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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/2021/766) [EN/AR]

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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 Secretary-General’s report of 17 May 2021 (S/2021/470). The present report also covers major developments in the Sudan from 2 May to 20 August 2021 and provides an update on the scale-up of UNITAMS.

II. Significant developments

A. Political situation

2. Notable progress was achieved in advancing key elements of the Sudanese political transition. Leading components of the transitional Government renewed their commitment to work together, against a backdrop of growing popular frustration over the country’s political and economic challenges. Sudanese protestors continued to express their grievances and collective demands peacefully, despite isolated violent incidents. In addition, important measures were taken to implement aspects of the Juba Peace Agreement of 3 October 2020. On 14 June, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok appointed new State governors (walis) for North Darfur, West Darfur and the Blue Nile State. Meanwhile, talks resumed between the transitional Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) Abdelaziz al-Hilu faction, a major group not a signatory to the Agreement.

3. Against a backdrop of increasing tensions between and within the military and civilian components of the transitional Government, on 22 June Prime Minister Hamdok launched a national initiative entitled “The National Crisis and Issues of the Transition – The Way Forward”, described as a “framework of comprehensive political settlement” between the military and political “transitional partners” to “ensure the success of the transitional period” in establishing “a civil and democratic State based on equal citizenship”. This initiative called for, inter alia, ensuring justice, realizing peace, dismantling remnants of the former regime, fighting corruption, reforming the military and security sector, strengthening national sovereignty and forming the Transitional Legislative Council. Several Sudanese political forces, including the Forces for Freedom and Change coalition, the Sudanese Revolutionary Front and the National Ummah Party, expressed support for the Prime Minister’s initiative.

4. The Council of Ministers announced a series of economic, political and security priority measures on 27 June, following a three-day closed-door retreat, including the implementation of the National Plan for the Protection of Civilians. They also outlined various social mitigation measures to help alleviate the adverse impacts of economic reforms. The Minister for Cabinet Affairs, Khalid Omer Yousif, affirmed that the transitional Government would provide the resources necessary to ensure implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement and, in particular, expedite implementation of the security arrangements protocol. In early July, the Council of Partners of the Transitional Period set a new deadline for the long-awaited formation of the Transitional Legislative Council, with its first session slated for 17 August, the second anniversary of the signing of the Constitutional Declaration. However, the Council remains to be established.

5. Efforts to bring non-signatories to the Juba Peace Agreement into the peace process continued. A new round of negotiations between the SPLM-N Abdelaziz al-Hilu faction and the transitional Government resumed on 27 May in Juba. The talks, which built on the joint Declaration of Principles signed between the SPLM-N Abdelaziz al-Hilu faction and the transitional Government on 28 March, were adjourned on 15 June to allow the parties to expand consultations and broaden inclusivity. While the parties did not reach an agreement on a framework agreement, they made significant progress on key elements that were expected to guide the overall process once talks reconvene after consulting with their constituencies. A gender working group was established with the facilitation of UNITAMS, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to mainstream gender into the proceedings to ensure women’s rights are protected and advanced in the outcomes of the peace talks. Following the adjournment of the first round of talks, the SPLM-N Abdelaziz al-Hilu faction and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), led by Abdul Wahid al-Nur, announced the signing of a political declaration in Kauda, South Kordofan, on 29 July. In the statement, it was noted that the two movements agreed on the nee d for the unity of the Sudanese State based on secularism, democracy, liberalism, equal decentralized citizenship and balanced development. It also underscored the right of all Sudanese people to determine their fate and their administrative and political future.

6. Initial measures to begin implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement security arrangements also commenced. On 30 June, the Chairperson of the Sovereign Council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, issued three decrees establishing the Joint High Military Committee for Security Arrangements, the Permanent Ceasefire Committee and sectoral and area committees. The decrees also explicitly referenced the role of UNITAMS as participating in the Joint High Military Committee and chairing the Permanent Ceasefire Committee. This development followed a joint statement issued on 27 May by several signatory armed groups, criticizing the transitional Government for the “slow pace” of implementing the security arrangements. In a meeting with the leadership of the armed forces on 27 June, Lieutenant General al-Burhan stated that the army was committed to implementing the security arrangements and reforming its structures as agreed in the Juba Peace Agreement.

7. Accountability for the violent events related to the 2019 revolution and for the subsequent violent crackdown on protestors remained a key demand of protestors. On 11 May, popular demonstrations commemorating the anniversary (according to the Islamic lunar calendar) of the 3 June 2019 killing of more than 100 protesters were forcibly dispersed by the Sudanese Armed Forces, killing two people and injuring 37. Prime Minister Hamdok publicly described the violence as a “crime against peaceful protesters” and called on the Attorney-General to investigate this and similar past incidents. The Sudanese Armed Forces also issued a statement describing the events as “unfortunate” and vowed to investigate. Investigations had started but the cases had not yet proceeded to trial. Further protests erupted again on 3 June as thousands of Sudanese took to the streets restating their call for accountability and expressing anger that, two years later, the independent committee tasked with the investigation had yet to release its findings. One police officer was shot dead. On 15 June, Prime Minister Hamdok addressed the nation, calling for unity “to protect the revolution”. He noted his efforts to maintain a “difficult balance” between all components of the transitional Government and defended recent economic reforms and the importance of “increasing the Sudan’s productivity”.

8. On 30 June, in commemoration of the thirty-second anniversary of the coup that brought former President al-Bashir to power, as well as of the 2019 “million person” march, thousands of protesters from diverse opposition groups, including revolutionary groups, the Sudanese Communist Party and Islamists, protested in several Sudanese cities demanding the end of the transitional Government. Young people also demonstrated in separate pro-democracy protests in support of the revolution. Sudanese authorities reported the arrest of 200 members of the former ruling party, accusing them of plotting “acts of destruction”.

9. At the regional level, disagreement intensified in recent months between Egypt,
Ethiopia and the Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. On 19 July,
Ethiopia announced the completion of the second filling of the Dam reservoir. Egypt and the Sudan condemned the second filling as a continuation of what they considered to be unilateral action by Ethiopia. Tensions remained high between Ethiopia and the Sudan over the management of their common border in the Fashaqah area. Despite heightened ongoing tensions, on 16 August, Prime Minister Hamdok and General Al-Burhan visited Fashaqah, during which time they announced the development of infrastructure and other development projects to advance stability. On 20 June, the Sudan and Ethiopia had agreed to reopen their border crossing, which had been closed for several months. On 24 June, Sudanese-Egyptian military talks had concluded in Khartoum, with the signing of a memorandum of understanding for joint cooperation.