Sudan declares UNITAMS head persona non grata ‘contrary to UN Charter’

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), Volker Perthes, briefs the UNSC in New York on May 22 (Photo: UNTV)


The Sudanese Foreign Ministry says it has communicated with the Secretary-General of the UN, António Guterres, informing him that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), Volker Perthes, has been declared persona non grata in Sudan. The UN says this is contrary to the obligations of States under the Charter of the United Nations.

The UN has condemned the move. Asked about the UN Secretary-General’s response to the Sudan government declaration at the daily UN press briefing on Friday, spokesperson for the Secretary-General, Stéphane Dujarric, told reporters: “Well, I think what I can tell you is that the Secretary-General recalls that the doctrine of persona non grata is not applicable to or in respect of United Nations personnel, and its invocation is contrary to the obligations of States under the Charter of the United Nations, including those concerning the privileges and immunities of the United Nations and its personnel.”

Dujarric confirmed that Perthes is currently in Addis Ababa, but would not be drawn on whether he will return to Port Sudan, where he has been working, and was interviewed by Radio Dabanga last month. In that interview, Perthes told Radio Dabanga that since the outbreak of the war between the SAF and the paramilitary RSF on April 15, he is in constant communication with both parties to the conflict, including El Burhan and RSF leader Lt Gen Mohamed ‘Hemedti’ Dagalo.

In Addis Ababa on Thursday, Perthes met with the UN Special Representative to the African Union, along with Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Special Envoy, Ismail Weiss. He later spoke at a diplomatic briefing hosted by the UK Mission in Ethiopia. He engaged with Sudanese human rights activists and representatives of Sudanese civil society organisations, with included the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) and the Khatim Adlan Center for Enlightenment and Human Development (KACE), “as part of its efforts to monitor the human rights and protection situation in Sudan”.


The UN envoy has had a tenuous relationship with the Sudanese government, especially since the start of the hostilities between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in April. Two weeks ago, Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, Commander-in-Chief of the SAF and President of the Sovereignty Council on Friday morning requested UN Secretary-General António Guterres to replace Perthes.

In a four-page letter, El Burhan commends the establishment of UNITAMS in early 2021, after the UN Security Council decided to establish the mission to replace the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) in June the year before.

However, the “transparent and just functioning of UNITAMS has been lost, due to the performance and personal disposition of the head of the mission and mediators from outside the mission”.

El Burhan further gives a number of examples of “the strange behaviour” of Perthes during the transitional period, in his reactions to the political developments in Sudan since his arrival in Sudan in February 2021, and concludes the letter with the request to replace the envoy.

In a short reaction to El Burhan’s letter, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the Secretary-General, said at the time that Guterres was “shocked” by the request to remove his envoy in Sudan.

“The Secretary-General is proud of the work done by Volker Perthes and reaffirms his full confidence in his Special Representative,” Dujarric stated.

Mandate extended

At a special session on Sudan on Friday, the UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted resolution 2685, extending the mandate of UNITAMS until 3 December 2023. The previous mandate for UNITAMS officially expired yesterday (June 3), according to resolution 2636 (2022).

The UNSC decision extends the mission’s mandate by a further six months. The initial UNITAMS mandate until June 3, 2022, was extended for 12 months by the UNSC last year. The mission, which replaced the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) peacekeeping force, is charged to assist Sudan “in its transition towards democratic governance, provide support for peace negotiations and bolster efforts to maintain accountable Rule of Law and security institutions”.