Nearly a year after the October 2021 military takeover in Sudan, the United Nations top official in that country updated Security Council members today on the African nation’s distressing political stalemate amid a worsening humanitarian and socioeconomic crisis.
Volker Perthes, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), told Council members that the country’s overall situation will deteriorate unless a political solution is found to restore a credible, fully functioning civilian-led Government. The military’s decision to withdraw from politics, alongside recent initiatives by civilian forces, offer a window of opportunity for the military and political forces to reach agreement on the way forward. “Time is of the essence, however: the longer political paralysis lasts, the more difficult it will become to return to the ‘transition’ UNITAMS is mandated to assist,” said Mr. Perthes, who last updated the Council in May. “I urge all actors to seize this opportunity and reach a credible agreement on a solution that enjoys legitimacy in the eyes of Sudanese women and men.”
The trilateral mechanism, consisting of UNITAMS, the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD,) has engaged with all the initiatives proposed by several political and civil society actors. Almost all initiatives want the trilateral mechanism to play a role, either in bringing the different programmes together, developing bridging proposals, or eventually facilitating or mediating and helping implement an agreement with the military.
The lack of implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement fosters instability while the protocols to address the factors behind the conflict in Darfur — which include equitable wealth sharing, justice and reconciliation, land reform and the return of internally displaced persons — remain unfulfilled. “In the absence of a political agreement, it will be difficult to advance these issues,” he said. Turning to the country’s humanitarian situation, Mr. Perthes said humanitarian needs are at record levels due to political instability, the economic crisis, an increase in intercommunal violence, poor harvests and now flooding. About 11.7 million people are facing acute hunger and the number is heading upward.
Ibrahim Mudawi, President of the Sudan Social Development Organization, speaking via videoconference, said that while the overthrow of the Islamic regime in 2019 let the country shift from dictatorship to democracy, the situation has deteriorated since the October 2021 military coup. Yet despite the growing insecurity — especially in Darfur — and problems with food and administration, efforts continue to reach agreement on establishing a civilian-led Government and “sending the military back to their barracks”, he said. The various factions that signed the Juba Peace Agreement must be unified into one professional army so that they are not “roaming amongst civilians”, which is the case now. Without a unified army, there will always be a risk of inter-factional fighting that might lead to a civil war and any civilian Government will lack authority.
Turning to the state of emergency across Sudan, he said many houses and villages have been destroyed by flooding, inflation is increasing and civil servants are not adequately paid. The transitional process must focus on stabilizing the economy and enabling a constitutional process that lets elections occur. A transitional-justice model must be established to address the atrocities committed during the Islamic regime’s 30-year rule. In addition, services like schools and medical facilities are inadequate and deteriorating, much of the population is homeless and women in rural or conflict-affected areas are struggling to provide food for their families as heads of household.
Council members stressed the urgency of using this window of opportunity to move Sudan forward to a civilian-led transition democracy. Ireland’s representative urged the military to enable an environment conducive to genuine progress. All stakeholders need to put aside their differences and grasp this opportunity to shape Sudan’s political future in a spirit of compromise and consensus, he said, noting that the window of opportunity may not be open for long to chart a path back to a civilian-led democratic transition. The international community must redouble their support to help consensus-building among Sudan’s democratic stakeholders and bolster the roles of UNITAMS and the trilateral mechanism. For this process to have any chance of success, women must be at its centre, he underscored.
The delegate from Brazil commended the progress made on the Joint Security Keeping Forces and said a quicker, bolder implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement is necessary. If not, the Agreement will not inspire credibility for Sudanese civilians. “Frequent outbreaks of violence have shown that palliative measures alone cannot provide security in Darfur and the two areas,” he said, referring to the South Kordofan and Blue Nile region. He welcomed the transitional constitution drafted by the Sudanese Bar Association, highlighting the participation of civil society representatives. He also voiced his support for a political dialogue that is inclusive, Sudanese-owned and paves the way for a legitimate democratic transition in Sudan.
Turning to the country’s dire and worsening humanitarian situation, Albania’s delegate said recent torrential rains and severe flooding led to hundreds of victims and thousands of injured as homes, infrastructure and crops were destroyed. About 14.3 million people need humanitarian assistance and up to 11.7 million people will be vulnerable to food insecurity. Sudanese authorities must provide unfettered humanitarian access to everyone affected by conflict, and end intercommunal violence, particularly in the Blue Nile region.
The representative of Gabon, also speaking on behalf of Kenya and Ghana, pointed as well to the alarming deterioration of the country’s humanitarian situation, its economic crisis and the risk of food shortages. With floods and droughts exacerbating an already fragile situation and causing massive population displacement, he called on the international community to fund humanitarian operations. He urged Sudanese authorities to enable unimpeded humanitarian access, including to conflict areas, and for UNITAMS to work closely with authorities to facilitate the rapid implementation of development plans and programmes. He encouraged Sudan to use the recent progress on the ground and welcomed the draft of a new constitutional framework. He invited Sudanese authorities and all stakeholders to embrace an inclusive and constructive process.
The representative of China described the Juba Peace Agreement as “hard-won” and urged the international community to provide financial and technical support to accelerate its implementation. The Council-imposed sanctions, in relation to Darfur, have severely restricted the Sudanese Government’s ability to maintain stability and protect civilians. The measures should be adjusted to consider the evolving situations. He regretted that the Council did not lay down benchmarks for changing the sanctions regime before the 31 August deadline set by resolution 2620 (2022). Those benchmarks should be clearly defined and realistic and not go beyond the situation in Darfur and become a tool to delay the lifting of the sanctions against Sudan.
The representative of Sudan said political actors in Sudan should continue their efforts to reach a political consensus, end the stalemate and build a country where freedom, peace and justice prevail. The political process is ongoing and all parties will give precedence to Sudan’s interests and ensure the transfer of power to civilians. In addition, the military will withdraw from the political scene. The Sudanese Armed Forces have repeatedly committed to sponsoring and protecting the transition to facilitate free and fair elections. He called on the international community to provide technical and financial support to implement the Juba Peace Agreement, which has highly complex and costly security arrangements. He said UNITAMS has a role to play in implementing the Agreement and the Mission should consider what it has done to implement the Agreement at the desired pace.
Also speaking today were delegates from the United Kingdom, Norway, United Arab Emirates, United States, India, Mexico, Russian Federation and France.
The meeting began at 10:14 a.m. and ended at 12 p.m.