Sudan: UN-African Union Mission in Darfur in final shutdown phase (28.07.2021)

The mission has so far handed over some $41 million in facilities and equipment to local authorities.

NEW YORK, United States of America, July 28, 2021 – Practically all peacekeepers and staff have now left the hybrid UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), in line with its drawdown plan, a senior UN official told the Security Council on Tuesday.

Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support, updated ambassadors on progress towards the mission’s closure and final liquidation, following the end of its mandate last December after 13 years protecting civilians uprooted by conflict.

Nearly 6,000 troops and police were repatriated from the Sudanese province ahead of the drawdown deadline of 30 June, and nearly 1,200 civilian staff were separated from the mission.

Expedited timelines achieved

The UN General Assembly recently approved nearly $80 million to support final closure no later than 30 June 2022.

Mr. Khare was in Sudan earlier this month, where he met with senior officials as part of efforts to ensure progress remains on track.

“All leaders shared their satisfaction at the successful achievement of the expedited timelines and discussed ways to resolve outstanding issues related to the liquidation and wider transition implications,” he reported.

Only a 360-strong Guard Unit remains at UNAMID to protect staff working on the exit, and the remaining UN assets, though primary responsibility for security rests with the Sudanese Government.

Remaining UN assets in Darfur are being disposed of in two phases, the first of which is already underway.

‘Enormous’ inventory list

The mission has so far handed over some $41 million in facilities and equipment to local authorities, but 10 of the 14 sites reportedly have suffered “varying degrees of destruction and theft”, which Mr. Khare called a major loss for local communities.

“I note that although authorities have made commitments to investigate these incidents, various Sudanese interlocutors have nevertheless suggested that these events resulted from underlying tensions among groups locally, along with concerns, whether real or perceived, surrounding equitable access to the facilities and equipment that was handed over,” he said.

Mr. Khare pointed to the potential of properties such as the UNAMID logistics base in El Fasher. Its numerous assets include more than 1,000 self-contained housing units, a hospital facility, a power generation and distribution network, a fuel storage depot, and water storage and purification equipment.

Hundreds of vehicles and other moveable property are also being stored there.

Pure water for a million

UNAMID also currently holds enough sodium hypochlorite salt to purify roughly seven billion litres of water, sufficient to meet the drinking and cooking needs for one million people for a year.

“It is critical that the Government of Sudan makes every effort to ensure that this enormous reserve of facilities and equipment is sustainably applied to national imperatives for civilian use,” he said.

Although some $8 million in equipment has been transferred to other UN field operations, or to a peacekeeping reserve in Italy, Mr. Khare stressed that the bulk will be donated to the Sudanese authorities for civilian use.

“To this end, during my recent visit to Sudan, I implored all government interlocutors to emphasize the immediate development of a single, holistic donation plan, with input and agreement from Government interlocutors at the national and local levels,” he said.

Handover challenges

The UN intends to gradually handover the El Fasher site to the authorities, starting in November, a process that would lead to the phased reduction of the Guard Unit.

“For all this to occur in an orderly and speedy fashion, I must raise the issue of the armed movements that have stationed forces around the El Fasher compound since the beginning of June,” Mr. Khare told the Council.

“After an initial period of confusion among these groups which led to the disruption of UNAMID movements, and, in some cases, harassment of United Nations personnel and vendors, movements have for the most part proceeded as needed in the recent weeks.”

However, he said coordination and leadership among these groups is critical if the liquidation process is to proceed smoothly “for the long-term sustainable benefit of Sudan and its people.”

Domestic Violence, Forced Marriage, Have Risen in Sudan: UN-Backed Study (20.07.2021)

Deteriorating economic conditions since 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have fuelled an increase in domestic violence and forced marriage in Sudan, a UN-backed study has revealed.

NEW YORK, United States of America, July 20, 2021 – Voices from Sudan 2020, published this week, is the first-ever nationwide qualitative assessment of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country, where a transitional government is now in its second year.

Addressing the issue is a critical priority, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Government’s Combating Violence against Women Unit (CVAW), co-authors of the report.

“The current context of increased openness by the Government of Sudan, and dynamism by civil society, opens opportunities for significant gains in advancing women’s safety and rights,” they said.

Physical violence at home 

The report aims to complement existing methods of gathering data and analysis by ensuring that the views, experiences and priorities of women and girls, are understood and addressed.

Researchers found that communities perceive domestic and sexual violence as the most common GBV issues.

Key concerns include physical violence in the home, committed by husbands against wives, and by brothers against sisters, as well as movement restrictions which women and girls have been subjected to.

Another concern is sexual violence, especially against women working in informal jobs, but also refugee and displaced women when moving outside camps, people with disabilities, and children in Qur’anic schools.

Pressure to comply

Forced marriage is also “prominent”, according to the report. Most of these unions are arranged between members of the same tribe, or relatives, without the girl’s consent or knowledge.

Meanwhile, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) remains widespread in Sudan, with varying differences based on geographic location and tribal affiliation.  Although knowledge about the illegality and harmfulness of the practice has reached community level, child marriage and FGM are not perceived as key concerns.

Women’s access to resources is also severely restricted.  Men control financial resources, and boys are favoured for access to opportunities, especially education. Verbal and psychological pressure to comply with existing gender norms and roles is widespread, leading in some cases to suicide.

The deteriorating economic situation since 2020, and COVID-19, have increased violence, especially domestic violence and forced marriage, the report said. Harassment in queues for essential supplies such as bread and fuel has also been reported.

Data dramatically lacking 

Sudan continues to move along a path to democracy following the April 2019 overthrow of President Omar Al-Bashir who had been in power for 30 years.

Openly discussing GBV “has not been possible for the last three decades”, according to the report.

“GBV data is dramatically lacking, with no nation-wide assessment done for the past 30 years, and a general lack of availability of qualitative and quantitative data,” the authors said.

To carry out the assessment, some 215 focus group discussions were held with communities: 21 with GBV experts, as well as a review of existing studies and assessments.

Research was conducted between August and November 2020, encompassing 60 locations and camps, and the data was scanned through a software for qualitative analysis, followed a model first used in Syria.

Ethiopia: Ministry of Foreign Affairs – On resuming the AU-led trilateral negotiations on GERD (13.07.2021)

Ethiopia: Ministry of Foreign Affairs – The Nile Riparian Countries say the AU-led Process on the GERD negotiations is the right platform to reach amicable solutions (07.07.2021)

Ethiopia: Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy Dr. Seleshi Bekele letter to Sudanese Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Prof. Yasir Abbas Mohammed (05.07.2021)

Ethiopia: Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Ethiopia writes letter to UN Security Council protesting Arab League’s meddling on GERD (06.07.2021)

Ethiopia: Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Statement on the Resolution of the League of Arab States on the GERD (15.06.2021)

Joint UN Press Release – UN agencies in Sudan reach conflict-affected communities in non-government-controlled areas for first time in a decade (13.06.2021)

United Nations humanitarian agencies have not been able to reach or provide life-saving assistance to support people in the five locations since 2011.

KHARTOUM, Sudan, June 13, 2021 – For the first time in ten years, United Nations humanitarian agencies have been able to access conflict-affected communities in the five non-governmental areas controlled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) El Hilu in South Kordofan and Blue Niles states of Sudan.

A series of humanitarian missions to the five isolated enclaves has concluded, just as renewed peace talks between the Government of Sudan and SPLM-N are ongoing in Juba, South Sudan. These five areas have largely been cut-off from support over the last decade and the missions’ findings indicate people are in dire need of improved food security, education, health, and water and sanitation services.

“This response marks a significant breakthrough in humanitarian access and response to conflict-affected communities previously unreached by UN humanitarian assistance. We commend the local efforts to support essential needs during the years of hardship. The humanitarian community in Sudan is calling for increased access and critically needed assistance to support these marginalized communities,” said Khardiata Lo N’diaye, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General and Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan.

United Nations humanitarian agencies have not been able to reach or provide life-saving assistance to support people in the five locations since 2011, when conflict broke out between the Government of Sudan and the SPLM-N. Gaining humanitarian access to these communities provides a critical opportunity to improve lives and rebuild livelihoods.

“Communities in these areas have been struggling and surviving on little or nothing for a decade. Access for humanitarian agencies so they can increase their assistance to these vulnerable communities is critical. With improved food security and other opportunities, families will be able to reintegrate with the rest of Sudan and start to recover and rebuild,” said Eddie Rowe, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director in Sudan.

WFP delivered 100 metric tons of nutritious biscuits for 25,000 school children in 83 schools on the five missions. This was the first assistance that people in these isolated areas had received from the UN in the last decade due to conflict and access constraints. A lack of food for students is one of the main challenges Page 2 of 3 in maintaining school enrolment in these isolated areas. Providing school meals is among the top priorities for WFP’s response as access continues to open.

“Whilst these missions mark a major development, we need to ensure that humanitarian access to children and communities in need is always granted. No conditions should ever be set on access; humanitarian assistance should be provided at all times and from all places to those that need it. Findings from this mission are bleak. These children have been entirely ‘left behind’. We have to act now to ensure these children have a future. Collectively, efforts must be made to ensure access and sustain and scale up assistance,” said Abdullah Fadil, UNICEF Representative in Sudan.

Expanding humanitarian access to SPLM-N controlled enclaves is crucial to providing urgent assistance to an estimated 800,000 people in these areas, who desperately need relief following years of isolation. Ramping up support will help stabilize communities and pave the path for peacebuilding efforts, while reinforcing the UN’s commitment to assist marginalised populations in Sudan.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) participated in missions over the last six weeks to five isolated areas in SPLM-N El Hilu controlled areas including Zozak and Amora in Blue Nile State and Kau/Nyaro, Rashad/New Tegali, and Western Jebels in South Kordofan State.

Opinion: Hemeti will challenge the Gods

The Commander of Rapid Support Forces (RSF) the former Janjaweed, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemeti” is now challenging the state and the Sovereign Council. As he has not accepted to fully integrate the militia into the army.

RSP is already semi-autonomous, but by the act in government from 2017. The powers of the President can still command it. Therefore, the manner in which the law is created. It is creating a hard way to find ways to measure it. As it was an autonomous unit, but can be commanded by the President. This is maybe why the Sovereign Council and the Transitional Government want it under the same umbrella and not run as a separate outfit anymore. Especially, when the integrity and the power imbalance it might create.

The National Army is about 110,000 soldiers. While the RSF is about 20,000 militia men. Therefore, the size of RSF is substantial. Though, Hemeti is overplaying his hand here. Al-Burhan is the President (Chairman) of the Sovereign Council and Commander of the Armed Forces. By the laws of RSF Act of 2017. This means Al-Burhan can direct the RSF the way he see fit.

That means the RSF have to comply. The RSF Act was created for Al-Bashir’s wishes and whims. However, he is no longer the President and Commander-in-Chief. At this current time Al-Burhan runs as the President with Hamdok as the Prime Minister. Therefore, Hemeti which happens to be the Deputy of Al-Burhan doesn’t have the mandate to rebel against this.

Yes, the law is made in a way, which creates a lot of issues. Certainly, it was wilfully done so. In such a way that Al-Bashir could put all the blame on Hemeti and say he acted on his own merit. Instead of having to take responsibility for the actions made by the RSF in Darfur. Now, the same protocols are stifling the integration and furthering the process of a peaceful transition.

Hemeti doesn’t want to give up now. After years as a General and continued to rise to prominence. He has tried to make himself look more feasible and trade-off as a political broker. Still, everyone knows his past and willingness to dip into the coffers and get dirty. This man is willing to sell arms to Tchad or the Central African Republic. His willing to kill civilians and be a militia leader. So, it is not like his a man of protocol and a man of procedure. The RSF web page proves that as well.

Now, his willing to bet on the prestige and the ambition on his past. That he has the ability to overcome this obstacle and loose some sort of independence from the army. While the law, which he himself referred to recently. Is stating that the President can direct it and appoint it’s leadership. Meaning, if he Hemeti goes hard on this. Al-Burhan can in effect demote him and appoint someone else who is willing to accept the fate of the RSF in the SAF. That is just a mere fact and Hemeti should be aware of that himself.

His 20,000 combating a strong national army is a bloodshed in awaiting. Hemeti already have a war-torn Darfur and is known for his attacks on civilians there. Not like there is much love lost between the general public and the RSF. They still remember how the RSF was used to quell the revolution and civilians demonstrating against Al-Bashir. Therefore, he will not garner their love anytime soon.

This is why Hemeti should accept this plight. Swallow his pride and be happy that his even the Deputy in the Sovereign Council. That even with his horrific and depressing history, which he should have answered for in the court. The lives and the families he has hurt over the years. Still, he has rose to power and sitting at the high table. That man should feel lucky and not take this for granted.

Al-Burhan and the rest of the Sovereign Council is in it’s right to integrate and get the RSF into the SAF. That is just natural and not continue the agony of having it separate. Hemeti should understand that and just move-on. If he does… he will still have the reigns and be considered influential. However, if he gambles this all now.

Both the laws, the people and the Sovereign Council will dismiss him. There will be little to no redemption and what’s worse for him. That if they arrest him or start investigation of all of his acts during the years. The man will not see the light of day again. He will either be brought to court or get jail time. That is something you don’t want when you gotten this far…

However, Hemeti rather risk it, it seems and possibly loose it all. As he challenge the Gods, thinking they will forgive him. What a fool(!). This will only hurt him and he will not see it coming. Peace.

ICRC dramatically increases its budget in Ethiopia and Sudan as needs grow at an alarming rate (27.05.2021)

The new appeal will bring ICRC’s total budget for Ethiopia to 65 million Swiss francs.

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, May 27, 2021 -The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is asking donors for an additional 28 million Swiss francs ($31.3 million) for its operations in Ethiopia and Sudan following violence that has forced tens of thousands of people from their homes, increasing the need for food, clean water and medical care.

The new appeal will bring ICRC’s total budget for Ethiopia to 65 million Swiss francs ($72.7 million) and the total budget for Sudan to 36 million Swiss francs ($40.3 million). It is the ICRC’s largest such appeal in four years.

“We haven’t seen such an increase in the level of violence in this region for many years,” said Patrick Youssef, the ICRC’s head of operations for Africa. “The world’s attention has been mostly on Tigray, but pockets of violence broke out in other parts of Ethiopia as well, while fighting also resurfaced in Darfur, causing more fear, more displacement and preventing people from meeting their vital needs.

“We are facing an unprecedented challenge, responding to several crises that unfold against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate shocks,”Mr Youssef said.

In Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the presence of humanitarian actors increased in cities, but significant gaps remain in hard-to-reach rural areas. Access to food and primary healthcare are major humanitarian concerns. At the same time, humanitarian needs in other violence-affected areas like Oromia continue to grow.

In Sudan’s Darfur region, the flare-up of violence forced tens of thousands to flee their homes. People can’t grow food and access essential services. Meanwhile, the country is dealing with several displacement and refugee crises. Nearly 2 million Sudanese remain internally displaced, while the country is hosting more than a million refugees, including over 60,000 people who recently fled Ethiopia.

“The emergency response alone will not suffice in the situation we are now facing. The level of violence and destruction is such that we must be prepared to deal with the protracted consequences of these crises,” Mr Youssef added. “Respect for civilian life and property, as well as for healthcare facilities and personnel, is the only way to limit the disastrous humanitarian impact of the ongoing violence.”

The ICRC stepped up its response in Ethiopia and Sudan to cover urgent humanitarian needs, providing emergency relief and preparing for long-term interventions. Additional funding will enable it to expand its programs in Tigray, Oromia and other violence-affected areas of Ethiopia, working alongside the Ethiopian Red Cross. Reaching rural areas of Tigray, reinforcing health services, and increasing support for victims of sexual violence are among the main priorities.

In Sudan, the ICRC will expand its activities and support the Sudanese Red Crescent to respond to the increasing humanitarian needs in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan. It will focus on delivering assistance to people affected by violence, reinforcing primary health care and physical rehabilitation services.

ICRC in Ethiopia:

  • Supporting health centers in Zalambesa and Altitenna and hospitals in Shire and Sheraro;
  • Providing almost 200,000 liters of drinking water daily to more than 22,000 displaced people and host communities in Mekele, Axum and Shire;
  • Distributed seeds, tools and fertilizer to more than 35,000 families in Somali, Oromia and Tigray Regions.

ICRC in Sudan:

  • Expanding operations to Kassala state and supporting the Kassala teaching hospital’s emergency room;
  • Helping Ethiopian refugees reestablish contact with families and supporting health centers for around 60,000 Ethiopian refugees in 8 camps;
  • Distributed essential household items to around 90,000 people affected by violence in Darfur.