Ministerial session on the situation in Sudan

Ministerial session on the situation in Sudan

Date | 14 November 2023

Tomorrow (15 November), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 1185th session at the ministerial level to receive update on the situation in Sudan.

Following the opening remark of Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Djibouti, as the chairperson of the PSC for the month of November, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS) is expected to deliver a statement. Mohamed el Hacen Lebatt, Chief of Staff to the Chairperson of the AU Commission and Spokesperson on Sudan is anticipated to brief the PSC on the situation in Sudan. Workneh Gebeyehu, the Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is also expected to deliver statement both on behalf of IGAD as the regional body and as the representative of IGAD and the AU in the most recent talks in Jeddah.

In two days, the war in Sudan will finish its 7th month. Yet, there is no sign of the war slowing down, let alone ending. If anything, much of the worst-case scenarios feared about the war continue to unfold. Apart from the continuing downward spiral of the situation with mass atrocities, blatant and deliberate violations of international humanitarian law and one of the world’s worst displacement and humanitarian crises, the war is also characterized by the lack of progress from any of the multiple and poorly coordinated processes for stopping it.

The last time the PSC met to discuss Sudan was on 20 October. At that session, the PSC reiterated its call for cessation of hostilities and protection of civilians. It emphasized the role of IGAD and Sudan’s neighboring states. The session also underscored the need for AU to coordinate all efforts for peace in Sudan, although it did not specify a mechanism that is able to accomplish this rather than the approach taken thus far which failed to enable the AU to play its role effectively.

There are a number of issues of pressing concern for the PSC regarding the situation in Sudan as it convenes its session tomorrow. The first of this involves the trajectory of the war and the grave consequences of its downward spiral both for Sudan and for regional peace and security. The second aspect concerns the human rights and humanitarian dimensions of the war. The challenge for the PSC in this respect is to go beyond expression of grave concern and condemnation and take concrete action to demonstrate its commitment to the principle of non-indifference, including in the face of the genocidal mass atrocities taking place in Darfur. The third issue for tomorrow’s session concerns developments related to efforts for securing ceasefire and starting a wider and effective political process for resolving the conflict. In this respect as well, it would be of direct concern to the mandate of the PSC to identify what needs to change in the approach to AU’s role in the face of the failure of the path taken for the past seven months.

Since last month, there has been an uptick of violence in Darfur after the paramilitary force launched successive offensives in the region. As global attention shifts to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, the seven-month long conflict is taking a turn to the worst. Between 26 October and 4 November, RSF and its allied forces gained ground, claiming to seize control of South Darfur capital Nyala (the second largest city), Central Darfur capital Zalingei, and El Geneina of West Darfur. In a bid to capture all of Darfur, RSF also vowed to advance toward El Fasher of North Darfur. This expansion in the territorial control of RSF and the tightening of its grip on areas under its control speeding up the de facto division of Sudan into two parts.

This downward spiral and the associated risks carry huge ramifications for the stability of not just Sudan itself but the wider region. Among others, the vacuum that it creates would make it possible for attracting terrorist groups and the emergence of organized crimes such as illicit circulation and trading of weapons, illegal exploitation of natural resources and war economies generally. All of these conditions stand to make the conflict protracted and to deepen the involvement of various state and non-state actors in the region and beyond.

The raging war also risks dragging signatories to the JPA, who have thus far maintained neutral, in a potential confrontation. This could exacerbate the ethnic dimension of the conflict. In his final briefing to the UN Security Council in September, Volker Perthes made a stern warning regarding the ongoing ‘tribal mobilization’ and its potential ramification for the regional stability and the unity of the country. He said that ‘[w]hat started as a conflict between two military formations could be morphing into a full-scale civil war’.

Beyond its impact on the cohesion of Sudan as a state and on the Juba peace agreement, this war’s most dire consequence is the enormous toll it has on the civilian population. Civilians are made to bear much of the brunt of the violence both on account of being subjected to indiscriminate attacks and deliberate violations on the one hand and the socio-economic and humanitarian difficulties that the war precipitated.

RSF’s march towards extending full control over Darfur is accompanied by the perpetration of mass atrocities. These violations echo the genocidal violence the region experienced nearly two decades ago. Ethnically motivated targeting of non-Arab civilians, mainly from the Masalit communities, are surfacing from reports of local organizations and videos of events captured during RSF military campaign in West Darfur in early November. Most recently, on 3 November, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) expressed alarm over reports that ‘women and girls are being abducted’, chained and held in ‘inhuman, degrading slave-like conditions’ in areas controlled by the RSF in Darfur. While the events in Darfur constitute the worst incidents of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, such violations are not limited to Darfur. Nor is the RSF the only one involved in such violations. Both SAF and RSF are implicated in gross violations. UNITAMS documented 655 alleged incidents of human rights violations and abuses between 7 May and 20 August 2023, most of which were reportedly attributable to RSF.

On the humanitarian front, the seven-month long conflict has unleashed ‘one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history’, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)’s 2 November humanitarian update on Sudan. The conflict claimed more than 10,000 lives (ACLED recorded 10,400 fatalities) while displacing more than 6 million people, which makes Sudan the country with the largest number of displaced people in the world. The conflict also left 25 million, more than half of the population, in need of humanitarian aid. A recent statement by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also indicates that children are bearing the ‘heaviest brunt of the violence’ with a recorded 3 million children fleeing the violence in search of safety, food, shelter and health care. According to UNICEF, this figure makes Sudan the largest child displacement crisis in the world. UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food programme (WFP) also warned that acute food insecurity could worsen from November 2023 to April 2024 in 18 hunger hotspots, with Sudan among those of highest concern.

Despite this, only 33 percent of the $2.6 billion required to help those in need in Sudan this year is funded. Additionally, the nature of the war is also severely hampering humanitarian access as briefings presented to the PSC on 28 September and early in October highlighted. Sudan is suffering from the triple challenges of dire humanitarian crises, utterly inadequate provision of resources for meeting the growing humanitarian needs of the suffering civilian population and lack of humanitarian space.

Notwithstanding the continuing acts of violence being inflicted on the civilian population involving incidents of mass atrocities including acts amounting to those prohibited under Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act, the PSC and the AU in general did not go beyond expression of concern and condemnation of breaches and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. These are exposing the PSC to legitimate charges of falling back to the old politics of indifference to mass atrocities that is characteristic of the now defunct AU’s predecessor, the Organization of African Unity. On the other hand, the UN Human Rights Council decided to establish an independent international fact-finding mission for Sudan last month, with a mandate to investigate and establish the facts, circumstances and root causes of all alleged human rights and international humanitarian law violations in the context of the conflict that erupted in mid-April.

On the peace process front, earlier in May and June, both AU and IGAD rolled out parallel roadmaps for the resolution of the conflict, which they had to eventually harmonize. AU’s Expanded Mechanism – established in April with the aim to bring all relevant stakeholders under one platform has lost steam and exists only in name. IGAD’s decision to assume leadership through the establishment of the quartet, as well as its 12 June action points – including the proposal to facilitate a face-to-face meeting between the leadership of SAF and RSF and initiate inclusive political process within ten days and three weeks, respectively – have also stalled. One of the major factors for this was the rejection by the SAF of Kenya’s role as chairperson of the IGAD quartet. In an encouraging turn of events, following a meeting held in Nairobi Kenya on 13 November, Kenya’s President, William Ruto and SAF’s chief and the head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council, Abdel-Fattah Al Burhan, agreed on the need to speed up the Jeddah talks on ceasefire and to this end convene an IGAD summit.

The Jeddah talks focusing on ceasefire was also suspended until the start of this month. The latest round that ended on 7 November fell short of a ceasefire. Instead, the warring parties agreed to participate in a joint humanitarian forum led by OCHA to address impediments to humanitarian access and deliveries of assistance; identify points of contact to assist with movements of humanitarian personnel and assistance; and implement confidence building measures, including the establishment of communication between SAF and RSF leaders. This notwithstanding, the statement from the meeting of Ruto and Burhan criticized the Jeddah process for its slow progress. A major development in the latest round of Jeddah talks is the inclusion of IGAD’s Executive Secretary, also on behalf of AU, as co-facilitator of the talks. This is indeed a step in the right direction, although IGAD’s Executive Secretary’s role could not be a standing arrangement, hence underscoring the need for a high-level standing facilitator or panel of facilitators.

From 23 to 26 October, various Sudanese civilian actors and stakeholders, met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to form a united front for pushing for peace. This meeting led to a decision to form the ‘Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces (CCDF)’ headed by former Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. The CCDF is envisaged to prepare the ground for the envisaged convening of a ‘founding conference’ with more diverse representation from Sudan in eight weeks. In a press statement dated 26 October, the Troika (Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States) welcomed the meeting claiming it as ‘an important step towards the formation of an inclusive and representative pro-democracy civilian front’. Around the same time, South Sudan also convened a consultative meeting with the Sudanese signatories to the Juba Peace Agreement (JPA) to ‘evaluate the implementation of the JPA and consult with the parties on peace negotiations between RSF and SAF’.

A major gap in the AU’s engagement, which also accounts for its lackluster performance on the Sudan file is the failure to designate a dedicated high-level mechanism that works on a full-time basis. It has been long overdue for the PSC to heed President Museveni’s proposal when he chaired summit level session of the PSC last May on the establishment of a high-level facilitator or panel of facilitators. Such a mechanism whose sole mandate is to work on the search for finding solution to the war in Sudan (rather than the current arrangement in which officials of the AU handle the file as one responsibility among many other matters that they are responsible for) can be established as a joint standing mechanism of IGAD, the AU and the UN and hence provide the requisite sustained engagement and technical backing for the IGAD quartet.

The expected outcome of the session is a communiqué. PSC is expected to welcome the resumption of the Jeddah talks and the participation of IGAD, also on behalf of the AU, as a co-facilitator of the talks.  While welcoming the commitments agreed to by SAF and RSF to facilitate humanitarian aid and implement confidence building measures, it may echo the regret of the co-facilitators that the warring parties failed to reach on a ceasefire. It may also commend Sudanese civilian actors for the convening of a meeting in Addis Ababa, and in this regard, PSC may express its full support to the envisaged convening of a founding conference as part of the effort to end the ongoing conflict and bring Sudan back on track toward a civilian government. Considering the failure of AU’s approach thus far, the PSC may revisit the proposal that was put on the table during its summit level meeting on Sudan held in May and decide to establish a high-level panel of facilitators (which may be appointed jointly by AU, IGAD and UN) to work on the situation in Sudan on a full-time basis.

The PSC is expected to express its grave concern over an uptick of violence in recent weeks. The PSC may in this regard strongly condemn reported gross human right violations, including ethnic-driven killings, rape, torture, looting, and destruction of civilian facilities. As RSF now targets El Fasher of North Darfur, PSC may join growing calls for the paramilitary and its allied forces to immediately put a halt to its offensive in El Fasher to avert civilian causalities. PSC may further urge both warring parties to honor the 11 May Jeddah Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians of Sudan and respect their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. In the face of the continuing incidents of mass atrocities, the PSC may also express its support to the UN Human Rights Council’s decision to establish an independent international fact-finding mission. Regarding the humanitarian situation, the PSC is expected to welcome the recent outcome of the Jeddah talks in which the warring parties committed to participate in a joint humanitarian forum led by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to address impediments to humanitarian access and urge speedy action to implement these commitments. The PSC may also request that a conference for mobilizing support from within the continent and beyond towards contributing to addressing the resource gap for humanitarian assistance.

The Situation in Sudan

The Situation in Sudan

Date | 19 October 2023

Tomorrow (20 October), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 1179th session to consider the situation in Sudan.

Following opening remarks by Daniel Owassa, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Congo to the AU and Chairperson of the PSC for October 2023, Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS) is expected to make a statement. Mohamed el Hacen Lebatt, Principal Strategic Adviser to the Chairperson of the AU Commission and Special Envoy to Sudan and Mohamed Belaiche, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission (SRCC) in Sudan are also expected to deliver statements. In addition, a representative of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is also expected to make remarks on the situation in the country under consideration.

The meeting is being convened as an additional agenda item in October’s provisional programme of work for the activities of the PSC. The last time the PSC convened a meeting to consider the situation in Sudan was during its 1156th session held at the Heads of State and Government level on 27 May 2023, whereby a Communiqué was adopted as an outcome document. In the Communiqué, the Heads of State and Government adopted the African Union Roadmap for the Resolution of the Conflict in Sudan, towards silencing the guns in Sudan, and called on Sudanese stakeholders and the international community to support the implementation of the Roadmap.

On 31 May 2023, the 3rd Meeting of the Expanded Mechanism for the Resolution of the Sudan Conflict was convened. The meeting, which was chaired by Professor Mohamed El-Hacen Lebatt, Spokesperson for the AU Process for Sudan, presented to the members of the Expanded Mechanism the outcomes of the 1156th PSC Meeting as well as the next steps towards an inclusive, Sudanese-owned process, that would end the fighting and put Sudan on the path to a democratic, civilian-led government. In addition, the Expanded Mechanism welcomed the Jeddah Process, facilitated by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, which resulted in the Declaration of Commitments and the Short-term Ceasefire and Humanitarian Assistance Arrangement.

In alignment with the Expanded Mechanism’s commitment to convene the Core Group, the AU held its inaugural meeting with the Core Group of the Expanded Mechanism on 2 June 2023 to fine-tune the modalities of the implementation of the roadmap and settle on concrete steps for a ceasefire. The final outcomes of this convening have yet to be released.

Tomorrow’s meeting will provide an opportunity for the PSC to deliberate on the progress made towards the implementation of the adopted Roadmap during the 1156th meeting. This includes the following six elements outlined in the Roadmap:

  1. Establishment of a coordination mechanism to ensure all efforts by the regional and global actors are harmonized and impactful;
  2. Immediate, permanent, inclusive and comprehensive cessation of hostilities;
  3. Effective humanitarian response;
  4. Protection of civilians and civil infrastructure;
  5. Strategic role of neighboring states and the region; and
  6. Resumption of a credible and inclusive political transition process, that takes into account the contributory role of all Sudanese political and social actors, as well as the signatories to the Juba Peace Agreement, towards a democratic civilian-led government.

As the conflict in the country between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) passed its sixth month, tomorrow’s meeting is also expected to give an insight into the recent joint AU-IGAD delegation meeting with Sudanese political and civilian groups. The delegation met with the democratic Bloc, allied groups in Cairo, and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) to initiate a political process to end the ongoing conflict and establish new constitutional arrangements to reinstate civilian governance.

The 14th Ordinary Session of the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government was also held on Monday, 12 June 2023, in Djibouti, the Republic of Djibouti, where it adopted the IGAD Roadmap for the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of Sudan. The action points from the Roadmap included:

  • Include the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia as the fourth member of the IGAD High-Level Delegation for the Peace Process in the Republic of Sudan; and for H.E. William Ruto, President of the Republic of Kenya, to Chair the Quartet Countries of the Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan and for the Quartet to work in close coordination with the African Union Commission;
  • Within ten days, the Quartet to arrange a face-to-face meeting between H.E. Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, the Chairperson of the Transitional Sovereignty Council of the Republic of Sudan, and Gen. Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo in one of the regional capitals;
  • Within two weeks secure a commitment from the leadership of SAF and RSF to establish a humanitarian corridor;
  • Within three weeks initiate an inclusive political process towards a political settlement of the conflict in the Republic of Sudan.

Since its initial convening, IGAD has hosted consecutive meetings in alignment with its roadmap. On 10 July 2023, IGAD Heads of State and Government held a meeting at the level of Quartet to address the implementation of the roadmap. The session explored substantial options including a request to the East African Standby Force to convene a meeting on the options of deployment for the protection of civilians. The meeting also recognized the supplementary role neighboring states have taken with the initiative to convene on 13 July 2023 in Egypt to address peace and stability in the Republic of Sudan in alignment with the IGAD Roadmap. Finally, a significant decision was made to ensure measures are taken for the facilitation of immediate humanitarian assistance. However, the decision to ensure humanitarian access was not revisited during the second IGAD Quartet Group meeting that recently took place on 6 September 2023. The second IGAD Quartet Group meeting instead emphasized the need for an all-inclusive consultation of civilian actors that will yield a more structured approach to peace dialogue and as such mandated IGAD and the AU to expedite the consultation process.

Despite the existence of such various mechanisms and initiatives, currently there is no meaningful processes for addressing the situation. The ceasefire process has stalled. Thus, after nearly a dozen mediated or declared ceasefire initiatives, the very process for ceasefire has been suspended. Neither the IGAD process nor that of the AU has also led to any meaningful wider peace or political process. There are two issues arising from this state of affair. The first is the existence of multiple initiatives and absence of a common platform around which all actors rally. The second concerns the fact that there is no dedicated mechanism that works on a full-time basis on the war on Sudan, for example, along the lines proposed by President Museveni when he Chair the PSC last May on Sudan – establishment of a high-level facilitator or panel of facilitators.

These various processes failed to do anything more than meeting and adopting statements or communiqués. None managed to mitigate or in any way make a dent on the war. The result of the inadequacies of these various and poorly coordinated processes is that the war is allowed to continue to rage on, with no end in sight. Neither the AU nor IGAD are able to put in place or initiate a mechanism to also address and ameliorate the worsening humanitarian crisis.

The war has claimed the lives of nearly 10,000 people. Over 5.8 million have been internally displaced. 1.2 million people have fled to neighboring countries as refugees. Apart from this, humanitarian actors are able to reach to and deliver humanitarian assistance to only 3 percent of the more than 18 million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. The war also continues to involve not only indiscriminate attacks on civilians but also cause enormous destruction on civilian infrastructure. The country continues to fragment and Sudan is risking if not already experiencing state collapse. Apart from the suffering this creates to Sudanese, it creates vacuum, which if not urgently addressed, may be exploited by war economy entrepreneurs including terrorist groups.

One of the focus of tomorrow’s session could be receiving feedback on where the various processes stand and whether there is now an opening for a meaningful peace process based on the engagement with the various civilian groupings. Additionally, it would be of particular interest for members of the PSC to get a dedicated mechanism that monitors, documents and reports on the humanitarian situation and facilitates civilian protection and compliance by warring parties with international humanitarian law.

The anticipated outcome of tomorrow’s session is a Communique. It is expected that Council will call on members of the international community, including the immediate neighbors of Sudan, to continue to demonstrate solidarity by assisting Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers, among others, by facilitating expeditious and dignified processes, conditions of entry, transit and reception of refugees from Sudan in line with the provisions of the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the 1969 Kampala Convention. It may also underscore the growing humanitarian toll resulting from the conflict in Sudan, urge conflicting parties to observe the fundamental rules and principles of international humanitarian law and human rights law underpinning the protection of civilians and appeal to the international community to redouble efforts geared towards ensuring effective delivery of humanitarian assistance to affected communities. In this respect, the PSC may specifically call on the parties to end indiscriminate attacks against civilians. The PSC may further emphasise the importance of consolidating efforts and creating better coherence between the various initiatives put underway to manage the crisis in Sudan. It may also call for the establishment of a joint high-level panel on Sudan by the AU, IGAD and the UN.

Briefing update on situation in the Horn of Africa

Briefing update on situation in the Horn of Africa

Date | 15 June 2023

Tomorrow (15 June), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 1158th session to receive briefing update on the situation in the Horn of Africa. The briefing is expected to focus on the conflict in Sudan and its regional implication, and the implementation of the Pretoria Comprehensive Cessation of Hostilities Agreement in Ethiopia.

The session commences with opening statement from Sophia Nyamudeza, Permanent Representative of Zimbabwe to the AU and Chairperson of the PSC for the month of June, while Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS) is expected to make remarks. Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s former President and AU High Representative for the Horn of Africa will brief members of the PSC. The representatives of Ethiopia, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Secretariat, the United Nations (UN), and the European Union are also expected to deliver statements during the session.

On Sudan

The last time PSC met on the situation in Sudan was at its 1156th session on 27 May, which was held at the level of Heads of State and Government. In that session, the PSC adopted the AU Roadmap for the Resolution of the Conflict in Sudan that identifies six priority areas for AU engagement towards silencing the guns in Sudan.

Coming on the heels of 14th ordinary session of IGAD Heads of State and Government, held on 12 June in Djibouti, PSC members are likely to be interested to be briefed on the major outcomes of the summit and how it reframes diplomatic efforts for peace in Sudan. It has emerged from the summit that IGAD adopted a new roadmap for peace in Sudan whose action plans include to expand the IGAD High-Level delegation for Peace in Sudan, which was formed at the 40th extraordinary IGAD summit, held on 16 April, to give space for Ethiopia and establish a quartet with Kenya assigned with the role of chairing the quartet. Kenya’s President William Ruto, who is the chair of the quartet, also announced the plan to convene a face-to-face meeting between the quartet and the leaders of the belligerents within ten days.

This plan involves an exercise in claiming and asserting leadership role by IGAD in the search for resolution the new conflict in Sudan. In doing so, this plan, while not opposed to the US-Saudi or the AU initiatives, seeks to establish another platform and peace process. This peace processes, if not rationalised with other existing or emerging processes under US-Saudi or the AU, will be the third peace process. It would thus have the effect of not only multiplication of processes but also if successful can displace the AU’s Roadmap and the envisaged roles of the Expanded Mechanism as well as its Core Group.

It is to be recalled that the 20 April High-Level meeting convened under the auspices of the Chairperson of the AU Commission established the Expanded Mechanism to serve as the main platform to coordinate and consolidate international responses towards the conflict. As the Mechanism is so expanded in its nature, a ‘Core Group’ with smaller number of actors was established pursuant to the AU Roadmap for the Resolution of the Conflict in Sudan for effective action. If conflict and competition between the two processes is to be avoided, there is a need for the PSC to revise the AU Roadmap.

In terms of the regional implications, the lack of progress in the diplomatic efforts for containing the war makes it increasingly worrisome to neighbouring countries. On 15 June, Sudan marks the second month of the conflict, leaving 25 million people – about half of the population of the country – in need of humanitarian assistance. (See below the infographic on the humanitarian consequences of the conflict).

Infographic 1: Humanitarian crisis of the conflict in Sudan and attacks on civilian infrastructures


Despite plethora of diplomatic initiatives to end the conflict, the conflict has continued unabated, causing enormous suffering to civilians and damage to the state infrastructure. Thus far, nearly a dozen ceasefire declarations and agreements have been announced. Some of these ceasefires brought brief respite, allowing evacuation of diplomats and foreign nationals and limited flow of aid, but almost all of the ceasefire initiatives have failed to take hold, including the most recent ceasefire brokered by Saudi Arabia and the US on 9 June.

Infographic 2: Timeline of AU engagement and ceasefire initiatives

Source: Amani Africa’s tracker of diplomatic efforts on Sudan conflict

The impact of the ongoing conflict in Sudan will not be limited to the country, but also has the potential of convulsing the wider region given the geographic location of the country that borders seven countries, most of which are in fragile context. It is within this light that the agenda of tomorrow’s session is framed although the ripple effects of the conflict will be strongly felt even beyond the Horn of Africa, particularly in those countries which borders Sudan to the west, namely Central African Republic (CAR) and Chad.

The ripple effect of the conflict could manifest at least in three ways. The first is in terms of the refugee crisis that the conflict triggered, placing strain on the neighboring countries’ overstretched resources that are grappling with their own humanitarian crisis. IOM, UNHCR and government sources provide that around 476,811 people have fled to neighboring countries as of 4 June, some of them are in fact people displaced by internal crisis in their own countries. The influx of refugees to the neighboring states may fuel ethnic tensions in some context. The disruption of cross border trade because of the conflict is also resulting in food price increases in some countries such as South Sudan, Chad, and CAR.

Infographic 3: Number of people fleeing to neighboring countries

Source: IOM, Sudan Response Situation Update, 6 June 2023

Second, the conflict in Sudan not only risks a spillover into surrounding countries but also could morph into a regional conflict with the high possibility of dragging in its neighbors into the conflict. For the time being, most of the neighboring states seem to have adopted a neutral posture and even some of them offering mediation between the warring parties, but this could change as the conflict becomes protracted and spread closer to their borders. The controversy between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the border dispute between Ethiopia and Sudan over al-Fashaga (a contested territory controlled by Sudan during the Tigray conflict) are some of the dynamics raising the fear of regional spillover. For South Sudan, the conflict has direct economic consequences, which is dependent on Sudan for its oil export – the main source of revenue for the country.

Sudan is also a country where Islamist movements are very active. As a country that in the past hosted the late Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and sharing a border with Sahel, a state collapse in Sudan will create a vacuum that would be most attractive to terrorist groups both from the Sahel and Horn of Africa and outside of Africa as well.

As the expansion of the conflict towards Darfur looms large, the immediate spillover risk could be for countries west of Sudan, particularly Chad and CAR. West Darfur’s El Geneina, which is very close to the border with Chad, have already experienced the most deadly violence in recent days, raising the spectre of genocidal violence particularly targeting non-Arab communities. The cross-border ethnic dynamics between Sudan and Chad and the history of cross-border raids during the Darfur conflict decades ago; the presence of fluid non-state actors in CAR, Chad, and Libya; the involvement of various Sudanese armed groups in the conflict in Libya; as well as the reported presence of the Wagner group in CAR and its alleged support to the RSF are likely to increase the chance of the regionalization of the conflict.

Third, Sudan’s conflict risks proliferation of and easy access to illicit arms and weapons in the neighboring countries, more so in the context of porous borders. Sudan ranks second among its regional neighbor with over three million estimated firearms. According to sources, 2.7 million small arms and light weapons were estimated to circulate outside of state-controlled stockpiles. The ongoing conflict would create fertile condition for the smuggling of firearms to neighboring countries with the possibility of unleashing Libya-like situation where the flood of arms from that country significantly changed the security landscape of the continent for the worse by plunging the Sahel into hotbed of terrorism. Beyond countries in the region, protracted conflict in Sudan is also likely to ignite proxy war involving regional and international powers.

On Ethiopia

The signing of the Pretoria Comprehensive Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) constituted a turning point in bringing to a halt the deadliest war that was raging in northern Ethiopia. Developments since the signing of this agreement on 2 November 2022 indicate that active hostilities involving the signatory parties have come to an end. Follow up steps for the implementation of some of the key elements relating to cessation of hostilities such as the convening of the senior military commanders (which was held on 7 November hosted in Nairobi, Kenya) was held and the process of the handover of heavy weaponry and the deployment of Ethiopian Federal forces to Tigray have largely been undertaken.

As envisaged in the Pretoria Agreement, the AU working with the parties elaborated the terms of reference of the monitoring, verification and compliance mechanism. Subsequently, the Monitoring Verification and Compliance Mechanism (MVCM) comprising the Team of African Experts (Led by Maj. Gen. Stephen Radina from Kenya, the AU-MVCM includes Colonel Rufai Umar Mairiga of Nigeria and Colonel Teffo Sekole of South Africa) and Liaison Officers of the Parties was deployed to Mekele and launched on 29 December 2022. In the second joint Committee meeting of the MVCM convened by the AU on 24 May, the Committee underscored ‘the need to accelerate the demobilization and reintegration of the Tigray armed combatants’, and ‘to enhance the safety and protection of civilians by facilitating the steady return of internally displaced persons and refugees to the affected areas’ in line with the CoHA and the subsequent Nairobi Declaration of the Senior Commanders of 7 November 2023. In the light of the continued need for the work of the MVCM, the AU extended the mandate of the mechanism for further six months period until the end of December 2023.

The implementation of the Pretoria Agreement and restoring relations between Tigray and Federal authorities continues to show remarkable progress. One of the major developments towards the stabilization of the Tigray region and laying the foundation for restoring normalcy was the establishment of the Tigray Interim Regional Administration (IRA) on 17 March 2023. Federal Parliament removed the designation of the TPLF as terrorist organization on 22 March 2023 and federal authorities dropped criminal charges against TPLF leaders.

While the pace and sustained implementation of the Pretoria Agreement and notably the commitment of the parties to the peace agreement have stunned many both within and outside Ethiopia, not surprisingly, implementation has not been without impediments. Despite the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from many parts of Tigray in accordance with Pretoria Agreement, there have been various reports of not just their continued presence in some parts of Tigray but involvement in the perpetuation of violence. Tigray IRA President, Getachew Reda, on 20 May accused Eritrean forces of blocking AU monitors from carrying out their monitoring activities in certain parts of Tigray. There is also the issue of the continued occupation by Amhara forces of the contested Western Tigray. On 23 May, thousands of people have staged protest in Tigray to demand the return of people displaced by the war there and the withdrawal of outside forces in accordance with the Pretoria Agreement.

The agreement outlines other guarantees, including the protection of civilians’ from violations; the resumption of public services in the region; the unobstructed flow of humanitarian supplies to Tigray; and a provision affirming that the two parties will facilitate the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees to the region. While there are positive developments in this respect including the resumption of services that were disconnected during the two years war cutting Tigray off from access to basic needs and the rest of the world, progress in the provision of the requisite support to war affected people and in the rehabilitation of their lives and livelihoods to facilitate return of IDPs remains slow and unsatisfactory to the expectations and demands of the conditions facing war affected people.

Another setback to the implementation of Pretoria Agreement and in the normalisation of relations between Tigray and Federal authorities is the decision on 13 May 2023 of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) rejecting the TPLF’s request to restore its legal registration as a political Party, which was cancelled in January 2021 in the context of the designation of TPLF as terrorist organization after the outbreak of war. The TPLF and Tigray’s IRA denounced the decision, characterising it as being contrary to the Pretoria Agreement and developments since then.

Despite these various challenges and setbacks, the parties to the Pretoria Agreement continue to display commitment to follow through the implementation and build on the progress made so far. In this respect, one important positive recent development was the visit by the President of the Tigray IRA to the Amhara region on 11 June which, according to the President, was ‘as part of the efforts to address challenges to peace.’ One area that requires the most urgent attention for sustaining momentum in restoring normalcy in conflict affected areas including Tigray is the pace of implementation of rehabilitation and reconstruction programs which are key for delivering peace dividends to conflict affected populations. Also not any less important is ensuring that humanitarian assistance that is disrupted due to the reported widespread diversion of aid is restored and those in desperate need of support receive the much needed aid while those responsible for diversion are held accountable.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a communique. In relation to Sudan, PSC is expected to take note of IGAD’s 14th ordinary session of Heads of State and Government, held on 12 June in Djibouti. PSC may welcome the decision of the summit to expand IGAD Troika on Sudan and establish the quartet to lead the mediation effort in Sudan. In light of the decision of the summit, PSC may take a decision to adjust AU’s role with a focus on supporting the IGAD initiative, and to this end, it may request the AU Commission to designate an AU envoy that is fully dedicated to the Sudan file and provides the leadership for AU’s engagement in supporting the peace process. PSC may also task the AU Commission to reorganize the Expanded Mechanism to become the platform that facilitates coordination and information exchange among the countries neighbouring Sudan and for mobilizing support from the wider membership of the AU. It may also request the Commission to update the AU Roadmap for the Resolution of the Conflict in Sudan with a focus on active engagement of the neighbouring countries while securing their neutrality vis-à-vis the two fighting sides. In relation to the regional implication of the conflict, PSC is expected to express its concern over the spillover risks of the conflict in Sudan to the neighboring states and the wider region. Cognizant of this, the PSC may stress the need for devising strategies on how to contain the multifaceted implications of the conflict in Sudan to the neighboring countries, the Horn of Africa region and beyond. In this regard, the PSC may follow-up on the initiative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission to dispatch emissaries to neighbouring states and the Horn of Africa region to commend the countries of the region for their restraint thus far and to encourage them to refrain from taking sides in the current conflict. The PSC may also commend neighbouring countries who allowed access to Sudanese who are fleeing the fighting and seeking refuge in the neighbouring countries. It may also request the AUC to facilitate support from within the continent and beyond for helping the neighbouring countries in their efforts to welcome and host Sudanese refugees. The PSC may call for the fighting parties to extend full cooperation for the IGAD peace plan and may task the AUC to also focus on supporting the efforts of civilian actors in Sudan to play active role in the Sudan peace processes. On the Ethiopia peace process, the PSC may welcome the significant progress made in the implementation of the Pretoria Agreement and the firm commitment that the parties have continued to display for sustaining progress despite challenges they are facing. It may commend the parties for the restoration of essential services, flow of humanitarian aid, TPLF’s turnover of heavy weapons and the establishment of the Tigray IRA. The PSC may also commend the high-level panel under the leadership of Olusegun Obasanjo. The PSC may call on the AU to continue its support for the implementation of CoHA and encourage the parties to remain committed to sustaining the progress they have made so far. The PSC may encourage the parties to handle the issue of reinstatement of the political party status of TPLF by dialogue and in accordance with the spirit of the CoHA. It may call for further efforts of the parties particularly in meeting the expectations of those affected by the war through speedy mobilization and implementation of rehabilitation and reconstruction projects and in addressing challenges faced including with respect to demobilization and reintegration of forces and the presence of forces other than Ethiopian Federal forces. The PSC may welcome the work of the MVCM and endorse the recent extension of the mandate of the mechanism.

Briefing on the situation in Sudan

Briefing on the situation in Sudan

Date | 27 May 2023

Tomorrow (27 May), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene its 1156th session at the level of Heads of State and Government to consider the situation in Sudan.

Uganda’s President and chairperson of the PSC for the month of May, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, will preside over the session. President of the Union of the Comoros and Chairperson of the AU, Azali Assoumani, is expected to make remarks while the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, will brief the PSC. Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Workneh Gebeyehu; Executive Secretary of the League of Arab States, Ahmen Aboul Gheit; Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), António Guterres; as well as the representative of Egypt are also expected to deliver statements.

The PSC is convening on Sudan for the second time in less than two weeks, constituting the third session of the PSC since the outbreak of the conflict on 15 April 2023. The last time the PSC met on Sudan was on 16 May, at its 1154th session, with a press statement released as the product of the session. In the press statement, the PSC, apart from condemning the ongoing fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), warned that ‘all perpetrators of criminal actions will be held accountable.’ This warning came against the backdrop of the widespread looting and destruction of civilian infrastructure, as well as diplomatic missions in violation of international law.

As the fighting continued, new dynamics are emerging in the conflict while exacerbating the existing ones. On 22 May, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sudan and Head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), Volker Perthes, in his briefing to the UN Security Council, raised alarm over the ‘growing ethnicization’ of the ongoing fighting and its risk of ‘engulfing the country in a prolonged conflict, with implication for the region.’ This was particularly manifested in West Darfur’s El Geneina where the fighting between SAF and RSF morphed into ethnic violence on 24 April while ethnic mobilization is simmering in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile region.

As the belligerents opted for urban warfare with sheer disregard for international humanitarian law and international human rights, the humanitarian consequence of the conflict in Sudan has become devastating. Sources indicate that more than 850 civilians have been killed and over 5,000 injured since the fighting began. The number of displaced people due to the conflict has now topped the 1 million mark, fleeing to safer locations inside and outside the country. Despite the pressing need for humanitarian aid, the revised Humanitarian Response Plan launched by OCHA was able to secure 12.4% of the required $2.6 billion funds to reach 18 million people in need.

Looting has become rampant in Khartoum and elsewhere and key civilian infrastructures have been targeted, severely restricting the accessibility of essential goods and services to those who are caught in the crossfire. During the 22 May briefing to the UN Security Council, SRSG Perthes highlighted the collapse of the health sector with more than two-thirds of hospitals being closed. International organizations such as the UN, humanitarian actors and diplomatic missions are not spared from the attacks and the widespread looting.

As documented by Amani Africa, ten declarations for ceasefire have been announced with many of which represent the parties’ expression of readiness to observe the declared ceasefire. However, almost all of the ceasefires did not hold. The latest of these is the Short-Term Ceasefire and Humanitarian Arrangements signed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on 20 May. Envisaged to become effective on 22 May, this latest ceasefire seeks to facilitate the delivery of emergency humanitarian assistance and the restoration of essential services. Unlike the previous ones, the ceasefire agreement is the first with a monitoring mechanism comprising the representatives of Saudi Arabia and the US, albeit it lacks effectiveness in the absence of presence on the ground or the involvement of Sudanese on the ground. It is hoped to provide a brief respite for the civilians from the enormous suffering, but the fighting has not meaningfully stopped as in the previous ceasefires.

Tomorrow’s session will present PSC members with the opportunity to take stock of the ongoing diplomatic efforts and discuss the next steps to end the conflict. Given that the session is convened at the highest (summit) level, the PSC is expected to take strategic decisions based on the De-Escalation Plan, which is expected to guide tomorrow’s discussion on Sudan. It is to be recalled that the 20 April Ministerial Special Session on Sudan requested the development of an urgent plan for de-escalation. In his briefing to the UN Security Council on 22 May, Bankole outlined the six pillars of the Plan that need to be addressed for a sustainable resolution of the conflict in Sudan. These pillars are:

  1. Co-ordinated international action to avoid a proliferation and duplication of mediation initiatives;
  2. Immediate, comprehensive and unconditional ceasefire;
  3. Urgent humanitarian action to relive the suffering of the Sudanese people;
  4. Protection of civilians, state infrastructure and ensuring accountability;
  5. Firm support to neighboring countries of the region impacted by the crisis; and
  6. Resumption of inclusive and fully representative political process towards a democratic, civilian-led government.

Indeed, one of the concerns emerging out of the ongoing diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict is the proliferation of actors and mediation initiatives. Despite that the key actors who participated during the 20 Ministerial Special Session agreed to ‘coordinate, collaborate, and harmonize their respective initiatives to resolve the conflict’, the initiatives are not only uncoordinated but also at times competing.

The 16 April emergency session of the PSC as well as the Ministerial Special Session envisaged the Chairperson of the AU Commission to take the leadership in coordinating international responses to the crisis within the framework of the Trilateral Mechanism (AU-IGAD-UN). On the other hand, IGAD’s 16 April extraordinary summit formed a high-level delegation led by South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit. The 7 May emergency ministerial level meeting of the League of Arab States (LAS) established a contact group on Sudan composed of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the LAS Secretary-General to find a peaceful settlement for the conflict. It was in addition to these diplomatic initiatives that Saudi Arabia and the US created a separate mediation track that culminated in the signing of two important agreements: the Jeddah Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians of Sudan and the 20 May Short-Term Ceasefire and Humanitarian Arrangements.

Regional actors such as the AU and IGAD may appreciate the outcomes of the Jeddah mediation process, but are likely to remain unhappy with a process that has sidelined them. The need for the involvement of regional actors has been a major issue emphasized by the different speakers during the 22 May UN Security Council briefing. For instance, IGAD’s Executive Secretary stressed the importance of involving Sudan’s neighbors, while the African Members in the UN Security Council (A3) reaffirmed ‘the central role of the AU, IGAD and the Trilateral Mechanism in stabilizing Sudan’.

The other key concern is that ongoing diplomatic efforts have failed to include one of the key stakeholders in Sudan’s peace process – the civilians. This is a major omission considering that civilian actors in their various formations continue to play, as they did during and since the 2019 Sudan revolution, a vital role towards the achievement of democratic transition. Since the outbreak of the war, civilians continue to display their organizational ingenuity in identifying safe corridors for civilians to escape the sights of fighting to safer areas, in organizing humanitarian help of various kinds including medical assistance in their neighborhoods and in signing local peace agreements. In light of the nature of the conflict, it is a missed opportunity that international diplomatic efforts are not leveraging these various local initiatives for enhancing the space for civilian protection, ceasefire monitoring, local level peace building and humanitarian protection. Tomorrow’s session is an opportunity for the PSC to call on the representation of civilians in all diplomatic efforts.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a communique. It is expected that the PSC will endorse the De-escalation Plan developed by the AU Commission pursuant to the 20 April Ministerial Special Session. PSC may welcome the signing of a Seven-day Agreement on a Short-Term Ceasefire and Humanitarian Arrangements in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on 20 May, while expressing its deep concern over the reported violations of the Agreement by both sides. It may remind the parties of their obligations under international law and urge them to fully uphold their commitments under the Agreement. As the duration of the ceasefire agreement expires early next week, the PSC may urge the parties to extend the agreement for additional periods so that it paves the way for talks towards a more comprehensive ceasefire agreement. The PSC may commend various civilian actors in Sudan for their efforts in lessening the impact of the war on civilians through local humanitarian action, peace agreements and identification of safe corridors. It may emphasize the need for international diplomatic and humanitarian efforts to leverage and support these local civilian initiatives and ensure that civilians are represented in negotiations. Against the widespread looting and violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights by the parties, the PSC may call for the documentation and reporting of the various acts of violations as the key measure for ensuring the protection of civilians. While noting Saudi Arabia/US facilitated talks in Jeddah, the PSC may stress not only the imperative of a coordinated and consolidated diplomatic effort to resolve the conflict but also the centrality of the region (AU, IGAD, the Trilateral Mechanism, and the neighboring countries) in this process. In this respect, the PSC may call for the establishment of an international contact group on Sudan co-chaired by the AU and the UN and represented by all regional and international actors including the sponsors of the recent ceasefire.

Update on the situation in Sudan

Update on the situation in Sudan

Date | 16 May 2023

Today (16 May), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 1154th session to receive update on the situation in Sudan as one of the two agenda items tabled for consideration.

Opening remarks are expected by Rebecca Amuge Otengo, Permanent Representative of Uganda to the AU and PSC Chairperson for the month of May while Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS) is expected to brief members of the PSC.

Today’s session will be the second time that the PSC has met to discuss the situation in Sudan since the outbreak of fighting on 15 April between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. On 16 April, the PSC convened emergency session, which condemned the armed confrontation and called for an immediate ceasefire by the two parties. While the communique tasked the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, to undertake peacemaking initiatives, it also requested the Chairperson to continue engagement, within the framework of the Trilateral Mechanism (AU-IGAD-UN), with the UN Secretary-General and IGAD Executive Secretary towards a consolidated response by the international community.

It was in that context that Faki convened on 20 April an urgent special ministerial meeting with bilateral, regional, and international actors, including UN Secretary-General, IGAD Executive Secretary, neighboring countries, Gulf countries, and some members of UN Security Council. The ministerial meeting asked the Trilateral Mechanism – under the leadership of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and in coordination with the League of Arab States, the European Union, the Troika and bilateral actors – to ‘immediately engage the leadership of SAF and the RSF’ for de-escalation and securing permanent ceasefire arrangements. In his briefing, Bankole is expected to update members of the PSC on the evolving situation in Sudan and the various diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.

Fighting has continued between the SAF and RSF mainly in the capital Khartoum as the conflict marked one month since its eruption on 15 April. The ongoing conflict not only raises the specter of full-blown civil war in the country but also its implication could go far and wide with the possibility of spilling into neighboring countries that are grappling with their own crisis.

Civilians are bearing the devastating brunt of the conflict as densely populated urban areas are turned into battlefield. Although accurate figures are hard to come by, Sudan’s Ministry of Health data indicates that the conflict killed at least 676 people and injured 5,576 between 15 April and 11 May. According to OCHA’s 14 May update, more than 936,000 people have been newly displaced by the conflict, with around 736,200 people displaced internally and about 200,000 people crossing into neighboring countries. The exodus from Sudan into the neighboring countries prompted the Chairperson of the AU Commission to issue a statement on 27 April, appealing to these countries and the international community to ‘speedily extend humanitarian support to civilians fleeing the conflict’ and ‘facilitate the transit and safety of civilians crossing their borders without impediment’. Millions are still stranded in Khartoum and elsewhere in the country, facing severe shortages of basic necessities such as water and electricity. The World Food Programme (WFP) warned that ‘the crisis in Sudan is likely to plunge millions more into hunger in the coming days and repercussions will be felt across the region’. WFP further expects that some 19 million people are bound to face acute food insecurity in the next three to six months if the fighting continues.

The other aspect of Bankole’s briefing is expected to be on the various diplomatic efforts that seek to broker cessation of hostilities and where such initiatives currently stand. There have been many attempts to secure humanitarian ceasefire, including the initiatives of AU Commission’s ministerial session and IGAD’s lead mediator, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit. The warring parties have reportedly failed to observe the ceasefire in almost each case despite expressing their intention to abide by the commitment for temporary pause in fighting. (For details on the various initiatives for cessation of hostilities, see Amani Africa’s recently launched tracker of diplomatic efforts on Sudan conflict).

The pre-negotiation talks between the representatives of SAF and RSF, which was facilitated by Saudi Arabia and US, culminated in the singing of the ‘Declaration of Commitment to Protect Civilians of Sudan’ on 11 May, in which the parties affirmed their commitment to ensure protection of civilians, respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law, facilitate the rapid and unimpeded humanitarian relief, and that these commitments are fully disseminated within their ranks. The Trilateral Mechanism, in a statement issued on 11 May, welcomed the signing of the Declaration as an ‘important first step toward alleviating human suffering and protecting the lives and dignity of civilians in Sudan’, further urging the two parties to translate the commitments to meaningful action on the ground. However, it has not changed neither the course of the conflict nor the behavior of the actors.

Perhaps, one of the issues worth discussing in the session is how best the AU could maintain the leadership role in finding peaceful solutions to the conflict as the PSC envisages in its last meeting on Sudan. Experiences so far suggest not only the presence of plethora of diplomatic initiatives by various actors but also lack of coordination among these initiatives. Despite the already existing mechanism to coordinate efforts among AU, IGAD, and UN (the Trilateral Mechanism), these regional and international actors do not appear to fully utilize the Mechanism. This was evident for instance when IGAD’s 16 April extraordinary summit formed a high-level delegation under the leadership of President Salva Kiir while the PSC tasked the Chairperson of the AU Commission to lead peacemaking initiatives. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and US initiated a ‘pre-negotiation talks’ in Jeddah at a time when IGAD’s lead mediator has been requesting the warring parties to send their representatives to an ‘agreed venue’ to start the peace talks. Indeed, South Africa, in a statement issued on 8 May to welcome the start of Saudi Arabia/US facilitated talks, stressed the imperative of the ‘centrality of the African Union and IGAD in the pre-negotiation and subsequent talks.’ The uncoordinated and parallel diplomatic efforts could create the risk of forum shopping, not to mention the possibility of compromising actors’ leverage over the warrying parties.

The other important issue is the importance of not losing sight on the disrupted political negotiations towards the formation of a civilian government. While the conflict has shifted the focus towards bringing the warring parties to a negotiating table, there is a high need not only to engage the civilian actors in Sudan but also the talks to secure ceasefire should be conceived within the broader picture of establishing a civilian government in Sudan.

Today’s session is also likely to deliberate on how the AU could maintain its leadership role in Sudan’s peace talks. In that regard, Amani Africa’s recent opinion piece ‘Ideas Indaba’ on Sudan conflict suggested various measures, including for the AU, along with other relevant actors (notably IGAD and UN), to extensively engage various Sudanese stakeholders such as civilian actors; initiate humanitarian diplomacy; put in place interdisciplinary emergency taskforce on Sudan that tracks the fighting as well as violations; hold regular press conference and briefings on developments in Sudan; engage neighboring and other countries not only to refrain from being drawn into the conflict but also contribute to end the fighting.

The expected outcome of today’s session is a communique. Echoing the statement of the Trilateral Mechanism, the PSC may welcome the signing of the Declaration of Commitment to Protect Civilians of Sudan as a step in the right direction to alleviate the human suffering in the country. Despite the signing of the Declaration, the PSC is expected to express its concern over the ongoing conflict and in that regard, it may urge the two parties to use the singing of the Declaration as a steppingstone into a comprehensive ceasefire talks. In light of the unfolding humanitarian crisis, the PSC may reiterate the call of the Chairperson of the AU Commission for neighboring countries to facilitate the transit and safety of civilians crossing their borders and the international community to step up the delivery of humanitarian assistance. PSC may stress the importance of coordinating diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in Sudan, and in that connection, it may request the Chairperson of the AU Commission to replicate the experience of his convening of a special ministerial meeting on the situation in Sudan. Given the gravity of the crisis and its potential implication on the peace and stability of the broader region and the continent, the PSC may highlight the need for more frequent engagement on the situation in Sudan.

Informal consultation with countries in political transition

Informal consultation with countries in political transition

Date | 26 April 2023

Tomorrow (26 April), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene an informal consultation with representatives of member states undergoing political transitions (Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Sudan). The consultation mainly aims to serve as an opportunity for direct engagement between the PSC and representatives of member states suspended from the activities of the AU in relation to unconstitutional changes of government (UCG).

The meeting is being convened on the basis of Article 8(11) of the PSC Protocol and Rule 16 of the PSC Rules of Procedure which envisage informal consultations of the PSC ‘with parties concerned by or interested in a conflict or a situation under its consideration’. As Amani Africa’s Handbook on the AUPSC discusses, although a format yet to be properly operationalised, PSC’s informal consultation – along with closed and open sessions – forms one of the three types of meetings stipulated under the provisions of Article 8, sub-articles 9 to 11 of the PSC Protocol. Despite the presence of the mechanism, tomorrow’s consultation forms the first time for the PSC to explore this meeting format as a way to overcome the limitation from the other two forms of PSC meetings to engage with member states suspended from the activities of the AU.

The immediate background that precipitated the activation of this format of PSC’s meeting from its long dormancy is traced back to the challenges for effective PSC engagement in countries facing complex transitions induced by military seizure of power. At the 14th Retreat on the Working Methods of the PSC held in November 2022, one of the issues which formed part of the discussions was PSC’s interface with AU member states that are suspend from the activities of the union. Highlighting the relevant provision of the PSC Protocol to enable informal consultations with such member states – Article 8(11) – the conclusions of the 14th Retreat underscored how the PSC may utilise such consultations to engage with AU member states suspended for UCG, to gather first-hand information on the situation on the ground and to work towards finding durable solution.

Additionally, during the AU summit in February, the ministers of Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali were present for holding side meetings, although they were not allowed entry into the formal meetings of the summit. One of the issues that they highlighted in their engagement and presence during the summit without access to and presence in the sessions of the Executive Council and AU Assembly sessions was the unfairness of their exclusion while the AU did not suspend a neighbouring country, Chad, where similar military seizure of power took place, and allowed its full participation despite continuing military transitional rule.

It was also in this context that the concrete idea for the convening of the informal consultation was conceived. This emerged during one of the engagements of these ministers. This engagement involved a meeting with the minister of foreign affairs of Tunisia. After the meeting, Tunisia’s foreign minister agreed to explore the convening of an informal consultation that gives the opportunity for the PSC to have direct engagement and hear first-hand from the parties. According to the information Amani Africa received in the consultation on the program of work for April under the Tunisia’s chairship, the informal consultation may see the participation of the three countries at the level of ministers. At the time the program was developed and adopted, in addition to the three West African countries suspended for UCG, Sudan was also anticipated to participate. It is to be seen if Sudan will participate in the light of its recent descent to the ongoing deadly fighting.

The suspension of member states from AU’s activities at the occurrence of UCG is not an end by itself, but rather a means to the desired end result of ensuring the restoration of constitutional order in the concerned member state. The 2000 Lomé Declaration on UCG is in fact clear on the importance of sustained engagement of the AU with the perpetrators of a coup in order to exert the necessary pressure to ascertain a speedy return to constitutional order. The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) also clarifies under Article 25(3) that notwithstanding the suspension of a given member state, the AU ‘shall maintain diplomatic contacts and take any initiatives to restore democracy’ in that member state. In light of these guiding norms therefore, it is important to conceptualise suspension as a tool to register displeasure over the breach of agreed community rules and as a lever to use diplomatic efforts in member states affected by UCG for the initiation and implementation of roadmap for relevant reforms that facilitate both the return to constitutional order and its sustainability by preventing recurrence of UCG through addressing the conditions for its occurrence.

Upon suspension from the AU, representatives of member states are not invited to address the PSC as concerned country when the PSC convenes a meeting on their country situation. At the very best, those countries have to present their case by proxy either through members of the PSC or if their view is canvased as part of the report, briefing or statement that the AU Commission presents to the PSC. As a result, with the exception of the only time the PSC has been able to conduct a field visit to one of these member states (the PSC’s evaluation mission to Mali conducted in July 2021 following the coup of May 2021), its direct interface with authorities in charge of the transition processes has been lacking. After the October 2021 military power grab experienced in Sudan, the PSC had also planned to conduct a similar evaluation mission to engage Sudanese actors but the visit could not be carried out as intended. There have also been no PSC missions to the other two member states suspended for UCG, Burkina Faso and Guinea. This is seen by PSC members as having the effect of limiting both PSC’s understanding of perspectives of the de facto authorities and the full scope of the issues and dynamics at play as well as its diplomatic leverage over the authorities. Tomorrow’s informal consultation is accordingly designed to address these perceived challenges around the direct engagement between the PSC and the de facto authorities of countries suspended on account of UCG.

Another critical area the informal consultation could contribute to is in responding to concerns that have been raised from various stakeholders, regarding inconsistencies observed in the way the AU has responded to UCG that occurred in the course of 2021 and 2022. After the consecutive coups that took place in Chad, Guinea, Mali and Sudan in 2021 (Burkina Faso’s coming in 2022), only Chad has remained immune from suspension in line with Article 7(1)(g) of the PSC Protocol. Despite Chad’s specific circumstances which led to the PSC’s decision to refrain from imposing immediate suspension, not only has this decision brought up questions around the consistent application of the AU principles and norms banning UCG, it has also raised concern over the perceived differential treatment accorded to Chad – whose representatives had direct access to the PSC during its sessions on the situation in Chad while the other countries were restricted from the same privilege, having been suspended. Although it may not respond to the complex issues that arise from these experiences, the envisaged informal consultation could in part address some of the concerns that have been raised in this regard.

While appreciating the advantages of an informal consultation of the PSC with member states suspended from the AU, it is also important to maintain the established practice through which the PSC keeps track of the status of developments in countries in political transitions. Although it has not had direct exchanges with suspended member states, the PSC constantly maintains engagement on the developments in these countries through the AU Commission and its Chairperson, though the PSC has not been receiving updates as regularly as the period as stipulated in PSC decisions. Indeed, even with PSC’s direct engagement the best way to facilitate effective political transition for restoring constitutional order is through deploying diplomatic initiative (through a special envoy or high-representative or transition support mechanism and through the provision of technical support to transition authorities in required specific transitional tasks) as envisaged the Lomé Declaration and Article 25(3) of ACDEG. The role of the PSC would largely be to mandate the establishment or launching of such diplomatic initiative, the accompanying and monitoring of such initiative, and the review of its decision on suspension based on assessment of progress made.

No formal outcome document is expected from tomorrow’s informal consultation. The consultation is expected to emphasise the importance of AU norms on democracy, good governance and constitutionalism, not only to avert the occurrence of coups, but also to ensure sustained peace, security and stability in Africa. It may commend member states currently undergoing political transitions for their ongoing efforts to restore constitutional order in their respective territories and urge them to continue abiding by the agreed terms in their transition charters and to fully handover authority to democratically elected civilian governments by the envisaged timelines. Highlighting the importance of occasional informal consultations to enable direct interaction between the PSC and member states suspended from the AU, it may stress the need for maintaining the established method of engagement through the auspices of the AU Commission, particularly the Chairperson.

Updated briefing on the situation in Sudan

Updated briefing on the situation in Sudan

Date | 6 February 2023

Tomorrow (6 February), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 1137th session at a ministerial level to receive updated briefing on the situation in Sudan.

Opening remarks are expected by Dr. Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa and Chairperson of the PSC for the month of February, followed by a statement from Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS). The representative of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) as well as the representative of the United Nations (UN) are also expected to make statements.

The last time PSC met to discuss Sudan was during its 1117th session, held on 2 November last year. In that session, PSC took note of the draft constitutional document initiated by the Sudan Bar Association (SBA) and urged stakeholders that were not part of the SBA’s constitutional document to join the process and for the document to serve as basis for negotiations. PSC further stressed the need to ensure the inclusiveness of the political process for full ownership and legitimacy of the outcome by every segment of the Sudanese society.

Since then, encouraging progress has been made towards resolving the confrontation between the military that staged the 25 October military coup and the various sectors of the civilian population who led and took active part in the mobilization of mass peaceful protests demanding the end of military rule and establishment of a civilian transitional authority. On 5 December 2022, the military and the section of the civilian population organized under the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) signed a Political Framework Agreement (PFA). The Agreement was signed by more than 50 political and civil groups, including Sudan’s military leader General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, his deputy and commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) and non-FFC professional associations and civil society groups, as well as Malik Agar, an ex-rebel and former governor of Blue Nile State.

The signing of the PFA has been lauded by many partners including the AU, IGAD, and UN as a critical first step towards the restoration of a constitutional order and the formation of a credible civil, democratic, and accountable government. In a communique issued on 5 December 2022, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, welcomed the agreement while calling upon ‘the signatory parties to remain open to the political forces that have not signed the said Agreement’. The 8 December press statement by the UN Security Council also highlighted the singing of the Agreement as ‘an essential step towards the forming of a civilian-led Government and defining constitutional arrangements to guide the Sudan though a transitional period culminating in elections.’

Not withstanding the progress, the PFA marks towards achieving agreement on civilian led transitional process among Sudanese actors and the warm reception it attracted on the part of regional and international actors, it did not garner the support of all the major stakeholders. Most notably, it was greeted with opposition from the resistance committees, who organized successful protests campaigning for a civilian led transitional process and a democratic dispensation in which the military is reformed and under civilian control. The core of their grievance lies in the lack
of consultation and transparency on the part of the FFC who negotiated the PFA with the military. Additionally, some of the key former rebel leaders signatories to the Juba Peace Agreement did not extend their support to and were not also part of the PFA.

The PFA however was the framework agreement that came out of the first phase of a two phase negotiation process. The second phase of the process started on 8 January 2023 with the facilitation of the AU-IGAD-UN Trilateral Mechanism. As this second phase, which deals with very delicate issues, presents an opportunity for building on PFA and avoid the pitfalls of the first phase of the negotiations. If the PSC’s decision for ensuring inclusiveness of the process and legitimacy of the outcome by every segment of Sudanese society is to be realized as key guarantee to avoid recurrence of the collapse of the previous transition, the second phase needs to galvanise broader consensus among the key national forces and bringing non-signatories to the PFA on board. Without such consensus and full participation of non-signatories, the outcomes resulting from the process such as the creation of a new civilian government would face a legitimacy crisis and raise risk of collapse of another transitional process.

The focus of the second phase of the negotiations is the five contentious issues: the reinstatement of the Dismantling Committee (a committee established by the government of Abdallah Hamdok at the end of 2019 – with the aim to dismantle the June 30, 1989 regime and retrieve public funds – but was suspended after the 25 October military coup), security sector reform, transitional justice, implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement, and the question of Eastern Sudan. In that context, different workshops and conferences are taking place with the participation of both signatory and non-signatory parties to the PFA under the facilitation of the Trilateral Mechanism. The recommendations emerging from these engagements are expected to feed into the direct negotiations between different stakeholders to reach a final deal, which leads to the formation of a civilian government.

One of the issues for the PSC is accordingly how to support the ongoing negotiation process. Building on its decision from the November session on inclusiveness and wider public legitimacy of the outcome, the PSC may seek to find out from the briefers on what needs to be done to consolidate the gains from the PFA and expand wider public buy in the second phase of the process. This is not simply about the resumption of financial and economic support by bilateral and multilateral bodies but it is also about lifting of sanctions currently imposed on Sudan.

The other issue that would be of interest for members of the PSC to properly examine is how to mobilize organized regional and international support towards ensuring an agreement with sufficiently wide public buy in and able to produce a sustainable civilian led transitional process. Related to this is also the threat of the negotiations being entangled into regional and global geo-political rivalries and how to avoid ongoing contestations among various powers vying for dominant influence in Sudan from impeding or frustrating the negotiation process. It is thus important for PSC members to know the implications – on the willingness of the military actors to handover to the civilian led government the level of authority for it to make decisions without threat of eviction by the military – of recent initiatives such as the announcement by Israel after meeting President of the Sovereign Council Burhan that the two sides have agreed to normalise relationships between Sudan and Israel.

Regarding PSC’s sanction on Sudan, the lack of clarity and consistency in AU’s norm over the conditions that need to be fulfilled for the lifting of sanctions poses a challenge. In this connection, it is worth noting that Mali also made the request for the lifting of sanction during the 3rd meeting of the Monitoring and Support Group for the Transition in Mali (GST-Mali) last September after reaching an agreement on acceptable transition timeline. In the absence of consistent practices and lack of clarity on conditions for the lifting of sanction, developing clear benchmarks and guidelines on the matter is of strategic importance instead of responding to the requests on a case-by-case basis, that may open the PSC to inconsistency and accompany legitimate charges of double standards.

With specific reference to Sudan, it is to be recalled from the 2019 experience that at the promise of progress towards achieving agreement on establishment of a civilian led transitional authority is not enough. Even the signing of such agreement would not be enough. At a minimum and in fulfilment of PSC’s various relevant decisions since the 25 October 2021 coup, the signing of such agreement needs to be accompanied by the establishment of the civilian transitional authority that enjoys wide public support before the lifting of the suspension. Pending the establishment of common criteria on lifting of suspension from the AU, having such a minimum progress also helps to ensure consistency in how PSC deals with the transitional processes in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso & Chad.

The expected outcome is a communique. PSC is expected to welcome the 5 December 2022 Political Framework Agreement signed between the military and some political and civil groups including the FFC as the first critical step towards the establishment of a civilian transition government and ultimately the restoration of constitutional order. While also welcoming the launch of the second phase of the political process, PSC is likely to emphasize the importance of ensuring the participation of non-signatories of the PFA in the process that is aimed at reaching consensus around the five key national issues. In that regard, PSC may urge those parties that were not part of the PFA to join the second phase of the process and ensure that their concerns are fully taken on-board.  In relation to the facilitation role being played by the AU-IGAD-UN Trilateral Mechanism, the PSC may once again express its strong support to the Mechanism as the lead facilitator of the political process. It may further call up on the international community to back the Trilateral Mechanism’s facilitation role and to refrain from undertaking parallel initiatives that could undermine the negotiation process. Regarding its engagement on Sudan, it may reiterate its decision, agreed at the 1041st session, to receive a monthly update on the evolution of the situation in Sudan. Further to that it may also reiterate its decision to undertake a field mission to the country with the view to expressing its solidarity with the people of Sudan in their quest for a successful transition towards democratic, stable, and prosperous country as well as encouraging Sudanese stakeholders to successfully complete the efforts towards the restoration of constitutional order so as to pave the way for country’s reinstalment of its membership in the AU. In light of lack of clarity on conditions for the lifting of sanctions imposed by the PSC in relation to unconstitutional changes of government, PSC may take the opportunity to request the AU Commission to prepare standard guideline on the lifting of sanctions imposed on Member States that have experienced unconstitutional changes of government. The PSC may also express its wish to see the second phase succeed and culminate in the establishment of a civilian led transitional authority  in order to enable it to consider the lifting of the suspension of Sudan and to mobilize support for the transitional process under popularly supported civilian led government.



Date | November 2022

Namibia chaired the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) in November. The Provisional Program of Work initially envisaged six sessions with eight substantive agenda items. One of these sessions – a briefing on the deployment of 3000 troops to Sahel – was postponed to December. Two sessions that were not initially envisaged were added to the monthly program. Accordingly, the PSC held seven sessions in total. Of the seven sessions, four had two substantive agenda items (the 1117th, 1120th, 1121st, and 1122nd). Six of these agenda items were committed to country/region specific situations while three addressed thematic issues and one was a preparatory meeting held to receive key messages on climate change and peace and security nexus ahead of the 27th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (COP 27). The remaining agenda was a consultative meeting of the PSC and the United Nations (UN) Peace Building Commission (UNPBC).

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Update briefing on the situation in Sudan

Update briefing on the situation in Sudan

Date | 2 November 2022

Tomorrow (2 November), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is set to convene its 1117th session to receive update briefing on the situation in Sudan.

Permanent Representative of Namibia to the AU and Chairperson of the PSC for the month of November, Emilia Ndinealo Mkusa, is expected to make opening remarks. AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to deliver statements while the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission to the Sudan, Mohamed Belaiche, will brief the Council during the closed segment of the session. The representative of the Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) may also deliver statements as the relevant regional mechanism.

PSC has considered the situation in Sudan only in four instances (1041st, 1050th, 1060th, and 1076th sessions) since the 25 October 2021 military coup despite its decision, at its 1041st meeting, to receive monthly update on the evolution of the situation in Sudan. Sudan gave the AU and its PSC cold shoulder after the latter suspended Sudan on 26 October last year, which, to an extent, seems to have constrained PSC’s active engagement in resolving the political crisis in the country. It is to be recalled that PSC’s planned field mission to Sudan, which was slated for February, could not take place as Sudan’s military authorities were reluctant to receive the delegation.

25 October marked first anniversary of the coup, which derailed the civilian-led transition process and plunged the country into a protracted political instability. Tens of thousands of protesters marched on the anniversary of the coup, demanding a return to civilian rule. The 25 October 2021 coup was staged just a few months before the military’s handover of the chairship of the Sovereign Council—a body composed of the army and civilians with the task of overseeing the transition—to the civilian leadership as agreed in the 2019 Constitutional Declaration. It apparently aimed at pre-emptively averting both the risk of security sector reform and the concomitant potential loss of the military’s role and influence in the economy & politics of the country and the risk of accountability for alleged human right violations – past and present. The military authorities led by al-Burhan justified the 25 October seizure of power as a necessary step to put the transition back on track and improve the worsening conditions of the country.

One year after the coup, the socio-economic, political, security and humanitarian situations of the country indicate a downward spiral. In his 2 September 2022 report to the UN Security Council, UN Secretary-General noted that ‘the lack of political agreement and of a fully functional Government contributed to insecurity in various parts of the country, as well as to the deterioration of the economic and humanitarian situation.’ Intercommunal conflicts and armed banditry in West, North and South Darfur, West Kordofan, Kassala, Blue Nile States have spurred with the latest intercommunal violence in Blue Nile State reportedly killing over 220 people. International partners and financial institutions have suspended their financial assistance until the restoration of civilian transition. The ongoing political impasse and rising insecurity coupled with global dynamics as marked by food price spike, as well as the suspension of financial assistance by international partners and financial institutions on account of the Coup have sent Sudan’s economy into free fall. The year-on-year inflation in 2022 is estimated to remain high at 245.1 per cent, according to UN Secretary-General’s 2 September report. The socio-economic condition is further compounded by natural disasters, including flash floods.

On the political front, the military coup has also continued to face stiff resistance from the streets despite a heavy crackdown that reportedly killed hundreds of protesters since 25 October 2021. Despite some hopes in recent times, breaking the political deadlock on some of the sticky points on how to restore a civilian transition remains as elusive as before. In a televised speech on 4 July 2022, al-Burhan announced army’s withdrawal from the political dialogue facilitated by the UN-AU-IGAD trilateral mechanism to ‘allow space for political and revolutionary forces to form a government of national competencies’ to lead the transition period. He further pledged to dissolve the Sovereign Council, following the formation of an interim government, and establish a Supreme Council of Armed Forces composed of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, which will be responsible for security and defence tasks and ‘related responsibilities’, in consultation with the government. This is seen as an attempt to keep the security forces from required reforms and there is still lack of clarity and disagreement among different actors over the exact mandate & composition of the envisaged Council as well as the need for civilian oversight.

Meanwhile, military’s announcement of withdrawal from the political negotiation has placed the ball in the court of the civilian actors to reach on a consensus for an interim government and the way forward to the transition. Currently, efforts are underway to forge unity, the drafting of constitutional declarations by the Sudan Bar Association (SBA) being an encouraging step in this regard. In August, the SBA unveiled a final draft of a new transitional constitution, which saw the participation of wide range of stakeholders from the Forces for Freedom and Change-Central Council (FFC-CC), resistance committees, the Communist Party of Sudan, as well as rebel groups. The draft constitution is hoped to replace the August 2019 constitutional document if it succeeds in garnering support from majority of Sudanese stakeholders. Around mid-October, the FFC, which was part of the 2019 power-share deal and continued to remain an important political actor, rolled out its political vision for the restoration of the transitional civilian government based on the SBA’s draft constitution. The vision reportedly proposes to, among others, form a technocrat cabinet, amend the Juba Peace Agreement, and a Security and Defence Council under the chair of a civilian Prime Minister. However, nature of the cabinet (technocratic versus party cabinet), the role of the military in the transition, status of the Juba Peace Agreement and duration of the transition remain contested issues.

In the short term, appointing an agreed Prime Minister and establishing an interim civilian government seem priority in the move towards the restoration of a civilian transition. However, getting the country on a path toward sustainable peace and democracy requires reckoning with longstanding issues that have become divisive and continued to shape the political state. This would necessitate reforms in the governance architecture of the state under a new constitution, civil-military relationship including security sector reform, transitional justice and accountability and reforms in the economic sector.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a communique. Among others, Council may express its concern over the growing insecurity and deterioration of socio-economic and humanitarian conditions of Sudan amid the ongoing political deadlock. It may call on Sudan authorities to urgently address sources of insecurity and take appropriate measures to ensure peace and stability of conflict hotspots, including the full implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement. It may also highlight the importance of breaking ongoing political deadlock and bring the transition back on track to resolve multidimensional challenges facing Sudan. Council may express concern over the slow pace of progress towards the restoration of a civilian transition for whose disruption the military coup is to blame. Council may urge civilian actors to expeditiously agree on the appointment of a Prime Minster and establishment of a civilian interim government and urge the de facto military authorities to commit to the principles on civilian oversight on the defence and security forces and civilian leadership over defence and security decision-making. Council may commend the UN-AU-IGAD tripartite mechanism for its effort to facilitate the Sudanese-led and Sudanese-owned consultations among the various actors. Council may encourage these actors to engage in a political dialogue to build consensus on the outstanding issues to restore the civilian transition, including the transitional bodies, role of military in the transition, and duration of the transition. Regarding the status of the Juba Peace Agreement, Council may welcome the recent training of the first batch of nearly 2000 troops from the signatory armed groups to the peace agreement and may further call on Sudanese authorities to expedite the training and integration of the remaining forces of the armed groups. Against the background of the violent responses of the military authorities toward peaceful protests, Council may call on the authorities to respect the right to peaceful assembly and ensure the non-use of disproportionate force against peaceful protests and to reiterate its previous call on Sudanese authorities to undertake a credible investigation into the killings of protesters and other violations since 25 October coup and held perpetrators accountable.

Briefing on the situation in Abyei

Briefing on the situation in Abyei

Date | 29 September 2022

Tomorrow (29 September) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene a briefing session on the situation in Abyei.

Following the opening remarks of the Permanent Representative of Ghana to the AU and Chairperson of the PSC for the month, Amma Adomaa Twum-Amoah, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Banole Adeoye or his representative will deliver a statement. The Chairperson of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), former South African President Thabo Mbeki is expected to provide update briefing to the PSC. The representative of South Sudan, as a country concerned, is also expected to make a statement. It remains unclear if Sudan would be allowed to deliver a statement considering that it is suspended from participation in AU activities. This is important more so because Sudan is also Chair of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and delivered a statement during the last PSC session on Abyei in this capacity. Others expected to address the PSC include the UN Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Hannah Teteh and the new United Nations (UN) Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) Force Commander, Major General Benjamin Olufemi Sawyerr.

The last time the PSC considered this issue was at its 966th session in November 2020. The communique adopted following this meeting expressed concern over the lack of progress in the discussion on the final status of Abyei. AUPSC appealed to the Governments of the South Sudan and Sudan to agree on the arrangements that can expedite the resolution of this longstanding issue. It also appealed to the two countries to accelerate the implementation of their Agreement on Temporary Security and Administrative Arrangements for the Abyei Area, signed on 20 June 2011, particularly the finalization of the establishment of the Abyei Area Administration, the Abyei Area Council, and the Abyei Police Service, in order to facilitate the provision of essential services to the Abyei population.

Since then, there has not been any movement on all these issues as both Sudan and South Sudan have been preoccupied by their own internal challenges. The lack of progress seems to have increased frustration among the residents of the area who recently staged a public demonstration to demand autonomy. This is said to be a proposal supported by Francis Deng, a prominent South Sudanese politician and diplomat from Abyei who served as his country’s first Ambassador to the UN after its independence in 2011. However, the Chief Administrator of Abyei and some others apparently oppose the proposal which they said entertains the idea of a joint interim arrangement.

Following this development, news about the resumption of talks between Sudan and South Sudan on the final status of Abyei have emerged. Sudan Tribune quoted South Sudan’s presidential adviser on security affairs as having said that President Salva Kiir and the head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan started talks on the status of Abyei. But the details about these talks remain sketchy at this stage. Over the past decade and more, the AUHIP under the chairmanship of former South African President Thabo Mbeki has been engaged in trying to assist Sudan and South Sudan to find a lasting solution to the issue of Abyei. It is to be recalled that President Mbeki briefed the PSC during its last session at the 966th meeting and remains to be the main AU mechanism dedicated to, among others, the situation in Abyei.

On the security front, reports indicate that this year saw a rise in intercommunal violence in Abyei. This led to the loss of lives and displacement of thousands of people. Of particular concern has been the outbreak of violence between the Ngok Dinka and Twic Dinka communities in the Agok area in February and March, and its spillover towards Abyei town. The situation is said to have been relatively calm in recent months following a traditional leaders peace conference facilitated by UNISFA. The conference took place in Entebbe, Uganda, in May 2022 and it concluded with the Dinka and Misseriya traditional leaders signing a peace accord in support of efforts to find lasting peace for the Abyei area.

Apart from UNISFA, the other mechanisms that play important role for stability in Abyei include the Political and Security Mechanism and the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM). However, there is not much change in respect to the engagement of these mechanisms.

There have also been major changes with respect to UNISFA since the last PSC meeting. The border tension between Sudan and Ethiopia affected UNISFA when Khartoum openly called for the withdrawal of Ethiopian peacekeepers. Ethiopia was the sole troop contributing country to UNISFA which has been deployed in the area since 2011. The Ethiopian peacekeepers have now left the mission and they have since been replaced by other peacekeepers from Ghana, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.  On 15 March 2022, Major General Benjamin Olufemi Sawyerr of Nigeria took over from Ethiopia’s Major General Kefyalew Amde Tessema, as the new Force Commander and acting head of UNISFA, to lead the recently reconfigured multinational peacekeeping mission.

UNISFA’s mandate is set to expire on 15 November 2022 and the Security Council is expected to renew it possibly for another six months. Ahead of the mandate renewal negotiation, the Security Council will meet on 28 October 2022 to discuss the situation in Abyei based on the latest report of the Secretary-General on UNISFA which is due by 15 October 2022. Tomorrow’s PSC meeting would be very timely and relevant in light of the upcoming meeting and negotiation in New York. Its outcome will likely feed into the discussion at the Security Council and help guide the African members in their participation on the mandate renewal negotiation. The UN mission proves to be critical for promoting stability and law and order as well as supporting efforts for reconciliation and determination of the final status of the area. Yet, its role is impacted by the level of cooperation of Sudan and South Sudan and the scope and nature of its mandate. Apart from the issues of concern from the communique of the 996th session that remain unresolved, the PSC may also address itself to these relevant issues relating to the mandate and functioning of UNISFA.

The expected outcome of the session is a communique. The PSC may express concern over and condemn incidents of intercommunal conflicts including killings, shootings, cattle-rustling, violence against women, including rape and migration-related violence witnessed in Abyei since its last session while calling for enhancement of efforts for maintaining peace among various communities. The PSC may also call for the enhancement by the AU through the AUHIP, of the mediation efforts including through possible support to the parties in resuming the meetings of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee. The PSC may also welcome the reconfiguration of UNISFA and commend the support that the stakeholders and the two countries concerned along with troop contributing countries gave in this respect and urge them to continue their support for finalizing this process. The PSC may reiterate its earlier call for implementation of the outstanding determination of the status of Abyei which is the underlying cause for the various insecurities, including by appealing to the Governments of the South Sudan and Sudan to agree on the arrangements that can expedite resolving the status of Abyei and request the Chairperson of the Commission, working with the AUHIP, to engage the two Heads of State to resolve the status of Abyei on the basis of the AUHIP proposal of 21 September 2012. It may also reiterate the need for implementation of demarcation of the Safe demilitarized Border Zone (SDBZ) to allow the JBVMM to effectively discharge its mandate.