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UN renews Sudan arms embargo as Russia and China abstain

The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution on Wednesday renewing an arms embargo and other sanctions imposed over violence in Sudan’s western Darfur region that began in 2004.

The resolution also extends the UN panel of experts’ mandate to monitor the arms embargo and travel ban and asset freeze on specific individuals. It now runs until March 12, 2024.

Last month, Sudan demanded that the Security Council immediately lift all sanctions imposed during the Darfur conflict. Sudan’s UN ambassador, Al-Harith Idriss Mohamed, said in a letter to the council that “Darfur has, for the most part, overcome the state of war, as well as previous security and political challenges”.

The Sudanese government has repeatedly urged the council to lift sanctions, but Mohamed’s letter was much stronger, saying that “Sudan will accept nothing less than the immediate lifting of these sanctions without conditions or benchmarks”.

The resolution adopted on Wednesday rejects Sudan’s demands.

The Security Council voted “to reaffirm and renew” the arms embargo and other sanctions until September 12, 2024. The resolution said the council will “make a decision regarding their further renewal no later than September 12, 2024.”

The council also said it intends to review the sanctions no later than February 12, 2024, for their possible modification, suspension or gradual lifting.

It said this would be done in light of the government’s progress on two benchmarks and related targets outlined in a July 31, 2021, report by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The two benchmarks are “progress on transitional security arrangements in Darfur” and “progress on the national action plan for the protection of civilians”.

Darfur Conflict

The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when rebels took up arms against the authoritarian government in Khartoum then led by Omar al Bashir, accusing it of discrimination and neglect.

The government responded with a scorched-earth assault of air attacks and a ground offensive by local nomadic Arab militias known as the Janjaweed, who are accused of mass killings and rapes. Up to 300,000 people died in the conflict and 2.7 million fled their homes.

Al Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. He was ousted in April 2019 after three decades in power and is jailed in Khartoum facing corruption allegations and charges related to the overthrow of the former elected government.

In recent years, a successful government military campaign has reduced the Darfur conflict to mainly a fight with a rebel Sudan Liberation Army faction. In March 2020, the government signed a peace deal with several major rebel groups.

In October 2021, Sudan was plunged into turmoil following a coup led by the country’s leading military figure, General General Abdel Fattah al Burhan, that derailed the short-run democratic transition following al Bashir’s ouster.

Citing the positive developments in Darfur, China’s deputy UN ambassador, Dai Bing, said, “Sanctions against Sudan are outdated and should be lifted in light of the improved circumstances on the ground.”

“Keeping those sanctions in place is not only untenable in the context of the country’s political and security realities, but also limits the government’s security capacity, negatively impacting its ability to maintain stability,” Dai said.

But US political counsellor John Kelley said: “The situation in Darfur remains extremely fragile. The fundamental causes of the conflict persist, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons continues, and the Sudanese authorities are often unable to provide security for civilians”.

“Robust monitoring and reporting by the panel of experts therefore remains essential,” Kelley said, and the benchmarks “are anchored in commitments” Sudan’s government made in the 2020 peace agreement.

READ MORE: “One protester killed during anti-coup demonstration in Sudan”

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