military – to take advantage of that platform and move expeditiously towards agreement on a viable democratic transition. Cautioning that lack of progress on the political track risks wiping out the initial gains made in economic and structural reforms, he also urged the international donor community and international financial institutions to reconsider the temporary suspension of aid to Sudan during the current global food crisis.
China’s delegate echoed that point, noting that the decision by certain countries and organizations to suspend assistance “will not help Sudan get out of its current plight”. Pointing out that the parties have demonstrated willingness to continue with the political transition despite differences on specific issues, he called on the international community to provide constructive help and avoid picking sides.
Norway’s representative emphasized the responsibility of Sudan’s authorities to mobilize the political will and resources necessary to implement the Joint Security Keeping Force as well as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration plans. An inclusive political settlement is the surest path to economic recovery, development and an improved humanitarian situation, she said, joining others in stressing that a stable situation will enable international partners to provide more support than the current precarious circumstances allow.
Sudan’s representative pointed out that, whereas work continues to form a civilian Government through democratic elections and to implement the Juba Peace Agreement, it is difficult to act alone. The international community must provide the needed technical and financial support, and UNITAMS is vital in that regard, he emphasized. He went on to state that development assistance cannot be linked to political considerations — as that would endanger peacebuilding — stressing that the international community must invest in the peace process because prosperity will help resolve conflict within communities.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Albania, Brazil, Russian Federation, India, France, Mexico, Ireland and the United States.
The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 11:31 a.m.
VOLKER PERTHES, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), said that since his last briefing, the situation has remained precarious, with much at stake for the country’s political, social and economic stability. He warned: “Time is short for the Sudanese to reach a political solution to forge a way out of this crisis.”
He said that since the establishment of the trilateral mechanism to facilitate Sudan-Sudan talks — involving the United Nations, the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority (IGAD) — its envoys have stressed that those talks will only succeed in a conducive environment. It is up to the Sudanese — particularly the authorities — to create such an environment, he emphasized.
Outlining developments since March, he said the authorities have released 86 detainees across the country, including high-profile officials affiliated with the Dismantling Committee and activists from the Resistance Committees. Violence by security forces against protestors appears to have decreased overall, although violations still occur, he added. At least 111 people reportedly remain detained in Khartoum, Port Sudan and elsewhere, he said, adding that on 21 May security forces killed another protestor, bringing the total death toll to 96. He stressed that if the authorities want to build trust, it is essential that the perpetrators are held to account. “It is time for all violence to end.”
He reported that his Office has urged the authorities to reach out to the public, make clear they support dialogue as the only way to a reach a political solution, and release detainees, cease arbitrary arrests and lift the state of emergency. He noted that demands for restoration of the democratic transitional process continue, marked by peaceful protests, although seemingly with reduced intensity. Moreover, a growing number of political parties and eminent national figures have come forward with initiatives to resolve the political crisis. Resistance Committees in Khartoum State have completed their political charter and are engaging in dialogue with committees in the other states.
Against that backdrop, the trilateral mechanism held initial talks in April with key components of society and the political scene, he reported, adding that political coalitions, representatives from resistance committees, youth, the military, armed groups, Sufi leaders, women’s groups and academics participated. He explained that the aim was to canvass views on the substance and format of Sudanese-led and owned talks. Noting that some continue to reject face-to-face talks with other counterparts or prefer to participate indirectly, he said that this Office began indirect talks with the parties on 12 May, covering the core issues: the term and composition of constitutional organs; the future relationship between the military and civilian components; and the mechanism and criteria for selecting a Prime Minister. “Forging shared understandings around these issues will help chart the way out of the crisis and address the institutional vacuum after the coup,” he said.
On the security front, he said recent events in West Darfur, including the destruction and displacement in Kerenik and ongoing violence in Geneina between 22 and 26 April, have again exposed deficits in the State’s ability to provide security and protection for civilians. Government forces and high-level delegations were deployed to address the violence, and a cessation-of-hostilities agreement between the conflicting communities was signed on 29 April. “The risk of a new outbreak of violence remains high,” he warned.
The Sudanese authorities made significant progress in standing up the Joint Security Keeping Force in Darfur, as provided for in the Juba Peace Agreement for Peace in Sudan, he reported. A first batch of 2,000 signatory armed movements will complete their training this month and deploy to north, west and south Darfur. The Government has agreed to give them a regular salary at par with soldiers of the Sudanese Armed Force once they graduate, he noted. The United Nations, for its part, is providing training to non-commissioned officers from that group. Going forward, logistical support is required to operationalize the Assembly Areas for armed groups and deploy the Joint Security Keeping Forces, he said.
On the humanitarian front, he said staple food prices in April jumped 15 per cent compared to March and remained 250 per cent higher than respective prices in 2021. The effects of political instability, economic crisis, poor harvests and global supply shocks are having a “disastrous” impact, with the number of Sudanese facing acute hunger projected to double to 18 million by September, yet the Humanitarian Response Plan is funded at an “abysmal” 13 per cent. “If a solution to the current impasse is not found, the consequences will be felt beyond Sudan’s borders and for a generation,” he stressed. “The crisis facing Sudan is entirely homegrown and can only be resolved by the Sudanese.” Noting that most stakeholders realize that the geopolitical environment is becoming more challenging, he said they therefore expect the trilateral mechanism to facilitate the process of finding a consensual path out of the crisis. “Too much is at stake, too many hopes and aspirations impacted,” he said, urging the Sudanese to seize this opportunity.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) said the Sudanese military must make progress on confidence-building measures, including by releasing all political detainees, ending the excessive use of force against protestors and lifting the state of emergency. “This is not a matter that only concerns Sudan’s political elites,” he noted, emphasizing that political progress will be vital to alleviating the economic hardship and humanitarian suffering of Sudan’s people. Furthermore, he said, restoring a credible, civilian-led Government will create the conditions for much-needed economic reforms and for the resumption of international support, including debt relief. He went on to call upon the authorities to ensure the right structures are in place for a productive, sustainable partnership between the country and UNITAMS.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya), speaking also for Gabon and Ghana, expressed confidence that the people of Sudan will find a quick solution to the current political impasse, welcoming the start of the second phase of the intra-Sudanese dialogue under the trilateral facilitation of the United Nations, the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). He appealed to all actors, civilian or military, to take advantage of that platform and move expeditiously and unconditionally towards agreement on a viable democratic transition. The dialogue must include women and young people, who were the pillars of the 2019 revolution, as well as other marginalized groups and communities.
Warning that the lack of progress on the political track risks wiping out the initial gains made in economic and structural reforms, he urged that, during this global food crisis, the international donor community and international financial institutions reconsider the temporary suspension of aid to Sudan and continue their support programmes and projects to sustain Sudanese lives and livelihoods. In that regard, the UNITAMS mandate remains valid and relevant, he emphasized, expressing support for its renewal. “What is critical is for the Council to build the capacity of the Mission to effectively and efficiently implement its mandate,” he stressed.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) welcomed the concerted tripartite efforts to engage with Sudan’s political parties and stakeholders. That approach demonstrates the potential for the active engagement of regional actors to help forge a common understanding and build consensus on the main tracks of the transitional process, including transitional constitutional arrangements, selection of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Government programmes, and an electoral timeline, she said. The recent release of several political detainees is a step towards building trust and confidence between the parties and paved the way for the indirect talks between them, she noted, emphasizing that debt relief and development assistance from international financial institutions and other international donors remain critical to preventing the collapse of Sudan’s economy.
DAI BING (China), noting that the parties have demonstrated willingness to continue with the political transition despite differences over certain issues, urged them to “keep in mind the big picture” and pursue dialogue. Meanwhile, the international community should provide constructive help and avoid picking sides, he said. He went on to emphasize that the Council’s sanctions are hindering the Government’s security capacity, expressing hope for the earnest implementation of resolution 2620 (2022) and the establishment of clear benchmarks for changing the sanctions regime. On the economic situation, he pointed out that intercommunal conflicts in the Darfur region are triggered by competition over resources and stressed that the decision by certain countries and international organizations to suspend assistance “will not help Sudan get out of its current plight”.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) expressed deep concern that accountability measures put in place by the previous civilian Government have been reversed and dismantled by the military authorities. Welcoming the trilateral cooperation between the United Nations, the African Union and IGAD, as well as the creation of a women’s support group facilitated by UNITAMS, she urged the military and security forces to release all political detainees and end arbitrary arrests. She went on to emphasize that accountability is key for Sudan to end rising violence in Darfur and to find lasting political solutions. She also expressed concern about the verbal attacks by the authorities against UNITAMS and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, as well as attempts to hinder their work. Sudan’s dire economic circumstances are due to the lack of political will on the part of the authorities, she stressed.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) emphasized his concern about the protection of civilians, extending condolences to the families of the victims in Kereneik in West Darfur. Deploring the attacks against health-care facilities and the violence-related mass displacement, he also expressed support over the investigation announced by the Sovereignty Council and called for additional measures to provide protection for civilians in Darfur. He went on to stress that solutions to Sudan’s political stalemate should include multilateral and regional support. Regarding the women, peace and security agenda, he commended the Security Council’s Informal Expert Group for their effort to place the spotlight on related challenges. The legitimacy of both the ongoing consultations and Sudan’s transition to democracy is firmly rooted in women’s leadership and political participation, he said.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation), noting that Sudan remains in the throes of a political crisis and feverish street conditions, expressed full support for the Government’s efforts to stabilize the situation and forge a political dialogue. Authorities must reaffirm their commitment to the Juba Peace Agreement and declare their intention to conduct elections in July 2023, she emphasized. Expressing concern that radicals continue to reject dialogue with the Government, including through mediation, she said the Russian Federation expects the Trilateral Mechanism to foster the inter-Sudanese dialogue and is confident that the Sudanese can resolve their issues through that process. She went on to urge the special political mission to follow its mandate strictly, paying equal attention to all its components. While recent intercommunal clashes are worrying, the Government reacted in a manner that is in line with its own capacities and resources, she noted. Underscoring the importance of ensuring a balanced stance in relation to events, she expressed regret that the report is politicized, stressing the need to bear in mind the various features of Sudan’s political culture. Pointing out that the Council will soon consider the UNITAMS mandate, she expressed her delegation’s objection to using the report to exert pressure on the Sudanese authorities. Sudan has a rich multi-ethnic political past and present, and United Nations assistance should be based on respect for the host country’s opinion, she underlined.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) noted the lack of any forward movement during the reporting period on issues related to the constitutional order and the democratic transition. However, the formation of the Trilateral Cooperation Mechanism has generated some momentum in the intra-Sudanese talks recently, he said, encouraging it to continue its efforts and help Sudanese stakeholders find a way forward. Emphasizing that the support of UNITAMS will be critical during the coming months, particularly in assisting the political transition, implementing the Juba Peace Agreement and in peacebuilding efforts, he said the Mission should focus, after its mandate is renewed by 3 June, on implementing its core tasks, in close partnership with the African Union and IGAD. He went on to point out his country’s long-standing relations with Sudan, saying that, over the years, India has helped that country through several projects under concessional lines of credit, capacity-building and humanitarian assistance.
MONA JUUL (Norway), emphasizing the importance of addressing the root causes of recurrent conflicts, noted, however, the need for political will and resources. Mobilizing resources, including for the Joint Security Keeping Force and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, is the responsibility of the authorities, she said. Noting that an inclusive political settlement is the surest path to economic recovery, development, an improved humanitarian situation and stronger protection of civilians, she said a stable situation will enable Norway and other partners, together with the authorities, to do more than the current precarious circumstances allow. UNITAMS continues to play a key role in helping Sudan reach that goal, she noted, stressing that the Mission is indispensable in the current situation.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) drew attention to commitments requiring action as soon as possible through a democratic transition, with elections at the end of that process. France awaits implementation of all measures announced, she added, emphasizing that all detainees must be freed and the state of emergency lifted. She called for an end to violence against protesters and for the elimination of sexual violence. Stressing that everything must be done to ensure the political crisis does not worsen the security situation in Darfur, she called for accelerated implementation of the joint force. Concerning the deteriorating humanitarian and economic fronts, she said European cooperation has been directed towards civil society, with humanitarian assistance maintained at €40 million in the first five months of 2022.
JUAN GÓMEZ ROBLEDO VERDUZCO (Mexico) called upon all politicians to do everything required to return Sudan to constitutional order, including lifting the state of emergency and freeing those arbitrarily detained. Emphasizing the importance of women’s participation, he urged the inclusion of a significant, diverse number of women in delegations working for political progress. On the worsening security situation in Darfur, he spotlighted the security vacuum created by the withdrawal of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and pointed out that increased intercommunal clashes have exposed women and children to the risks of sexual and gender-based violence. Against that backdrop, he called upon authorities to implement the national plan of action for the protection of civilians and to establish reconciliation mechanisms that “will be the pillars on which peace is built in Darfur”.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said “we may now be witnessing the slide back into military dictatorship”, amid the concurrent political, economic, food and humanitarian crises, and with half the population expected to need assistance by September. Echoing calls for a return to the transitional path and to civilian-led democratic government, through an inclusive, Sudanese-owned political dialogue, she encouraged all stakeholders to demonstrate good faith and create a conducive environment for peace talks and inclusive dialogue. She urged the authorities, in particular, to immediately end the violence against protestors and to ensure the right to peaceful assembly, lift the state of emergency, hold security forces and associated armed groups to account and release all political activists detained since the October coup. Noting that the Council just heard that women fear a return to the injustices of “the Omar al-Bashir era”, she emphasized that women’s right to play a decisive role in the economy, politics, peacebuilding and society must be protected. While welcoming the Permanent Ceasefire Committee in Darfur, she stressed the need to fully implement the National Plan on the Protection of Civilians and the Juba Peace Agreement without delay.
RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States), Council President for May, spoke in his national capacity, in support of the collaborative efforts of UNITAMS, the African Union and IGAD to facilitate the Sudanese-led process towards the transition to a civilian-led democracy. As that process gains momentum, it must ensure that women, youth and other marginalized groups enjoy meaningful participation — “that is the hallmark of a true democracy”, he said. The United States is prepared to levy consequences on those who spoil Sudan’s transition to democracy, he added, calling for the immediate cessation of the unjust detention of civil society actors, politicians, journalists and humanitarian workers. Continued violence throughout Sudan demonstrates the need for security-sector reform and transparent justice processes, he emphasized.
AL-HARITH IDRISS AL-HARITH MOHAMED (Sudan) said work continues to complete the transition and form a civilian Government through democratic elections, and to implement the Juba Peace Agreement, including its provisions relating to security and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. However, it is difficult to act alone, he emphasized, calling upon the international community to provide the needed technical and financial support to improve the security situation in Darfur. Spotlighting the vital role of UNITAMS in that regard, he said tribal clashes in that region are part of the security burden left by the previous regime. The Government is doing everything it can to find a lasting solution, including by establishing arms controls, supporting victims and providing humanitarian assistance, he said.
The Government is also implementing economic measures, he continued, expressing hope that international funding and strengthened cooperation with bilateral partners will help to ease the impacts of those reforms. Noting the Government’s desire to engage constructively with UNITAMS, he stressed the need to agree on a methodological framework that addresses the priorities of preventing conflict and strengthening stability in local communities. He went on to underline that development assistance cannot be linked to political considerations, as that would endanger peacebuilding. Prosperity will help resolve conflict within communities, and the international community must invest in the peace process, he said.