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Peace And Security In Sudan

The prolonged humanitarian and political crisis in Sudan witnessed a resurgence in early 2023. To end the months-long conflict between the Sudanese army and paramilitary forces, international intervention, spearheaded by the United Nations, has been the popular measure adopted aiming to bring peace to Sudan. The UN has recognised the concerns in the national health system with rising disease outbreaks, the absence of education for an entire generation and the rising numbers of civilians requiring humanitarian assistance. Primarily, the UN aimed to establish a civilian democratic government to ensure sustained peace.

Subsequently, in November 2023, the Sudanese military government addressed the UN Chief and Council, requesting the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers from the country. Following Mali and Congo, Sudan has become the third African country to request the UN’s step back. The letter to the UN Foreign Minister Ali Elsadig Ali from the Sudanese Ambassador informed Antonio Guterres of “the decision of the government of Sudan to terminate the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) with immediate effect”.

While the UNITAMS aimed to assist the transitional government in Sudan after the revolution in December 2018, the government argued that the mission had proven “disappointing”. Finally, Guetrres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric stated that the mandate is now scheduled to end on December 3, 2023.


In prior efforts to instil peace in the country, with UN facilitation and supported by the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an agreement was signed in December 2022 between political stakeholders and the military in Sudan. Yet, with persistent economic and communal instabilities, armed violence compounded the political crisis and exaggerated conflicts. In March 2023, the stakeholders were extremely close to a settlement recognising the return of a civilian government.

However, on April 15, 2023, conflict erupted between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces. During this time, requirements of necessities rose to levels higher than before. About a third of the population, around 15.8 people, required humanitarian assistance including food, water, medicines, and fuel, as per the UN records.

The continued conflict and humanitarian crises are additionally weighed on as the country is a host to over a million refugees and asylum seekers.

UN Peacekeeping and its withdrawal

The UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission has been attempting to support democracy in Sudan. On November 14, 2023, the Security Council decided to extend the mandate of its Interim Security Force for a year to maintain the current authorised troops. “the Council reiterated that the Abyei area should be demilitarized from any forces, including armed elements of the local communities, other than UNISFA and the Abyei Police Service, when it is gradually established.  In this regard, it urged the two Governments and the local communities to take all necessary steps”.

The UN curated its Sudan 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan which aimed to “prioritise multi-cluster, life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable. The plan also includes response readiness for recurring flooding, conflict, and disease outbreaks”. It was targeted to provide support to about 2 million people with the same financial commitments as 2022. 

The growing conflict, one with no “end in sight”, has affected over 5.4 million people, with about 30,000 persons fleeing their homes every day. The Deputy Special Representative of the Sectrary-General and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Clementine Nkweta-Salami stated in October 2023, “I’ve met mothers in Sudan who’ve told me they don’t know where to find the next meal for their children. I’ve met families sleeping in makeshift shelters, struggling to find food and water and unable to access healthcare; their children out of school and the family breadwinners out of work”.

The UN has now appointed Ian Martin, a negotiator, to evaluate and provide options for the Peacekeeping Mission to be adapted to fit the novel wartime conditions. “Mr. Martin will hold extensive consultations with key stakeholders including Sudanese authorities, civil society, regional and sub-regional organizations, Member States and relevant entities within the UN system”.

In response, Sudan’s representative at the meeting on April 18, 2023, had called for the International Criminal Court and UN Ambassadors to reexamine the Mission’s per the expectations in the landscape of forced expulsions of citizens, ethnic cleansing, and other crimes by the RSF.

What lies ahead?

With the appointment of Ian Martin, the UN will enable a modified evaluation of the situation in Sudan and persist in its efforts to enable a transition to a civilian government despite the “setback” of having to withdraw UNITAMS. Guterres has also appointed Algeria’s Ramtane Lamamra as his personal envoy, “We will continue to engage closely with all actors, including the Sudanese authorities and members of the Security Council, to clarify next steps”.

While the worsening crisis in Sudan is indisputable, the UN is committed to stopping the spread of the conflict to other parts of the country. One of the most significant concerns remains the increasing number of persons displaced from their homes due to the simultaneous crises of lack of access to necessities, economic downturn, and political and communal clashes.

Nkweta-Salami has also argued that the UN humanitarian team on the ground are trying to reach the worst-affected and most vulnerable communities. “And I think if we get a strong not only commitment, but a commitment that is translated today into positive action by all the parties to this conflict, then hopefully we will have no longer deaths amongst humanitarian workers”.

Significantly, an imperative question remains: Are UN Peacekeeping operations sufficient and appropriate to instil peace in countries marked by prolonged ethnic and political conflict? Though on paper the efforts seem to support democratic peace, the necessities of institutionalised reform are unaddressed by the various objectives and operatives of the UN, in Sudan and beyond.

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