Despite major political developments at a national level, which have led to the establishment of a civilian-led government, the security situation in the Darfur region of Sudan remains unstable, UN peace chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix briefed the Security Council on Thursday.
Fresh from a visit to the country, the Under-Secretary-General said that the effects of talks between armed groups and the Sudanese government have yet to be witnessed on the ground, and that with the shift of attention by the authorities towards security challenges in the capital, Khartoum, incidents of criminality in Darfur have increased.
Camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been particularly affected, and there has been an increase in the number of farms destroyed, and land occupied during the period of military rule that followed the overthrow of former dictator, Omar al Bashir.
In addition, armed clashes between rebel forces of the Sudan Liberation Army and Government troops, have continued in the Jebel Marra district in West Darfur.
During the Darfur conflict between the Government and their militiamen allies, and rebel groups, which began in 2003, the UN estimated that around 300,000 were killed, and around 2.7 million forced from their homes. Former president al-Bashir was indicted for war crimes including genocide, nine years ago.
The humanitarian situation in Darfur is deteriorating, warned Mr. Lacroix, with more than eight million people believed to be in need of assistance or protection. In parts of the region, almost a quarter of the population is estimated to be facing serious levels of food insecurity. The economy, he continued, is in crisis, compounding the impact of conflict, political instability, natural hazards and disease outbreak.
From peacekeeping to peacebuilding
Mr. Lacroix noted that his trip to Sudan had given him the opportunity to review progress in the transition of the UN’s presence in Darfur – in the shape of UNAMID, the UN-African Union Mission – from peacekeeping to peacebuilding, ahead of the envisioned closure of UNAMID.
The new Sudanese Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, requested a “well-sequenced transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding”, he continued, reminding the Security Council of the link between the resumption of talks aimed at reaching a peace deal across Darfur, and a successful exit strategy for UNAMID.
The Under-Secretary-General briefed that a Joint Task Force, between the UN and the Sudanese Government, has been established, in order to present options for a possible peacekeeping presence to succeed UNAMID. The UN and African Union, he continued, have stressed to the Government their support for a peace process that remains inclusive of all armed groups in Darfur and the “Two Areas” (South Kordofan and Blue Nile).
As requested by the Security Council, two options for drawing down UNAMID have been recommended. The first involves reducing UNAMID’s footprint from 13 locations to five team sites, mainly in the Central Jebel Marra area where armed elements are still active. The second option would see a complete drawdown of UNAMID by the end of June 2020. Mr. Lacroix emphasized that the next phase of the transition would align with the pace of peace talks.
Mr. Lacroix concluded by emphasizing the importance of improving the economy of Darfur, an element that is, he said, essential for peace in the region. Otherwise, positive gains made by the Sudanese leadership towards political and economic stability risk being lost.
For this reason, he continued, the Secretary-General has called for the lifting of economic and financial sanctions on Sudan, and the removal of Sudan from the list of countries supporting terrorism.