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German Volker Perthes to become head of UN Support Mission in Sudan

January 7 - 2021 NEW YORK / EL TINA / NIERTETI
UN Security Council in New York (UN)
UN Security Council in New York (UN)

The UN Secretary-General has announced the selection of Volker Perthes as Special Envoy of the Secretary General to Sudan and Head of the UN Integrated Transition Support Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).

Reportedly, five diplomats competed in last months of 2020 for the UNITAMS top job. Sudan's Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok would like a European to take the post, but Russia and China disagreed.

It seems that the prime minister succeeded, as the newly appointed UNITAMS head is a German national. Between 2005 and 2020, he was director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. In addition, he headed the Ceasefire Task Force of the International Syria Support Group between 2016-2018. In 2015-2016, he served as Senior Advisor to the UN Special Envoy for Syria.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) decided on the establishment of UNITAMS on June 3 last year, in response to the official request of the Sudanese government sent to the UN Secretary General on February 27, to provide a Chapter VI peace support operation to Sudan,

On the same day, the UNCS also extended the mandate of the hybrid United Nations-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) until December 31, 2020, after which the peacekeepers will definitely leave Sudan.

PM Hamdok explained at the time that “We requested assistance in the form of a mission that helps us in addressing transition issues, chief among which is financing the implementation of the peace agreements that are imminent, for instance the establishment of schools and hospitals, something similar to the Marshall Plan”.

Volker Perthes selected as head of UNITAMS (World Economic Forum)


A group of 98 Sudanese civil society activists however urged the PM on May 4 already, to add ‘physical protection’ to his request for a new UN mission. The activists doubted if Sudan is able protect its citizens one year after the ousting of the regime headed by Omar Al Bashir.

This doubt was reflected by Amnesty International in December this year. In a statement on December 9, the international human rights watchdog urged the UN Security Council “in light of failure by government security forces to protect civilians in recent months” to extend the mandate of UNAMID by at least six months.

In Darfur, the exit of UNAMID stirred up many protests as many fear as well that, with the mission leaving, the insecurity will increase again.

Thousands of displaced people in Kalma camp, South Darfur, even staged a weeks-long sit-in in front of the UNAMID office in the camp, calling for an extension of the mission’s mandate.

Displaced leaders also complained about army forces and paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces entering the camps, and harassing people. They called on the UNSC to form a committee to study the current situation and extent of crimes and violence in Darfur before withdrawing the UNAMID mission.

In an interview on the occasion of the mission’s exit, UNAMID Joint Special Representative Jeremiah Mamabolo acknowledged that the situation in Darfur improved, but not enough. “Fighting is not over yet in Darfur,” he stated, but he expressed optimism about the future. “Transitional arrangements are always messy. I say to the people in Darfur: There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Public prosecutors absent

According to North Darfur Governor Mohamed Arabi, the inability of the police forces to follow up criminal acts can be attributed “to the scarcity of resources, the absence of prosecution officers and courts in large areas of the state, a culture of non-accountability, and the absence of the rule of law”.

During his visit to the northern localities of El Tina, Um Baru, and Karnoi, Arabi said that his government will immediately start securing the trade route that connects the state capital of El Fasher with Kutum and the three other localities in the northern part of the state, without waiting for the formation of the specific peace forces to be formed after the exit of UNAMID.

He further said that the Sudanese Public Prosecution will appoint a public prosecutor for each of El Tina, Um Baru, and Karnoi localities.


In Central Darfur, Mutasim Idris (35) was abducted in the area of Waranga, 18 km north of Nierteti, on Tuesday.

Speaking to Radio Dabanga, a neighbour of the victim reported that a group of 10 gunmen, riding in a Land Cruiser and wearing uniforms of the Rapid Support Forces, stormed Idris’ home on Tuesday evening.

“They took him with them in eastern direction towards the area of Gourni,” he said. “His family was unable to obtain information about the reason for the kidnapping and his whereabouts.”

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