On December 3, 2023, the United Nations Security Council unanimously terminated the operations of the Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) after three years of work. UNITAMS was established in 2020 at the request of the Transitional Government of Sudan. The mission of UNITAMS was to assist the Sudanese government during its transition to democratic rule. Its mandate stipulated protecting civil rights and implementing an array of other humanatarian and developmental programs. The role of UNITAMS was hotly debated, intertwined as it was with turbulent political matters and insecurities. It was difficult, if not impossible, for such a mandate to succeed in achieving a durable peaceful agenda in a state as war-torn as Sudan.
The Islamic backed military junta in Khartoum cheerfully welcomed the dissolution of UNITAMS, which it accused of interfering in its sovereignty and affairs.
Sudan’s circumstances have deteriorated since last April when an internal war erupted between the Sudan Military Army, SMA, and the Rapid Support Forces, RSF. The conflict has resulted in gross human rights violations and a high death toll, not to mention vast numbers of refugees and the destruction of the fragile state infrastructure. There is no foreseeable solution to the tragedy and no settlement in sight.
Observers are uncertain whether the termination of UNITAMS will complicate the nature of the ongoing war or open a door for intensive international interventions. The role of the UN in Sudan will not actually disappear but instead will be represented by another mandate to preserve the collapsing country. Despite the criticism of the UN and it effectivity in securing international peace, the UN remains the only legitimate international body capable of preventing Sudan’s collapse.
Presided over by German diplomat Volker Perthes, the UN special representative for Sudan, UNITAMS had been involved deeply in Sudan’s internal pollical dialogue. The military ruling party paradoxically accused UNITAMS of dismembering the state in favor of secret agendas! In an undiplomatic action, General Abdel Fatah al-Buran, the President of Sudan’s Sovereign Council, has requested that the UN General Secretary consider Mr. Perthes to a persona non grata. The man recently resigned. Following the collapse of UNITAMS, the Algerian diplomat Ramtane Lamamra has been appointed as a new personal envoy.
Once Sudan’s clashing political parties overshadow a UN mission, it becomes unable to fulfil its mandate. This was noted during the Inqaz regime in 2019. The pro-Islamist faction worked relentlessly to undermine any international support of transforming to democracy. To some extent, this explains the cheerful applause when UNITAMS operations ended. In contrast, the prodemocratic political parties and civil society organization NGOs were disappointed, fearing the termination would expand the scope of the bloody war across Sudan.
What are the next alternatives? The new United Nations mission, along with the Security Council, could be expected to use different tactics in addressing the Sudan issue. Now, after the termination of UNITAMS, the need for further action is glaring given the scale of the atrocities being committed by the all fighting groups. These atrocities include human violation, genocide, murderous rapes and other sexual violence as a weapon of war. Abductions are rampant, and stronger actions need to be taken both regionally and internationally. This could lead to declaring Sudan to be a direct threat to international peace and regional stability.
The international community represented in the United Nations needs to intervene effectively in Sudan to prevent vast human suffering. As war threatens the lives of the Sudanese people, the only practical option available to the Security Council involves bold security interventions and invoking Chapter VII articles, which define the UN Security Council’s powers to maintain peace. The International Criminal Court IGCC needs to help pave a way for the actions taken by the Security Council. The UN needs to strengthen its efforts to safeguard Sudan and restore peace and security.