The Sudanese government has asked the United Nations to immediately terminate its political mission in the country. The U.N. Integrated Transition Assistance Mission (UNITAMS) in Sudan was established in 2020 with an overarching objective to support the democratic transition in the country.
In a letter addressed to the Secretary General and circulated to members of the Security Council, Sudanese authorities have cited a lack of progress in the mission’s objectives and expressed the need for an alternative form of cooperation with the global organization.
The Sudanese decision comes as the U.N. warns that the country is facing a convergence of a worsening humanitarian calamity and a catastrophic human rights crisis, with the risk of atrocity crimes remaining “grimly high”. The political mission was established to help facilitate Sudan’s transition to a civilian-led democracy after the ouster of long-time leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
“The Sudan’s current situation requires a full overhaul, a real change in the mission which no longer meets the needs of the people and the government, nor the priorities for the political change, but rather aims to achieve other objectives. I would like to give you the decision of the Sudanese government, which is that the mission should come to an end. According to the letter addressed to the Secretary General today, the Sudanese government will continue to work constructively with the United Nations to meet the needs and achieve the interests of the Sudanese people and create a new mechanism which will meet the needs of the current circumstances,” Sudan’s Ambassador Al-Harith Idriss explains.
Tensions between the Government and the U.N. Secretariat escalated in the aftermath of the eruption of fighting between two military factions in April – the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. Just two months later government declared the head of the U.N. mission Volker Perthes persona non grata, blaming him for inflaming the conflict, a position the U.N. Secretary General at the time rejected while expressing his shock at the accusations leveled.
Despite enjoying the SG’s confidence, Perthes’ status continued to be a bone of contention, leading to his resignation in September. A high level Sudanese delegation is expected to meet with the U.N. Chief and the Security Council next week, as the Sudanese U.N. envoy confirmed.
“According to the concerns of the government during the provisional period, we welcomed the cooperation of the Secretary-General and the whole of the United Nations and the Security Council in response to the political change in the Sudan. However, the functioning of the mission has not been commensurate to the expectations. Sudan has on numerous occasions made clear its comments and positions with regard to the functioning of the mission. We have called for a strategic review of the mission’s action and the definition of its actions for the future,” says Perthes.
Independent strategic review
While the Secretary General has appointed an independent strategic review of the mission, the final decision on its future rests with the Security Council where divisions will likely see the mission’s mandate come to a premature end.
“UNITAMS’ mandate expires on the 3rd of December. We’ve taken note of the plan for conducting a strategic review to prepare recommendations for the future of U.N. assistance to Sudan. However, we still believe that the position of the government of Sudan is decisive here. We will decide on the future of the U.N. mission by taking into consideration the opinion of the host country,” Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative, Anna Evstigneeva elaborates.
The U.K., which holds the pen on resolutions related to Sudan said it believed there was a clear need for a continued U.N. role in the country, a view echoed by the United States Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
“The United States strongly supports the efforts of the UN mission. And we call on all Council members to continue to stand behind UNITAMS, as it works to support an end to the conflict, to protect human rights, to promote unhindered humanitarian assistance, and to facilitate the resumption of a process that can move Sudan toward a democratic political settlement. I’ll also note that we look forward to the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s strategic review of UNITAMS.?”
The Secretary-General’s latest report on Sudan points to a situation that continues to deteriorate, fighting expanding to new areas, with over 6 million displaced and rising.
Peace talks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia thus far failing to produce a ceasefire as concerns grow around the risk of genocide and related atrocity crimes in the Darfur region.
Conflict in Sudan | “Human rights must be protected”: Linda Thomas-Greenfield: