New political deal ‘offers a path’ to realizing Sudanese aspirations
The signing of a political framework agreement in Sudan could signal a way out of the uncertainty and insecurity sparked by the October 2021 coup, the head of the UN mission in the country, UNITAMS, told the Security Council on Wednesday.
Special Representative Volker Perthes commended military and civilian leaders, saying they have come a long way since then.
“The framework agreement now offers a path to realize the aspirations of Sudan’s youth, women and men,” he said, speaking from the capital, Khartoum.
Path to democracy
The document is supposed to lay the groundwork towards a final accord and the formation of a new civilian government over a two-year period.
“A final political agreement, once reached, will lead to a civilian government that should be in a better position to address the security, humanitarian and economic situation, should pave the way towards building a democratic State based on human rights, rule of law and gender equality, and provide a future for the young men and women of Sudan,” said Mr. Perthes.
“It will also allow for resumption of peace talks with movements that that have yet to make peace with the government, and for the restoration of broad-based international support to Sudan.”
Address critical issues
The signing of the framework agreement marked the first step in a two-phase process.
Though describing it as an important breakthrough, Mr. Perthes said “critical contentious issues” will need to be addressed in the final accord.
They include security sector reform and the merger of forces, transitional justice, and implementation of the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement signed by the transitional government and several armed groups in Darfur.
Meanwhile, UNITAMS and the UN Country Team in Sudan have already begun to coordinate with the international community d to ensure a “package” of support for a new transitional period.
Danger of ‘spoilers’
Mr. Perthes warned that although progress on the political front is encouraging, it can still be derailed by “challenges and spoilers”.
A sufficiently inclusive process could safeguard against those seeking to undermine the process.
“Concerted advocacy from the international community is also needed to encourage constructive positions from those who are not, or do not want to be, part of the process, or do not want to be part of the process yet,” he said.
Women and youth
Furthermore, meaningful participation of women and youth will also be critical to the success of the political process and the transition.
The UN official noted that the Women’s Rights Group continues to call for women’s meaningful participation in the process at a minimum of 40 per cent across delegations.
He was encouraged that some women’s demands were included in the framework agreement.
Coup and conflict
Mr. Perthes also used his briefing to reflect on the situation since the 25 October 2021 coup and subsequent political impasse.
Tensions had escalated into violence in areas that were previously calm. More than 900 people have been killed since the beginning of the year, and many more have been injured in violent conflict, with significant clashes occurring in the Blue Nile, West Kordofan, and Central Darfur.
Overall, more than 260,000 people across Sudan have been displaced by conflict since January.
“These are man-made, human made, catastrophes, often caused by disputes over access to resources, and seemingly exacerbated by political manipulation in more than a few cases,” said Mr. Perthes.
Humanitarians estimate that a third of Sudan’s population, 15.8 million people, will need aid assistance in 2023, representing a 1.5 million increase over this year.
Meanwhile, the number of people affected by floods this year reached 349,000, surpassing the 2021 figure.
Although the UN and partners managed to reach more than nine million people through September, the Humanitarian Response Plan for the country is just 41.3 per cent funded.
Excessive use of force
Mr. Perthes also addressed the human rights situation in Sudan, which remains concerning.
“Protests against military rule have continued and have largely remained peaceful. More often than not, security forces have acted, however, or reacted, with excessive use of force,” he said.
The latest incident occurred on 24 November when two people were killed in Omdurman, bringing the total death toll among protesters to 121 since the coup, and more than 8,000 injured.
Respect human rights
“As I have stated repeatedly before this Council, it is incumbent upon the authorities to respect the right to peaceful assembly, and to refrain from excessive use of force even when provoked,” he said. “Equally important is to ensure proper due process for defendants facing trial.”
Last month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, travelled to Sudan, marking his first field visit since assuming the post in October.
For Mr. Perthes, the visit “is testament to the unwavering commitment of the United Nations to the upholding of human rights in Sudan.”