The United Nations and African Union peacekeeping force in Sudan, Unamid, will cease operations on December 31, 2020, and will be replaced by a civilian mission focusing on the country’s democratic transition.
The UN Security Council announced the decision in a virtual meeting on June 4, after delaying the decision for four days following the resistance of the Sudan military wing of the transitional government that did not want another military deployment.
The mandate of Unamid was supposed to end on October 31; it was deployed in 2007 to pacify the war in the Western region of Darfur. A request by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to have a new political mission to cover the whole country after the expiry of Unamid’s term has not been successful.
The resolution, approved by all 15 Security Council members, extended the mandate of the 6,500-strong Unamid by six months.
However, it added that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the chair of the African Union Commission, must report, by October 31, whether Sudan’s security forces have the capacity to protect civilians in Darfur.
It was also decided that a follow-on mission known as the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (Unitams), will have an initial mandate of one year starting January 2021, to help Sudan in the political transition after the fall of the Omar al-Bashir 30-year rule in April 2019.
Mr Hamdok asked for a political and military mission that would support the implementation of the Constitutional Declaration, implement peace accords in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, mobilise international economic assistance for Sudan, and support the constitutional making.
But his partner in the transitional government, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan of the Sudan Armed Forces, opposed the proposal arguing that further military deployment would compromise Sudan’s sovereignty.
The final resolution on the deployment of Unitams came after a debate that pitted UK and Germany, who wanted the extension of Unamid mandate and deployment of a new mission, against Russia and China who said the protection of civilians should be left to the Sudanese authorities.
The initial draft circulated on May 16 had proposed extending the mandate of Unamid for seven months from October 31 to May 2021, in recognition of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At a briefing in April, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix told council members that plans to close Unamid by October 31 had been rendered impractical by the spread of Covid-19 and challenges that could occur during the rainy season in June.
Unitams will now assist the political transition, including technical assistance to the constitution-drafting process, preparations for elections, legal and judicial reform and support to implementation of the human-rights, accountability and rule of law provisions of the Constitutional Document.