United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) - Security Council Open VTC

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24-Apr-2020 01:38:41
Challenges presented by COVID-19 will delay closure of Darfur mission, Under-Secretary-General tells Security Council.

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Delegate Says Sudan, African Union, United Nations Need to Agree on Withdrawal Road Map That Ensures Process Is Carefully Managed, Conditions-Based

Plans to close the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) by 31 October have been rendered impractical by the spread of COVID-19 and challenges envisioned around the June rainy season, the head of United Nations Peace Operations told the Security Council in a 24 April videoconference meeting, as delegates outlined their views on extending the drawdown beyond the current mandate.

Detailing recent events, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix said Sudan has pushed ahead with its democratic transition. Progress has been made on women’s participation in decision-making, as well as on accountability and political reforms, in accordance with the 2019 Constitutional Declaration. To be sure, change is being resisted by some, as seen in the “outrageous” 9 March attack on the convoy of Sudan Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

Nonetheless, he said gains also have been made in the Juba peace talks between the transitional authorities and Sudanese armed groups — under the auspices of South Sudan President Salva Kiir, with final agreements signed on the central, northern and eastern tracks of the negotiations. On the Blue Nile and South Kordofan track, the Government signed an agreement with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N)/Malik Agar. However, no agreement has been reached with the SPLM-N faction led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu, due to the lack of consensus around secularism and self-determination.

On the Darfur track, he said the Government signed a framework agreement with some of the armed groups, but a final deal has yet to be reached and the talks have been extended until 9 May. Unfortunately, the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW) has remained outside the process, hampering efforts to address the concerns of his supporters in Darfur. The faction did agree to a de facto ceasefire, while raising concerns about security and humanitarian conditions in Darfur, particularly in Jebel Marra. Meanwhile, SPLM-N/Abdelaziz al-Hilu extended the unilateral cessation of hostilities to parts of the Two Areas under their control for three months, except for self-defence purposes.

More broadly, he said intercommunal clashes at the end of 2019 into 2020 left 65 people dead and more than 46,000 internally displaced. Another 11,000 people fled to Chad, amid reports that Sudanese security elements had participated in the violence. The current harvest season has seen a sharp increase in attacks against farmers by pastoralists and human rights abuses — some at the hands of uniformed personnel — remain prevalent.

“These challenges underline the persistence of some of the conflict drivers in Darfur, which may go beyond the scope of the peace process and will require a heavy investment in peacebuilding,” he said. The 16 March closure of airports, seaports and land crossings, along with the suspension of peacekeeping rotations, have curtailed the movement of UNAMID personnel.

As for drawdown plans, he said the 12 March special report (document S/2020/202) outlines a sequenced closure of 14 UNAMID bases, the repatriation of 6,550 uniformed personnel and a significant reduction in civilian personnel until the end of the mandate. However, COVID-19-related travel restrictions, mandatory quarantine and limited shipping options have made it difficult to conduct even basic logistical operations.

While operational units could cease operations gradually before 31 October, he said the drawdown period will need to be extended into the dry season to allow for safe and continuous movements among UNAMID camps, as well as between Darfur and Port Sudan. For the subsequent liquidation phase, he recommended maintaining a uniformed presence in El-Fasher to ensure the protection of the logistical hub until the completion of activities.

He said the structure, mandate and timeline for the establishment of a new United Nations presence — once decided upon by the Council — will significantly impact the sequencing of UNAMID’s drawdown. It will define the number of locations to close or hand over, the number of units and equipment to repatriate, and the assets to dispose of or hand over to the follow-on presence.

Stressing that UNAMID’s drawdown “should not signal that there are no more concerns related to the protection of civilians in Darfur”, he said some of the largest camps for internally displaced persons remain extremely volatile. It is critical that the mission’s departure be accompanied by local and national protection efforts, to build trust with local and displaced populations. He encouraged Sudanese authorities to invest in these efforts immediately.

In terms of priorities, he said the new mission would reinforce peacebuilding work currently being done by UNAMID and the United Nations country team in the framework of the State Liaison Functions. It could also reinforce the advisory and support role they provide to local authorities and security services, by deploying police and military advisers. “Sudan has entered a new phase of its history,” he said. “It is critical that we configure ourselves in such a way that would enable us to respond to the needs of the Sudanese.”

Plans are under way for a possible future United Nations presence in Sudan, he said, based on discussions with authorities and the guiding principles in the 12 March special report. The goal is to achieve a smooth transition to a future mission that can help the United Nations better support Sudan’s people. As such, ensuring that every mandate has the full support of the Sudanese authorities will be a critical element in the planning. “Their consent is a key aspect of the partnership we envisage with them for the future,” he assured.

Rosemary A. DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, said challenges persisting six months after the transition have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Amid a politically fragile landscape, the humanitarian situation remains worrisome, driven by a deepening economic crisis that has increased those needing aid, from 8 million to 9.3 million at the end of 2019. At the same time, flaws in the economy have led to inflation and shortages, requiring swift support.

“We should do everything we can to support the transition and the Sudanese people in addressing the existing challenges,” she said. “We envisage a future United Nations presence that is lean, effective and innovative in employing and coordinating resources across the United Nations system.” Highlighting areas that require urgent attention, she said that to assist Sudan in its COVID-19 response, the Secretary-General has encouraged the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to show flexibility in granting Khartoum access to financial instruments.

Pointing at steps taken to advance plans for a political and peacebuilding mission that responds to the Prime Minister’s multiple requests, she said the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser was deployed to Khartoum in early March and her office has been drafting a plan. In a special report, the Secretary-General and the African Union Commission Chair recommended a follow-on presence with a Sudan-wide mandate aimed at supporting Khartoum in completing its transition.

The new mission mandate would be based on needs outlined by the Prime Minister, she said, including support for: achieving political benchmarks contained in the Constitutional Declaration; implementing peace agreements; national-led peacebuilding and strengthening of human rights and rule of law institutions; and facilitating international support for economic reforms.

Civilian protection and the integration of the mission and the United Nations country team under a single leadership are other priorities, with gender equality and implementation of the women, peace and security agenda as a strong cross-cutting priority.

Given the urgent need to establish such a mission to support the transition, she said her office and Under-Secretary-General Lacroix had instructed a team of United Nations colleagues to lead a planning exercise over the coming weeks to deliver a framework based on principles contained in the special report. While her team cannot travel to Sudan due to COVID-19 restrictions, she said a virtual planning exercise has been launched from New York and is expected to deploy to Khartoum when the situation permits.

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