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UN Security Council puts end to mission in Sudan

By Amélie BOTTOLLIER-DEPOIS
Sudan The government of Sudanese leader Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan, seen here at UN headquarters in September 2023, had asked the United Nations to end its political mission in his country with immediate effect; the UN Security Council voted to do so.  By Ed JONES AFPFile
DEC 1, 2023 LISTEN
The government of Sudanese leader Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan, seen here at UN headquarters in September 2023, had asked the United Nations to end its political mission in his country with immediate effect; the UN Security Council voted to do so. By Ed JONES (AFP/File)

At the request of Sudanese authorities, the UN Security Council on Friday ended the world body's political mission in the African country ravaged by more than seven months of fighting between two rival generals.

Taking note of a letter from Khartoum demanding an immediate end to the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), the Security Council adopted a resolution terminating its mandate as of Sunday.

Starting Monday, a three-month transition period would begin to allow for the departure of UNITAMS personnel and the transfer of its tasks to other UN agencies "where appropriate and to the extent feasible."

The UN mission in Sudan employs 245 people, including 88 in Port Sudan, as well as others in Nairobi and Addis Ababa, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric confirmed last month.

Fourteen of the council's 15 members adopted the resolution, while Russia abstained.

"Let me be clear. The United Kingdom would not have chosen to close UNITAMS at this moment," said Britain's deputy UN envoy James Kariuki, whose country drafted the text.

"The need for the UN and international community to support the Sudanese people has not reduced."

In the text, the council expressed "alarm at the continued violence and humanitarian situation, in particular violations of international humanitarian law and grave human rights violations and abuses" in Sudan.

It called on all parties to "immediately cease hostilities, facilitate humanitarian access... and seek a negotiated solution to the conflict."

UNITAMS was put in place in 2020 to help support a democratic transition in Sudan following the fall the previous year of veteran Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir, who faced pressure from both the military and mass protests.

But in October 2021, the difficult path to civilian government was cut short, when army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan assumed full powers in a coup.

On April 15, before a deal on resuming the transition to democracy could be signed, fighting erupted between the Sudanese army led by Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.

A few weeks later, Burhan demanded that UNITAMS chief Volker Perthes be sacked, placing blame for the violence on his shoulders.

The German diplomat, who was barred from returning to Sudan, ultimately stepped down in September, and has not been replaced.

Last month, saying the mission had been "disappointing," the government in Khartoum demanded its immediate end, leaving the Security Council with virtually no choice but to withdraw, as the UN must operate with the host nation's consent.

'Call a spade a spade'

Just days ago, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres rejected all accusations made against the world body, pointing a finger at Burhan and Daglo, "two generals that completely disregard the interests of their population."

"I think it's time to call a spade a spade. This is the fault of those that sacrificed the interests of their people for a pure struggle for power," Guterres said, also highlighting financial and weapons aid granted by unnamed parties.

The forced departure of UNITAMS is a new setback for the United Nations, which is facing a certain amount of hostility, notably in Africa, about the efficiency of its political and security missions.

Under pressure from Mali's ruling junta, the Security Council ended its peacekeeping mission in that country (MINUSMA) in June, and its blue helmets should be full withdrawn by year's end.

Despite the end of UNITAMS, "what is clear and what should be clear to everyone is that the United Nations is not leaving Sudan," Dujarric said Thursday, saying the world body would pursue its humanitarian programs and some political initiatives.

Guterres has named Algerian diplomat Ramtane Lamamra as his personal envoy for Sudan.

The UN has a significant number of humanitarian workers who assist those in need of aid "despite the funding shortages we speak about all the time and despite the fighting that continues," Dujarric said.

The civil war has left more than 10,000 dead since April, according to an estimate by the non-governmental organization Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (Acled), a figure that is widely considered an underestimate.

Six million people have been displaced, and much infrastructure destroyed, the UN says.

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