UNITAMS SRSG Mr. Volker Perthes Remarks to the Security Council 24 May 2022
Thank you Madam President, Members of the Security Council,
Thank you for the opportunity to brief you once again on the situation in Sudan. Since I last briefed you, the overall situation has remained precarious, with much at stake – including Sudan’s political, social and economic stability. Time is short for the Sudanese to reach a political solution to forge a way out of the crisis.
Since we have established a “trilateral mechanism” to facilitate Sudan-Sudan talks, myself, the AU and the IGAD Envoys have stated that these talks will only succeed in a conducive environment. We also said that it is up to the Sudanese, particularly the authorities, to create this environment. And indeed, since I last briefed you on this subject in March, some positive steps have been taken in this regard. From late March through today, the Sudanese authorities have released at least 86 detainees, including high profile officials affiliated with the work of the so-called Dismantling Committee and the violence against protestors by security forces appears to have decreased, overall though regretfully violations still happen.
I have commended the recent release of detainees as an important step towards creating conducive conditions and re-building trust. However, around 110 persons reportedly remain in detention in Khartoum, Port Sudan and elsewhere. And this past Saturday, another protestor was killed by security forces. If the authorities want to build trust, it is essential that those responsible for violence against protesters be held to account.
It is time for all violence to end. We have urged the authorities to reach out to the public, to make clear that they are supporting dialogue as the only way to a reach a political solution. Let me use this forum to call on the military leadership and the Sovereignty Council to make an announcement that, in order to make this dialogue happen, they will release the remaining detainees, cease arbitrary arrests, and importantly, lift the state of emergency without limitations.
Demands for change and demands for the restoration of the democratic transitional process continue with largely peaceful protests. Moreover, a growing number of Sudanese parties and political coalitions have come forward with initiatives to solve the political crisis. The Resistance Committees in Khartoum State have completed their political charter and are engaging in dialogue with committees in the other states. As Sudan continues to confront further uncertainty, there is a shared sense of urgency, and many parties are seeking common ground and are increasingly open to dialogue. There is also growing recognition of the need for civilian-military dialogue on a way out of the crisis and there is more public debate around this issue.
Against this backdrop, the trilateral mechanism of the AU, the UN and IGAD has held initial talks with key components of Sudanese society and the political scene throughout April, the month of Ramadan. This included political parties and coalitions, representatives from resistance committees, youth, the military, armed groups, Sufi leaders, women’s groups and academics. The aim was to canvass the views of the stakeholders on the substance and format of Sudanese-led and Sudanese-owned talks. Almost all components have shown willingness to engage positively with our facilitation efforts. At the same time, some key stakeholders continue to reject face-to-face talks with other counterparts, or they prefer to participate indirectly.
Therefore, and in the aftermath of the initial release of detainees and a reduction in violence, we began a process of indirect talks on substance between the parties on 12 May. Core issues include the term and composition of key constitutional organs, the future relationship between the military and the civilian components, and the mechanism and criteria for the selection of 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. Once a sufficient conducive environment is in place, the trilateral mechanism will convene the key stakeholders around a negotiation table. This can and should happen without further delay. But let me be clear: There are also spoilers who do not want a transition to democracy, or refuse a solution through dialogue. The Sudanese parties should not allow such spoilers to undermine the opportunity of finding a negotiated exit to the crisis and thereby allow the appointment of an agreed-upon government with a work programme from the remainder of the transition period. Let me also say that the trilateral mechanism is robustly supporting the inclusion of women in the political process both by strongly encouraging the parties to include at least 40 percent women in their delegations, which is in line with the Constitutional Document. And at the same time, we have facilitated, via a Sudanese-led process, the inclusion of a delegation of women drawn from throughout Sudan, who bring together expertise, legitimacy from their communities, and diversity in terms of age and regional background.
The lack of a political agreement so far and of a fully functioning government is also impacting on the security situation. Recent events in Darfur, including the destruction and displacement in Kerenik locality and ongoing violence in Geneina between 22 and 26 April have once again exposed the deficits in the state’s ability to provide security and protection for civilians. I briefed this Council on these events on 27 April. Since that briefing, a relative calm has been restored to the area. Government forces and several high-level delegations were deployed to address the violence, and a cessation of hostilities agreement was signed between the conflicting communities on 29 April between Arabs and Massalit in Geneina. The Permanent Ceasefire Committee, chaired by UNITAMS, has engaged to de-escalate tensions and has launched an investigation into possible ceasefire violations in the context of these events following the submission of formal complaints from the parties. The risk of a new outbreak of violence remains high nonetheless. Despite the tragedy of these events, and the heinous crimes committed against civilians, it was encouraging to see that armed groups and the regular forces have accepted to use the Permanent Ceasefire Committee as a joint institution to resolve the conflict.
Ultimately, protection of civilians requires that root causes of conflict are addressed, including issues of decades long marginalization, land issues, the return of IDPs and refugees. In the meantime, however, physical protection must be provided, and must be a priority for the Sudanese government and for the regional and state governments in Darfur. UNITAMS continues to regularly advise and train members of the Sudanese Police Forces in community policing, sexual and gender-based violence protection and more generally the protection of civilians. Moreover, the Sudanese authorities made some significant progress in standing up the Joint Security Keeping Force in Darfur as provided for in the Juba Peace Agreement. A first batch of 2,000 signatory armed movements personnel will complete their 90-days training at the end of this month and be deployed to North, West and South Darfur. The government has agreed to give them a regular salary at par with Sudanese Armed Forces soldiers once they graduate. Also, a batch of 80 officers have been selected from this batch to receive further training and then be integrated into the regular forces. The UN, my Mission, is currently providing training to non-commissioned officers from this group on human rights, international humanitarian law and protection of civilians. Going forward, adequate logistical support is required to operationalize the Assembly Areas for armed groups and make further progress on the deployment of the Joint Security Keeping Forces.
Also, once a political agreement is reached, additional material support will be required from the international community to implement other aspects of the Juba Peace Agreement, including key protocols that address the root causes of conflict.
The political stalemate continues to exact a heavy socio-economic toll. Humanitarian needs are growing with a significant impact on the most vulnerable. This, coupled with global geopolitical factors, continues to drive up prices for basic goods in Sudan. In April, staple food prices increased on average 15 percent compared to March and remained 250 percent higher than last year. The combined effects of political instability, economic crisis, poor harvests and global supply shocks are having a disastrous impact on inflation and on the affordability of food. The number of Sudanese facing acute hunger is projected to double to about 18 million by September this year. OCHA has allocated 20 million dollars in response from its Central Emergency Response Fund and donors continue to provide humanitarian assistance. However, the Humanitarian Response Plan for 2022 has only been funded at an abysmal 13 percent. In the absence of a political agreement to restore constitutional legitimacy, much international development assistance and engagements by international financial institutions has remained paused. Some donors have also placed restrictions on assistance that goes through state systems, to reach public sector workers like teachers and health care providers. While the primary responsibility for changing these dynamics lies with the Sudanese stakeholders themselves, I am concerned about the long-term consequences, as we watch the further erosion of Sudan’s already fragile state capacity and human capital.
Sudan also runs the risk that critical assistance from the International Development Association’s 19 programme (IDA-19) which had been allocated to Sudan as part of the HIPC process will be reallocated to other countries by the end of June if a political solution to the crisis is not reached. Additionally, some donor states have warned that international financial support to the Sudanese government, including debt relief, would not resume without a credible civilian government.
So if a solution to the current impasse is not found, the consequences will be felt beyond Sudan’s borders and for a generation. This is a message that I and the two Envoys continue to convey to Sudanese interlocutors. Ultimately, it is up to the Sudanese to agree on a way out of this crisis.
The crisis facing Sudan is homegrown and can only be resolved by the Sudanese. A solution is needed. Most Sudanese stakeholders realise that the geopolitical environment is becoming more challenging, and that the gaze of the international community is deflected from Sudan. They therefore expect the trilateral mechanism to facilitate the difficult process of finding a consensual path out of the crisis. Too much is at stake, too many hopes and aspirations impacted. I urge the Sudanese to seize this opportunity. I remain grateful for the support of the international community, and particularly the members of this Council for our efforts.