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Situation in the Sudan and the activities of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in the Sudan - Report of the Secretary-General (S/2021/1008) [EN/AR]

UN Document
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I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2579 (2021), by which the Council decided to extend the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in the Sudan (UNITAMS) until 3 June 2022 and requested the Secretary-General to report to it every 90 days on the implementation of the Mission’s mandate and on the progress made against the benchmarks and indicators outlined in the report of the Secretary-General dated 17 May 2021 (S/2021/470). The present report also covers political, security, socioeconomic, human rights, rule of law and humanitarian developments in the Sudan from 21 August to 21 November 2021 and provides an update on the scale -up of the Mission.

II. Significant developments

A. Political situation

2. On 25 October, the armed forces detained the Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, and a number of civilian ministers, officials and political leaders and took control of the State media. In a televised address, the Chairperson of the Sovereign Council and Commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, announced a state of emergency and suspended articles 12, 15, 16, 24 (3), 71 and 72 of the Constitutional Document, in effect dissolving the Sovereign Council, the Council of Ministers and the yet to be formed Transitional Legislative Council and restoring a Transitional Military Council. He also dismissed state governors (walis), froze the work of the Committee to Dismantle the 30 June 1989 Regime and Retrieve Public Funds, also known as the Dismantling Committee, and ordered that Internet services be suspended. He pledged to hold elections by July 2023.

3. In a press conference held on 26 October, Lieutenant General Al-Burhan said that the military’s actions were intended to pre-empt civil strife and put the paralysed transition process on the right track by overseeing the establishment of the necessary institutions and the appointment of a representative Government. He asserted that the military stood with the Sudanese people in their calls for a civilian Government and would adhere to the Constitutional Document and the Juba Agreement for Peace in the Sudan.

4. The Prime Minister was released from detention on 26 October but remained under house arrest with severely restricted visitation privileges until 21 November. Other detained civilian leaders remained in custody, except for four ministers who were released on 4 November. None of the four female ministers, including the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who maintained her high media profile, were detained. Meanwhile, between late October and mid-November, more than 150 activists, journalists and civilian officials were arrested throughout the country. Several hundred civilian officials were dismissed from positions in government at the national and state levels, as well as from State-owned economic enterprises and banks. Hundreds of activists, including women’s rights activists, reportedly went into hiding.

5. In response to the military’s actions, large crowds gathered across the Sudan to protest against the military coup, and a campaign of civil disobedience was launched. During a large-scale demonstration on 30 October, three people were reported to have been killed and scores injured, following reports of the use of live ammunition by security forces. Large demonstrations were also held on 13 and 17 November. There were 7 people reportedly killed on 13 November and 16 on 17 November and several hundred were injured as the army and security forces again used live ammunition and tear gas to contain and disperse the protests. Many protesters were arrested across the country.

6. Sudanese women were seen at the forefront of the protests, and the Women of Sudanese Civic and Political Groups, also known as MANSAM, issued a statement condemning the coup. The increased militarization in the country in the weeks following the coup, shrinking civil society space, threats to women’s rights defenders and the virtual absence of women in national mediation efforts suggest formidable challenges ahead to overcome the severe underrepresentation of women in formal positions of power and meet the minimum representation level of 40 per cent called for in the Constitutional Document and the Juba Peace Agreement.

7. Two of the non-signatory armed groups to the Juba Peace Agreement, the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) Abdelaziz al-Hilu faction, also denounced the coup.

8. The coup was widely condemned by international actors. On 26 October, during a session of the African Union Peace and Security Council, and acting under a rticle 7 (g) of the Protocol relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, the Council decided to suspend, with immediate effect, the participation of the Sudan in all the activities of the African Union until the effective restoration of the civilian-led transition. On 28 October, the United Nations Security Council issued a statement calling on the Sudanese military authorities to restore the civilian-led transitional Government and urging all stakeholders to engage in dialogue without preconditions.

9. Over the weeks following the military coup, significant efforts, including by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sudan, were undertaken to facilitate dialogue and identify a peaceful and negotiated solution to the crisis, allowing for a return to the constitutional order. On 11 November, Lieutenant General Al-Burhan announced the formation of a reconstituted Sovereign Council, placing himself as Chair and Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, Commander of the Rapid Support Forces, as Vice-Chair. While the representatives of the military and the Sudanese Revolutionary Front remained the same as in the dissolved Council, the civilian members were replaced.

10. On 21 November, an agreement was signed between Lieutenant General Al-Burhan and the Prime Minister stipulating, inter alia, that the 2019 Constitutional Document would continue to form the basis for the transitional period but would be amended by mutual agreement to ensure the inclusion of all parties, except the National Congress Party. The military-civilian power-sharing arrangement would remain as the “guarantor of stability in the Sudan”, and the interim Sovereign Council would oversee the transition, as envisaged in article 8 of the Constitutional Document. The release of political detainees, an investigation into recent incidents of death and injury during protests and the formation of a technocratic Government were also stipulated in the agreement. It was stated that an inclusive dialogue would be initiated, encompassing all political and social forces. The agreement covered the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement and the joining of non-signatory armed groups to the peace process, in addition to expediting the formation of transitional institutions and appointments. A unified national army would be formed, and the Dismantling Committee would be restructured. The announcement sparked fresh protests in Khartoum and elsewhere denouncing the agreement and criticizing the Prime Minster for signing it and the partnership with the military.

11. The coup followed months of rising tension between the civilian and military components of the Sudanese transitional authorities. Some 40 members of the security forces were jailed following a failed coup attempt on 21 September, allegedly perpetrated by supporters of the former President, Omar Al-Bashir. The Prime Minister described the event as an attempt to undermine the civilian democratic transition, while Lieutenant General Al-Burhan and his Deputy, Lieutenant General Dagalo, criticized civilian politicians for unfairly excluding the military from some key civilian-led initiatives and for failures of governance due to political infighting.

12. On 26 September, pro-revolutionary protestors gathered in Khartoum at the headquarters of the Dismantling Committee, following rumours that the military had withdrawn security forces from the location. The Prime Minister and Lieutenant General Al-Burhan reportedly held an emergency meeting to defuse tensions. In a televised speech shortly thereafter, the Prime Minister stated that the crisis was not between the military and civilians but “between those civilians and military who believe in the democratic civil transformation, and those who seek to block the road ahead of it from both sides”. On 15 October, the Prime Minister subsequently proposed a road map for dialogue and the de-escalation of tension, including in Eastern Sudan, the resumption of transitional institutions, addressing national security issues, the depoliticization of State institutions and respecting power-sharing arrangements in accordance with the Constitutional Document. The road map also contained calls for a continuation and review of the Dismantling Committee’s operations, ending discord within the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) and progress on transitional justice. However, these proposals did not gain traction.

13. Tensions during the reporting period were further compounded by the continued fragmentation of the civilian component of the transition. On 8 September, the FFC coalition signed a new political declaration of unity, in which it was rejoined by the National Ummah Party and some members of the Sudan Revolutionary Front, namely the Sudan Liberation Army/Transitional Council, the Sudan Liberation Force Alliance and the SPLM-N Malik Agar faction. The declaration was premised on expanding the FFC base, reforming its governing structures and recommitting it to key transitional priorities. On 26 September, a parallel, additional “faction of the FFC” emerged, comprising eight signatories to the Juba Peace Agreement, including the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Movement Minni Minnawi faction. The new grouping continued to challenge the original FFC and the transitional Government, even though it included the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Gibril Ibrahim. It reportedly supported a group of anti-government protestors that established a sit-in camp in the vicinity of the Republican Palace on 17 October. In turn, a significant number of supporters of the civilian-led democratic transition demonstrated across the country on 21 October.

14. Meanwhile, the situation in Eastern Sudan also escalated, with the closure of Red Sea ports and key roads by members of the Beja High Council, whi ch disrupted the supply of medicine, fuel and wheat to the rest of the country. Beja protestors demanded the dissolution of the civilian Government in Khartoum and called for a military takeover, as well as the abrogation of the eastern track of the Juba Peace Agreement. Following the coup of 25 October, negotiations led to the temporary opening of the port and the main roads on 1 November for a month, pending further consultations.

15. At the regional level, disagreements between Egypt, Ethiopia and the Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam continued, and a date for the resumption of talks had yet to be set. Meanwhile, the situation along the Al-Fashaga border between Ethiopia and the Sudan remained volatile, compounded by the escalating conflict in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia and the risk of its further spillover into the Sudan. On 21 September, in the wake of the attempted coup in Khartoum, the Sudanese authorities announced that they had thwarted an attempt by the Ethiopian army to invade Al-Fashaga. The Ethiopian authorities denied this claim.