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UN envoy sees opportunity to end political crisis in Sudan

Volker Perthes, UN Special Representative to Sudan and head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan, speaks during a meeting of representatives of the tripartite mechanism in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on June 8, 2022.
(ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

UNITED NATIONS – The top UN envoy for Sudan on Tuesday saw an opportunity to help end the political crisis in Sudan.

With regard to the political process, some important decisions have been taken by the military, and some promising developments have happened among civilians, said Volker Perthes, the UN secretary-general's special representative and head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).

On July 4, the chairman of Sudan's ruling Transitional Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, announced the military's intention to withdraw from politics

On July 4, the chairman of Sudan's ruling Transitional Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, announced the military's intention to withdraw from politics.

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 While large parts of the public doubted that the military leadership meant what it said, the announcement did generate momentum among civilian forces. Several initiatives aimed at reaching a common civilian vision have emerged in response, he told the UN Security Council in a briefing.

The Trilateral Mechanism, consisting of UNITAMS, the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, has engaged with all initiatives. Almost all initiatives have expressed that they want the Trilateral Mechanism to play a role, either in bringing the different initiatives together, coming up with bridging proposals, or eventually facilitating or mediating an agreement with the military, he said.

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"I am actually encouraged by the degree of commonality in the current debate in Sudan. There are important differences, no doubt, about the institutional division of powers, particularly, the role of the military. But the gaps have narrowed. And there is wide-ranging consensus now, among other things, on the need for a civilian head of state, an independent prime minister, a cabinet of experts and technocrats, not of party leaders. There is also consensus that the issue of transitional justice needs to be high on the list of priorities," said Perthes. "So there is an opportunity to end the crisis, which military and civilian forces need to grasp."

While any political agreement needs to be Sudanese-owned, the Trilateral Mechanism stands ready to convene the parties around one text so as to bridge remaining differences, he said.

Nearly a year after the military takeover of Oct 25, 2021, Sudan still lacks a fully functional and legitimate government. The decision of the military to withdraw from politics and the recent initiatives by civilian forces offer a window of opportunity for both the military and political forces to reach an agreement on the way forward, he said.

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"Time is of the essence, however," he cautioned. "The longer the political paralysis exists, the more difficult it will become to return to the transition, which UNITAMS is mandated to assist. I urge all actors to seize this opportunity and reach an agreement on a solution that enjoys legitimacy in the eyes of Sudanese women and men."

Since his last briefing to the Security Council in May, Sudan has seen continued deterioration of the socio-economic situation. Security incidents affecting civilians have increased across the country. Humanitarian needs are growing exponentially, according to Perthes.

The overall situation will continue to worsen unless a political solution is found to restore a credible, fully functioning civilian-led government — a government that can re-establish the authority of the state across the country and create the conditions for a resumption of international cooperation, including debt relief, he said.

The human rights situation has not improved either during the reporting cycle. The political crisis in Khartoum also contributes to instability in the rest of the country. Particularly worrisome is the surge of violence in Darfur and the Blue Nile, said Perthes.

National and local authorities and civil society leaders have made attempts at brokering reconciliation agreements in Darfur and the Blue Nile. But the sustainability of these agreements remains uncertain in the absence of effective state authority, he said.

The lack of implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement continues to contribute to instability. Protocols to address the drivers of the conflict in Darfur, including wealth sharing, justice, land issues, and the return of internally displaced persons remain unfulfilled. In the absence of a political agreement, it will be difficult to advance these issues, he added.

Humanitarian needs are now at record levels due to a combined impact of ongoing political instability, economic crisis, rise in intercommunal violence, poor harvests and now flooding. Some 11.7 million people are facing acute hunger and the number is growing. While the United Nations and partner organizations managed to reach 7.1 million people in need since January, the 2022 humanitarian response plan for Sudan is only funded at 32 percent, Perthes noted.