Ultimatum au Darfour: Nouveau plan d’action international
Ultimatum au Darfour: Nouveau plan d’action international
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Sudan’s Imperilled Transition: Policy Recommendations for the U.S.
Sudan’s Imperilled Transition: Policy Recommendations for the U.S.
Report 83 / Africa

Ultimatum au Darfour: Nouveau plan d’action international

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Synthèse

La réaction internationale à la crise au Darfour, dans l'Ouest du Soudan, demeure à ce jour veule et inappropriée, ses effets restant désespérément minimes. Le Conseil de Sécurité des Nations Unies doit adopter, à l'échéance du 30 août 2004, un nouveau plan d'action international énonçant des mesures plus rigoureuses à l'égard des autorités de Khartoum, qui ont fait preuve de mauvaise foi tout au long de la crise, et autorisant l'Union Africaine (UA), épaulée par un soutien international renforcé, à intensifier ses efforts pour parvenir à améliorer la situation sur le terrain et à négocier un accord politique.

L'histoire a montré que Khartoum réagit de manière constructive aux pressions directes, mais ces pressions doivent être concertées, cohérentes et sincères. La campagne de purification ethnique de seize mois a donné lieu à une réaction lente dont l'influence favorable est peu significative. En dépit du déplacement à Khartoum et au Darfour de nombreuses personnalités de haut niveau, parmi lesquelles le Secrétaire général des Nations Unies Kofi Annan et le Secrétaire d'État américain Colin Powell, le gouvernement soudanais n'a pas encore respecté sa promesse, maintes fois répétée, de neutraliser les milices Janjawids responsables de la plupart des violences. La communauté internationale se doit à présent d'affirmer sans ambiguïté que cette négligence aura un coût substantiel pour le Soudan.

La situation au Darfour fait également peser une menace directe et grandissante sur les perspectives de paix au Soudan au terme d'une guerre civile longue de 21 ans et sur la future cohésion de l'un des pays africains les plus grands et potentiellement les plus riches. Il est urgent d'agir, tant sur le front de l'aide humanitaire que de la paix, faute de quoi non seulement le bilan est voué à s'alourdir de dizaines de milliers de victimes, mais l'instabilité risque également de se propager dans les pays voisins du Soudan.

Le Conseil de Sécurité des Nations Unies a finalement adopté le 30 juillet 2004 sa première résolution à la suite des atrocités perpétrées au Darfour, notamment les massacres et les viols systématiques. Cette résolution, dont on retiendra surtout les échecs, a imposé un embargo sur les armes, largement dénué de sens, à la fois aux milices Janjawids, à l'origine des plus terribles ravages, et aux rebelles, mais n'a visé aucune mesure à l'encontre du gouvernement soudanais, pour lequel les Janjawids ont agi par procuration, laissant ainsi croire aux officiels de Khartoum qu'ils pouvaient continuer indéfiniment à détourner les pressions visant à résoudre la crise. Un "Plan d'action" signé quelques jours plus tard entre les Nations Unies et le gouvernement a laissé à ce dernier une marge de manœuvre confortable pour se soustraire à toute action significative dans le délai de 30 jours fixé par la résolution du Conseil de Sécurité.

Plusieurs mois après que Colin Powell ait averti qu'une action internationale conséquente pouvait être déclenchée en quelques jours seulement et que Kofi Annan ait évoqué la possibilité d'une intervention militaire, Khartoum maintient sa politique visant à en dire et en faire juste assez pour échapper à une réaction internationale d'envergure. D'éminents responsables, notamment dans les rangs des renseignements militaires, continuent à miner la voie vers la paix en recherchant l'intégration des Janjawids dans les organes de sécurité officiels tels que la police, l'armée et les forces de défense populaire (un bras paramilitaire du gouvernement) au lieu de les désarmer.

La communauté internationale doit accroître sensiblement son engagement à l'égard des problèmes corrélés de l'aide humanitaire et de la sécurité sur le terrain. Pas moins de deux millions de civils du Darfour nécessitent une aide d'urgence, mais beaucoup en sont privés en raison des goulets créés par le gouvernement et, dans une moindre mesure, par les rebelles. Le nombre de personnes dans le besoin est sous-estimé et il augmentera en flèche dans les prochains mois. La capacité d'aide humanitaire, en termes de logistique, de financement, de personnel et de matériel de transport, est purement et simplement insuffisante pour secourir les populations en danger. Une pression accrue doit également être exercée sur le gouvernement pour qu'il se plie à sa promesse lancinante d'améliorer la sécurité en neutralisant les Janjawids.

L'unique lueur d'espoir réside dans l'attitude de plus en plus ferme de l'UA. Les observateurs de cette organisation régionale au Darfour ont démontré dans leurs rapports que le cessez-le-feu est régulièrement violé de part et d'autre, mais plus spécialement par le gouvernement. Aux quelque 100 observateurs s'ajoute désormais une troupe de 300 soldats nigérians et rwandais, chargés de les protéger, et les planifications s'intensifient pour une force nettement plus substantielle, de quelque 3000 militaires, qui aurait la mission plus ambitieuse de protéger les civils. L'Union Européenne (UE), les États-Unis et les autres acteurs qui se sont montrés prêts à soutenir le déploiement et l'installation d'une telle force, sur le plan logistique et financier, doivent exiger expressément que Khartoum consente à cette présence et à ce mandat.

La situation du Darfour constitue une menace sans cesse plus aiguë pour l'accord de paix, presque finalisé, qui mettrait un terme à la guerre civile plus vaste et plus ancienne entre le gouvernement et l'Armée Populaire de Libération du Soudan (APLS) insurgée. Aussi longtemps que les troubles persistent au Darfour, la possibilité s'offre aux forces politiques de Khartoum opposées aux concessions effectuées dans les négociations de ramener la politique gouvernementale sur le chemin de la guerre. Les perspectives s'amenuisent également qu'un accord final avec l'APLS, fût-il signé, puisse être mis en œuvre ou que le soutien nécessaire puisse être recueilli dans le monde occidental pour procurer aux deux parties l'aide dont elles ont besoin pour le bon fonctionnement de cet accord.

En conséquence, il est également primordial que l'UA redouble d'efforts pour aplanir les problèmes politiques qui sont à l'origine de la crise du Darfour. La communauté internationale doit apporter son plein appui aux pourparlers sur le Darfour parrainés par l'UA, notamment lors de la réunion du 23 août à Abuja, tout en assurant la progression des négociations entre le gouvernement et l'APLS sous l'égide de l'organisation régionale concernée, l'IGAD (Autorité Intergouvernementale pour le Développement) Les deux ensembles de pourparlers de paix sont étroitement imbriqués. Ainsi, l'UA devrait utiliser les modalités de l'accord conclu sur les Monts Nuba et le Nil bleu Sud en tant que point de départ de ses travaux dans les négociations sur le Darfour. La communauté internationale doit soutenir de tout son poids les deux processus, et les équipes de médiation doivent imaginer des méthodes de coordination efficaces. Si un processus global pour une paix nationale avait été amorcé d'emblée, la rébellion du Darfour aurait pu être évitée, mais il faut maintenant maximiser les liens et les pressions.

Nairobi/Bruxelles, le 23 août 2004

Executive Summary

The international response to the crisis in the western Sudanese region of Darfur remains limp and inadequate, its achievements so far desperately slight. The UN Security Council must, by its review deadline of 30 August 2004, endorse a new international action plan -- taking tougher measures against the Khartoum government, which has acted in bad faith throughout the crisis, and authorising the African Union (AU), with stronger international support, to follow up more decisively its efforts to improve the situation on the ground and mediate a political settlement.

History has shown that Khartoum will respond constructively to direct pressure, but this pressure must be concerted, consistent and genuine. Its sixteen-month ethnic cleansing campaign has elicited a slow-motion reaction which is having a negligible positive impact. Despite a series of high-level visitors to Khartoum and Darfur, including UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Sudanese government has yet to fulfil its repeated commitments to neutralise the Janjaweed militias responsible for much of the violence. The international community has yet to make clear, as it must, that there will be a decisive cost to Sudan for that failure.

The situation in Darfur also constitutes a direct and growing threat to peace prospects in Sudan's 21-year-old civil war and to the chance for one of Africa's largest and potentially richest countries to hold together. Unless much more is done quickly, on both the humanitarian and peace fronts, not only will many tens of thousands more die, but instability will spread, impacting Sudan's neighbours.

On 30 July 2004 the UN Security Council finally passed its first resolution in response to the atrocities, including killings and systematic rape, being committed in Darfur, but that resolution was most notable for what it failed to do. It placed an essentially meaningless arms embargo on the Janjaweed militias who have caused so much havoc and the rebels alike, but directed no measures at the Sudanese government for whom the Janjaweed have acted as a proxy and left officials in Khartoum confident they could continue indefinitely to deflect pressure to resolve the crisis. A "Plan of Action" signed by the UN with the government a few days later left ample room for it to avoid meaningful action within the 30-day deadline set by the Council resolution.

Months after Secretary Powell warned that significant international action could be only days away and Secretary General Annan raised the possibility of military intervention, Khartoum remains adept at saying and doing just enough to avoid a robust international response. Key officials, particularly within military intelligence, continue to undermine avenues toward peace, directing integration of the Janjaweed into official security bodies like the police, army and Popular Defence Forces (a paramilitary arm of the government), rather than disarming them.

The international community must do much more about the interconnected problems of humanitarian relief and security on the ground. As many as two million civilians in Darfur need emergency aid, but many are not receiving it because of bottlenecks created by the government and -- to a lesser extent -- the rebels. The number in need is underreported and will increase significantly in the coming months. The capacity to provide humanitarian assistance in terms of logistics, funding, personnel and transport equipment is simply not adequate to service those at risk. More pressure must also be placed on the government to comply with its repeated commitments to improve security by neutralising the Janjaweed.

The one bright spot is the AU's increasingly energetic response. The regional organisation's observers in Darfur have filed reports that demonstrate the ceasefire is being violated regularly by both sides but particularly by the government. Its some 100 observers are being joined by a force of 300 Nigerian and Rwandan troops who will protect them, and it has intensified planning for a much larger force of some 3,000 troops that it wants to use for the wider purpose of protecting civilians. The European Union (EU), the U.S. and others who have indicated a willingness to support, logistically and financially, the deployment and maintenance of such a force must convincingly demand that Khartoum accept it and its mandate.

The Darfur situation poses an ever greater threat to the nearly finalised peace agreement to end the larger and older civil war between the government and the insurgent Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). As long as Darfur festers, the chance remains for political forces in Khartoum opposed to the concessions that have been made in that negotiation to turn government policy back toward war. There is also less prospect that a final agreement with the SPLA, even if signed, could be implemented, or that there would be the necessary support in the West to provide both sides the help they need to make that agreement work.

It is vital, therefore, for the AU also to enhance its efforts to mediate the political problems at the root of the Darfur crisis. The international community must provide full support to the AU-sponsored Darfur talks, such as those scheduled to begin on 23 August in Abuja, while it helps keep the government/SPLA negotiation under the regional organisation IGAD (Inter-governmental Authority on Development) moving forward. The two sets of peace talks are very much interrelated. For example, the AU should utilise the terms of the deal that has been struck on the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile as a starting point for its work on the Darfur negotiations. The international community must support both processes robustly, and the mediation teams should find ways to coordinate closely. Had there been a comprehensive national peace process from the outset, the Darfur rebellion might well have been avoided: the need now is to maximise linkages and leverage.

Nairobi/Brussels, 23 August 2004

Sudan’s Imperilled Transition: Policy Recommendations for the U.S.

In a 1 February 2022 hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Crisis Group’s President & CEO Dr. Comfort Ero testified on the escalating situation in Sudan and outlined four main recommendations for the U.S. to help restore the civilian-led transition to democracy.

Good morning/afternoon, Chairman Menendez, Ranking Member Risch and distinguished members of the Committee. My name is Dr. Comfort Ero, and I am the President and CEO of the International Crisis Group. Previously I served as the organization’s Africa program director and I have spent my professional and academic career focusing on peace and security issues in Africa. The International Crisis Group is a global organisation committed to the prevention, mitigation and resolution of deadly conflict. We cover over 50 conflict situations around the world and our presence in Sudan dates back more than two decades.[fn]Crisis Group Africa Report N°281, Safeguarding Sudan’s Revolution, 21 October 2019; Jonas Horner, “After the Coup, Restoring Sudan’s Transition”, Crisis Group Commentary, 5 November 2021; Crisis Group Africa Briefing N°168, The Rebels Come to Khartoum: How to Implement Sudan’s New Peace Agreement, 23 February 2021.Hide Footnote

I very much appreciate the opportunity to speak to you about the deteriorating situation in Sudan today. The country is at a dangerous crossroads. Not for the first time in its history, the military has turned its back on the demands of the Sudanese people for more just and representative rule by violently seizing power. The coup on October 25 brought a sudden halt to a civilian-military coalition that since 2019 has been charged with steering Sudan toward elections and full civilian rule.[fn]Crisis Group Report, Safeguarding Sudan’s Revolution, op. cit.; Horner, “After the Coup, Restoring Sudan’s Transition”, op.cit. It was a major reversal in a transition that had brought hope to so many in the Horn of Africa and beyond. I will share with you my analysis of the current situation in Sudan and recommendations for steps the United States might take to help guide it back on the path toward greater democracy and stability.

Background

By way of background, the transition that was interrupted on October 25 followed 30 years of rule by the notorious strongman Omar al-Bashir.

  • After coming to office in a coup in June 1989, Bashir maintained his hold on power by repressing political opposition, fighting costly counter-insurgencies in the country’s peripheries and underwriting his factious security sector with patronage-driven expenditure that ate up, by some estimates, 70 per cent of the national budget.[fn]Shortly after taking office, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was mandated to lead the civilian-military transition in August 2019, listed as an ambition driving down military expenditure to 20 per cent of the national budget. He said in some years, that budget line had stood at 80 per cent. “Sudan PM seeks to end the country’s pariah status”, AP, 25 August 2019.Hide Footnote
     
  • The patronage system that Bashir built eventually bankrupted the country and contributed to the strongman’s ouster. A small cabal of favoured cronies including Bashir’s Islamist allies from the National Congress Party, senior military officers (many of them drawn from the tiny riverine elite that has dominated Sudan’s military and politics for decades) and newly minted allies such as the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which was blamed for some of the worst violence in the western region of Darfur, benefited substantially from Sudan’s rigged, lopsided economy.[fn]“Who are Sudan’s RSF and their Commander Hemeti?”, Al Jazeera, 6 June 2019.Hide Footnote These same actors continue to try to preserve their privileges atop Sudan’s political, economic and security establishment.
     
  • Popular frustration over political repression, rising prices and a sclerotic economy that could not absorb Sudan’s ranks of unemployed youths helped trigger the protests that eventually drove Bashir from power. The uprising began in the south-eastern towns of Damazin and Sennar, where crowds took to the streets on 13 December 2018 in response to a tripling of bread prices. By the time the protests reached Atbara, the historic bastion of unionism in Sudan, demonstrators were demanding regime change. Against long odds and despite heavy repression, the protesters eventually overwhelmed the security forces, who staged a palace coup against Bashir on 11 April 2019.  
     
  • The military tried to maintain the upper hand but was forced under pressure both from the protest movement and external actors to compromise and accept to share power with civilians. International revulsion over a 3 June 2019 massacre of protesters encamped outside the military headquarters was particularly important in forcing the generals to cede to the will of the Sudanese people.[fn]“Sudan commemorates the June 3 Massacre”, Dabanga Sudan, 3 June 2021.Hide Footnote Under the terms of a 17 August Constitutional Declaration, the country would be governed by a hybrid civilian-military coalition for 39 months leading up to elections.
     
  • The task before that coalition was enormous. The new cabinet headed by the technocrat and diplomat Abdalla Hamdok was charged with breathing new life into Sudan’s anaemic economy, reforming political institutions to lay the ground for elections and delivering justice to the many Sudanese victims of atrocities during Bashir’s rule – and in the weeks following his fall. Despite the formidable obstacles the authorities faced, that coalition represented the country’s best hope for emerging into a stable, prosperous and democratic future and was a source of hope for those supporting democratic renewal in other countries in the region.
     
  • Always reluctant participants in the alliance, the generals barely disguised their opposition to the Hamdok administration’s reforms and were particularly opposed to efforts to deliver justice and to reshape the country’s economy. In defiance of the United States government and others who warned them against doing so, they seized power and ousted the civilians.

The October 25 Coup and Its Aftermath

Today, unfortunately, the picture looks grim. The military violently applied the brakes on the transition in the early hours of October 25 when they placed Hamdok under house arrest, rounded up numerous other civilian officials in the administration, declared a state of emergency and dissolved key institutions including the cabinet. Since then, Sudan’s military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has taken a series of steps to reverse the reforms the civilian-led administration had rolled out, including by disbanding a committee charged with reclaiming public assets, by packing the Sovereign Council, which serves as the country’s executive, with his allies and by appointing Bashir-era figures into key posts including in the judiciary and security forces.[fn]Crisis Group EU Watch List 2022, 27 January 2022.Hide Footnote The military attempted some window dressing when it reinstated Hamdok on 21 November, a move Sudanese protesters rightly dismissed as an effort to legitimise their power grab. Some efforts to stimulate talks among Sudanese actors to find a way out of the crisis continue although the prospects of a resolution appear dim.

[Sudan] has been on a downhill trajectory since the coup.

Overall, the country has been on a downhill trajectory since the coup. On 2 January, Hamdok resigned in frustration after failing to persuade the generals to stick to their commitments under the August 2019 constitutional charter, and in particular to give him a free hand to appoint a new cabinet. In the meantime, the public’s frustration has been growing. For the past few weeks, Sudanese people across the country have taken to the streets to signal their revulsion at the military’s power grab. The general’s response to the protests has come right out of the Bashir playbook. The security forces have repeatedly fired into crowds, killing dozens, according to human rights groups and the UN.[fn]“Bachelet condemns killings of peaceful protesters in Sudan”, UN, 18 November 2021.Hide Footnote A late December decree by military chief Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan gave the police effective immunity for their actions. Still, the Sudanese people continue to risk their lives by staging protests, work boycotts and other strike actions.

While it is not yet clear who will come out on top in this contest between the security forces and the street, there is evidence to suggest that the generals have gravely miscalculated the strength of their hand. This is a different Sudan from the one in which the army captured control of the state at least five times in the past, including in 1989 when Bashir took office.[fn]"A history of Sudan coups”, Statista, 25 October 2021.Hide Footnote Sudan has one of the youngest populations in the world.[fn]“After the Uprising: Including Sudanese Youth”, Chr. Michelsen Institute, 2020.Hide Footnote Six in ten Sudanese are aged between fifteen and 30 – and the current generation rejects the notion that the country should go back to being governed by an unaccountable, out-of-touch elite.[fn]Sudan’s Political Impasse”, The Horn (Crisis Group podcast), 26 January 2022.Hide Footnote This mobilised, youthful population showed its power at the end of 2018 when it rose up in protest at Bashir’s repressive, kleptocratic rule. The protest movement captured the imagination of pro-democracy campaigners well beyond Sudan with its diversity, with the prominent role that women played – sometimes outnumbering men in demonstrations – with its tenacity, and ultimately with its success. Against what many viewed as tall odds, it brought a halt to Bashir’s rule. Since the coup, this movement has again shown its strength by mobilising millions of Sudanese to take to the streets and send a clear signal to the generals that they will not, as past generations of officers did, get away with imposing their will on the Sudanese people.[fn]“Deaths Reported in Sudan as ‘March of Millions’ Demands Restoration of Civilian Rule”, Voice of America, 30 October 2021.Hide Footnote

Getting the transition back on track would serve both the people of Sudan’s democratic aspirations and the interests of the United States.

Getting the transition back on track would serve both the people of Sudan’s democratic aspirations and the interests of the United States and other regional and international actors in the strategically important Horn of Africa – where Sudan sits between major regional powers Ethiopia and Egypt and shares a border with seven countries, several in the throes of conflict themselves. Support for Sudan’s transition would comport with the U.S. government’s stated commitment to champion democratic values and to “demonstrate that democracies can deliver by improving the lives of their own people”[fn]“President Biden to Convene Leaders’ Summit for Democracy”, White House, 11 August 2021.Hide Footnote . It would also be the surest pathway to medium- and long-term stability in the country.

Recommendations

The United States is one of Sudan’s most important external partners. It provides about half a billion dollars in assistance annually and was a champion of efforts to reconnect Sudan’s economy with international financial institutions. Given these ties and the United States government’s relations with all the main regional actors, the U.S. is well positioned to support efforts to reverse the military’s power grab and set Sudan back on a path toward elections and representative government. Specifically, it could:

  • Press the generals to immediately halt violence against protesters and coordinate targeted sanctions to hold them to account: As outlined, Sudan’s security forces have responded to peaceful protests by indiscriminately shooting into crowds and sometimes reportedly even pursuing fleeing and wounded demonstrators into hospitals.[fn]“Sudanese security forces ‘hunt down’ injured protesters in hospital”, France 24, 25 January 2022.Hide Footnote This pattern of behaviour, on top of its grave human cost, threatens to poison relations between the parties and render a resolution even further beyond reach. In coordination with partners including the African Union (AU) and the European Union, the United States should make clear that the generals will face consequences including asset freezes and travel bans if they continue to kill unarmed demonstrators. The White House should simultaneously convene an interagency process to design a targeted sanctions programs aimed at key figures in the military and outline that it is willing to deploy these against individuals that continue to sanction the killing of protesters or obstruct progress toward elections more broadly.
     
  • Support Sudanese-led efforts to rerail the transition: The United States has already signalled its backing for efforts to stimulate negotiations among the generals and civilian groups including the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), the coalition that spearheaded the protest movement and neighbourhood resistance committees, which play an integral role in the day-to-day organisation of protests and have proved a particularly effective channel of resistance to the military coup. The United States should warn the generals against taking precipitous measures that could derail these potential talks, including refraining from unilaterally appointing a new prime minister. It should further insist that these talks are maximally inclusive and in particular that they should take on board the views of the resistance committees. The 2019 power-sharing agreement should be the blueprint for a compromise that could restore civilian-military governance and lead to elections.
     
  • Withhold financial assistance until the military reverses its coup: In the immediate aftermath of the military takeover, the United states suspended $700 million in assistance to Sudan. This was the right step given the generals’ brazen decision to terminate the power-sharing agreement. The United States should make clear to the generals that this support will not resume unless they accept to return to the path toward elections laid out in the 2019 power-sharing agreement. In the meantime, the United States should advance with efforts to repurpose some of its support to civil society groups and also to work with partners including the UN to offer direct assistance to Sudan’s long-suffering people.
     
  • Urge all regional actors to back a return to a civilian-led dispensation: Many on the Sudanese street perceive some external actors, namely Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, as tacitly backing military rule.[fn]Sudan’s Political Impasse”, op. cit.Hide Footnote Such perceptions will ultimately be damaging to those countries’ standing in Sudan if it is able to reinvigorate its transitional process. But it is still possible for these key regional actors to play an important role in helping Sudan return to a civilian-led transitional process, thereby protecting their relations with the Sudanese people. Given his strong background in regional diplomacy, Special Envoy Satterfield should be well positioned to engage these actors and urge them to use their privileged relations with Sudan’s generals to convey to them that the power-sharing agreement they torpedoed remains Sudan’s best and perhaps only chance for stability, a goal they all profess to share. With the welcome appointment of a new ambassador to Khartoum, the United States could play a key role in marshalling a coalition of actors within and outside Sudan that can help steer the country back toward the path to elections.


Sudan is at a historic hinge-point. The military’s power grab has derailed a transition that was an inspiration well beyond Sudan, and still could be, if the generals step back and allow Sudan’s civilians to steer the country to elections. With a piling set of challenges – not least an economy in deep distress, resurging violence in Darfur and elsewhere, and a tottering peace deal with armed groups – the generals can hardly afford to stonewall the Sudanese people’s demands for change. The world – and the United States – should stand with Sudan’s people in their quest for a more democratic and accountable government, an outcome that represents the country’s best hope for achieving long-run political, social and economic stability.

Contributors

Former Program Co-Director, Africa
Former Research and Advocacy Manager

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