Sudanese activists petition Hamdok about UN force mandate

On Monday, a group of Sudanese civil society activists urged Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok in a petition to add ‘physical protection’ to his request for a new UN force to be deployed in the country.

On Monday, a group of Sudanese civil society activists urged Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok in a petition to add ‘physical protection’ to his request for a new UN force to be deployed in the country.

The 98 signatories of the petition dated May 4 point to the two letters Hamdok sent to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres earlier this year, in which he requested the UN Security Council to establish a Chapter VI Special Political Mission/Peace Support Operation to assist in the peace process and help Sudan to mobilise international financial assistance.

In both letters, the issue of physical protection of civilians was not clearly addressed, the activists say.  “As you're well aware that Chapter VI of the UN Charter aims to support the maintenance, monitoring, and building of peace, usually in the context of peace agreements, but not a peace enforcement mechanism to prevent violent conflict as it is the case in Chapter VII.”

The UN Security Council on 12 March discussed a joint UN-African Union report on the current peacekeeping Mission in Darfur (Unamid) and the formation of a new joint mission.

On civilian protection, the report stated that this is the responsibility of Sudan. “If a follow-on mission includes a mandate indicating the physical protection of civilians, such a mandate, which has not been requested to date by the transitional Government of the Sudan, would require a very significant deployment, commensurate with the size of the area of operations.”

The petitioners point to the fact that “thus far no clear proposals have been introduced to address the core issues that drive violence in Darfur.

“Nine months ago, you were sworn in as Prime Minister of Sudan, shortly after you announced at a press conference that your government's number one priority is to stop the war, and build a sustainable peace. Yet, since then, clashes between herders and farmers in Darfur escalated [..]. Peace efforts taking place in Juba are mostly marked by deadlines that come and go, and in the meantime security conditions in Darfur and elsewhere are clearly deteriorating.”

The activists doubt if Sudan is able protect its citizens one year after the ousting of the regime headed by Omar Al Bashir. “Tribal tensions and hate speeches filling the social media instigating unhealed wounds throughout Darfur. Given such realities on the ground, not a single civilian protection mechanism has been put in place to prevent occurring attacks on civilians and on the IDP camps. [..]

“It has never been disputed fact that security forces remain part of the problem and have done little to prevent clashes, despite the ouster of the Al Bashir regime. We wonder to what extent your government is aware of such threats that may lead to renewed atrocities and perhaps full fledge civil war in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan.”

The civil society activists further point to the spread of Covid-19 to Sudan which “poses another impediment in monitoring conflict zones.

“It's not the time to replace missions,” they state. “Rather you must ask the international community to empower the existing Unamid with a stronger mandate and additional means and logistics to carry on its duties.

“We support your vision to achieve democratic transition and capacity building as well as peace implementation through the United Nations system. However, we strongly oppose the departure of Unamid from Darfur with a mandate under Chapter VII to be replaced with a Chapter VI mission.”

They urge PM Hamdok to “shift course on your demands to the Security Council from Chapter VI to Chapter VII mandate with emphasis on civilian protection, demand that the Unamid mission, equipped with a more robust force for civilian protection, be extended beyond October 2020, and call for additional support for Unamid to continue its mission under its current mandate or replace it with a broader mission under Chapter VII with additional tasks contained in your letters”.

The text of the petition and the list of signatories – “not an exhaustive list, only a sample of the voices of the Sudanese people” is attached below.

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