UN rejects request to replace Special Representative to Sudan

Sudanese soldiers secure the area as Sudan's ex-president Omar al-Bashir leaves the office of the anti-corruption prosecutor.
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The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres rejected a request from Sudan’s military leader to replace his Special Representative to Sudan.

Guterres expresses full confidence in Volker Perthes after briefing the Security Council behind closed doors, days after receiving a letter from General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who is currently engaged in a power struggle against a rival military faction in the war-ravaged country.

In the letter seen by SABC News, al-Burhan accused Perthes of conduct that reflected poorly on the UN, accusing him of conduct that violated the organisation’s principles of neutrality and impartiality.

Perthes is the head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission In Sudan (UNITAMS) tasked with supporting the political transition in Sudan.

With permanent ceasefire negotiations falling apart in Saudi Arabia after a month and a half of fighting, a new diplomatic battle is looming over the future of the UN’s top official in Sudan.

Guterres says, “In relation to the situation in Sudan, there are areas of responsibility of the Security Council and there are areas of responsibility of the Secretary-General. In my area of responsibility, I reaffirmed to the Council my full confidence in Volker Perthes as Special Representative of the Secretary-General. It is up to the Security Council to decide whether the Security Council supports the continuation of the Mission for another period or whether the Security Council decides that it is time to end it.”

Guterres earlier expressed shock at the litany of accusations against Perthes contained in the al-Burhan letter, who accused the Special Representative who’s been the UN face as the crisis unfolded in Sudan of provoking political crises and adopting extremist positions that undermined reconciliation and peacebuilding and which ultimately led to the eruption in mid-April.

UNSG refuses to replace special representative in Sudan

He accused Perthes of imposing a framework agreement in transition negotiations ahead of the conflict which al-Burhan says led to the rebellion and military confrontations by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Diplomats confirmed that Guterres requested the Council to back Perthes in his role.

Perthes says, “Both parties have been calling on me to condemn the respective other side’s actions. I call on both to end the fighting and to return to dialogue in the interest of Sudan and its people. The responsibility for the fighting rests with those who are waging it daily. the leadership of the two sides who have chosen to settle their unresolved conflict on the battlefield rather than at the table. It is their decision that is ravaging Sudan.”

The UNITAMS mandate is up for renewal by a Saturday deadline with a technical rollover expected to be voted on before then.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzia says, “I hope so. Do you think it’s time to change the mandate? I mean, perhaps we have first to stabilise and then think about how we can change the mandate or whatever and how the UN presence in the country can be effective. But we’re not there.”

More than 700 people have died and over 5500 injured with hundreds of thousands displaced as US-led ceasefire negotiations falter.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield says, “We have to keep the pressure on. We have to intensify the pressure on them and make sure that they understand there will be accountability for their actions. People are dying. People are afraid. We’ve seen thousands, tens of thousands of Sudanese vote with their feet because these two generals are fighting for power. We have to bring the civilians and the civilians who have been key to bringing about change to see this situation move forward in the interests of all people in Sudan.”

And while diplomatic spats and military clashes continue, the future of Sudan looks increasingly bleak.

Sudanese army suspends ceasefire talks