Sudan: At what point will the Security Council intervene?
Mediation initiatives, not least the US-Saudi one, have failed. Under Chapter VII of the UN charter, the Security Council could deploy troops.
According to a recent investigation by CNN, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which are backed by the Russian Wagner mercenary group, have committed atrocities against civilians in Sudan, and have resurrected methods of systematic assassination previously used in Darfur two decades ago. They used strategic points where they have influence to transport weapons to Sudan, including the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, the Wagner installations in Libya, and the Russian air and naval facility in the Syrian coastal city of Latakia. The RSF also carried out arbitrary killings, massive destruction of vital civilian infrastructure, looting of homes and hospitals, mass rape, burning IDP centres, and ethnic cleansing.
Sudanese people who witnessed dozens of U.S. officials visiting Sudan during the transitional period, are wondering: “Why is America so preoccupied, obsessed even, with Wagner? And why is RSF commander “Hemedti” so difficult to get rid of? He is merely a mercenary who was duped by a statesman’s promise of payment and gold – and only the gold and uranium in Central Africa, Chad, Mali, and Darfur are of significance to the Wagner group.
If the United States keeps going down this path to nowhere, and its ally Egypt remains notionally neutral and rhetorically supportive of international efforts, there will be a full-scale civil war, new army leadership, and a military dictatorship that has no allegiance to them at all.
To stop the fighting in Sudan between RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and restore confidence in an eventual return to normalcy, monitoring mechanisms and the participation of external forces with strong combat and technical capabilities are required. Due to the unforgettable genocide in Rwanda and the ongoing violence in Darfur, it is assumed that the UN peacekeeping deployment has already been requested. Given the US-Saudi-led mediation effort’s extremely limited success, the United States might now consider intervening under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
Michael Langley, Commander of the U.S Africa Command (AFRICOM) that has an ongoing, moderately successful intervention in Somalia, recently met with Workneh Gebeyehu, the Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), accompanied by US Special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, to discuss IGAD’s participation in AFRICOM’s military operations. Does this signal a shift in US foreign policy? Are there any arrangements with the UN and Security Council? Is it possible that the US has a strategy to install AFRICOM and other foreign military bases in Sudan in exchange for the use of Sudanese skies, lands and oceans? Whatever the answers, these movements are inextricably linked to what is happening in Sudan.
According to the international community, not least the United States, which condemns their status as a separate force, the RSF ought to be incorporated into the SAF. A Security Council resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter might permit UN military participation if issued in conformity with Article (44). It is not unreasonable to assume that the Sudanese and Egyptian troops conducted combined exercises months before the conflict in anticipation of the Security Council’s decision to engage in cases of internal military conflict or security chaos, as provided for in Chapter VII, Articles (41, 43 and 44).
Although Chapter VII obligates the Security Council to act with restraint, it gives the Security Council absolute discretion to enact any necessary measures, including those of repression, and no nation is permitted to object to a decision on the grounds of internal authority or domestic sovereignty. Nations must put these decisions into action and give the resources required to do so. Articles 43 and 48/2 of the UN Charter compel members to supply the Security Council with the necessary forces and to implement Security Council resolutions; and if a conflict culminates in war crimes or crimes against humanity, Chapter VII gives the Security Council the authority to impose financial, commercial, and diplomatic sanctions, deploy an armed force, and refer cases to the International Criminal Court.
At the request of the Sudanese transitional government, the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), a non-combatant, non-military political support mission was dispatched to the country in June 2020. Its objective is to support the Sudanese government’s efforts to reach a peace agreement and reap the benefits of such a deal, as it supports the establishment of state institutions during the peace phase, which leads to elections at the end of transitional period, and involvement in the signing of a final accord to establish a permanent constitution for Sudan after observing the referendum thereon.
Chapter VII is not new to Sudan. The Security Council established a peace support and stabilization mission in Darfur and asked the Sudanese government for cooperation as per Resolution No. 1547, issued in 2004. The fact-finding mission, made up of experts from Italy, Egypt, Pakistan, South Africa, and Ghana, was created to carry out the mandate of the resolution. The final report was delivered to the Sudanese government in February 2005, but rejected as false, and the government refused to cooperate with the Security Council. Resolution 1591 was subsequently issued, placing Sudan under Chapter VII and making it subject to diplomatic, and military pressure.
So why, during the transitional period, did Sudan desire to be included in Chapter VI? Chapter VI also has no missions of a military nature. The missions are restricted to peaceful resolution, fact-finding, and settlement by signing peace agreements under Articles 33, 34, and 36, as was the case with Cambodia in 1990, Yugoslavia in 1992, and Angola in 1991, respectively. The fact is that countries under Chapter VI strengthen the idea that dealing with them should respect their sovereignty. It is worth mentioning that peace enforcement does not require the consent of the main parties and may involve the use of military force at the strategic or international level, which is normally prohibited for Member States under Article 2(4) of the Charter, unless authorized by the Security Council.
However, in the current situation, under Chapter VII, unfreezing assets and lifting the arms embargo appear to be more detrimental than beneficial, and it also became clear that the political agreement on the 2019 constitution when the Sudanese first tried to resolve tensions between the civilians and the soldiers on their own, resulted in a terrible massacre; it wasn’t conceivable until external mediation, as represented by Ethiopia and the African Union, got involved.
Perhaps the discussion at the time over whether Chapter VII was a step backwards towards colonialism or a progressive one toward national sovereignty, should be resurrected. And, as Chapter VI worked with the Sudanese transitional government to lessen the presence of the forces – almost 20,000 military personnel brought under Chapter VII – and their involvement in the Darfur region. Once more, perhaps the situation is more nuanced and is being managed in accordance with a predetermined strategy.