In response to an intensification of the conflict (on both sides) in late December 2004 and early January 2005 (including aerial bombing by Government of Sudan forces in December 2004), new sanctions were imposed on 29 March 2005 (UNSCR 1591). The sanctions expanded the arms embargo to include the Government of Sudan (imposed on belligerents in Darfur and all parties to the 2004 N’djamena Ceasefire Agreement), but exempted Government movements of military equipment and supplies into Darfur upon prior Committee approval. The resolution also authorized the application of individual sanctions (asset freeze and travel ban) to those who impeded the peace process, constituted a threat to stability, committed atrocities or violations of international humanitarian or human rights law, violated sanctions measures, or engaged in offensive military over-flights and created a Sanctions Committee and a Panel of Experts. The Government of Sudan was called upon to respect the existing ceasefire agreement (N’djamena 2004) and criticized for its failure to disarm the Janjaweed militias. Two days later, on 31 March 2005, UNSCR 1593 referred the situation in Darfur since 1 July 2002 to the Prosecutor of the ICC for an investigation.
No individuals were designated for sanctions until a year later, with the passage of UNSCR 1672 (25 April 2006) in an unusual procedural move to name the individuals in the text of the resolution in a decision taken by the Council, not by its Sanctions Committee. The four individuals (two on each side of the conflict) designated remain the only designations to date.
On 5 May 2006, the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was signed in Abuja by the Government of Sudan and the Minni Minawi (MM) faction of the main Darfur rebel group, SLA/M. The other rebel factions originally part of the negotiations – Abdul Wahid (AW) faction of SLM/A and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) – refused to sign and the agreement remained largely unimplemented. The agreement established the Darfur Regional Authority, an interim governing body for the region between the Government of Sudan and the MM. In October, Sudan expelled the top UN official (SRSG Jan Pronk) from the country. UNAMID, a joint UN/AU peacekeeping operation force composed of 19,550 military and 3,772 police personnel created in 2007 (UNSCR 1769, 31 July 2007) to implement the peace agreement, was given a mandate to enforce the UN arms embargo.
Two years after the ICC referral, on 27 April 2007, the ICC issued its first two indictments: the Sudanese Humanitarian Affairs Minister (Ahmed Harun) and the Janjaweed militia leader (Ali Kushayb). The ICC indicted Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir and issued a warrant for his arrest on 4 March 2009 for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Bashir was the first sitting head of State to be indicted by the ICC and in July 2010 became the first person to be charged with genocide. Additional ICC arrest warrants were issued on the Sudanese Minister of Defense (Abdel Raheem Hussein) in March 2012, and on JEM rebel leader (Abdallah Banda) in September 2014. Charges against two other rebel leaders (Bahr Idriss Abu Garda and Saleh Jerbo) were dismissed and dropped, respectively.
Following joint AU/UN mediation efforts, the Government of Sudan and the Liberty and Justice Movement (LJM) rebel faction signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) on 14 July 2011. Like its 2006 Abuja predecessor, the agreement was criticized for failing to include the other rebel groups, namely SLM/A and JEM. UNSCR 2035 (17 February 2012) welcomed the DDPD as the basis for reaching a comprehensive and inclusive solution to the conflict in Darfur and urged armed movements that had not signed to negotiate without preconditions on the basis of the document and participate in the joint AU/UN mediation. Stressing the need for a more comprehensive, national approach to the conflicts in Sudan, three Darfur armed groups (JEM, SLM/A-MM, and SLM/A-AW) joined with the wider Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in November 2011 to form the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) alliance. Despite increasing rebel linkages between the conflicts in Darfur and the “two areas” (Blue Nile and South Kordofan), the Government of Sudan refused to negotiate outside of the scope of DDPD, entrenching this position in the constitution in January 2015. The DDPD stipulated that the government would hold a referendum on a unified administrative status of Darfur.
In 2013, the situation in Darfur worsened with the eruption of communal conflicts over land and natural resources, incidents of ethnic cleansing, and Government arms deliveries and aerial bombings (deemed routine violations of the arms embargo by the Panel of Experts). 2014 witnessed an increase in tensions between the Sudanese Government and the UN, culminating in the expulsion of two key UN representatives and official Government calls to wrap up the UNAMID operation in Darfur. Although the PKO’s mission was extended under the same mandate for another year by UNSCR 2228 (29 June 2015), its exit strategy – based on progress against benchmarks and conditions on the ground – was developed by a Joint Working Group (UN, AU, and the Government of Sudan).
The ICC repeatedly expressed “a deep sense of frustration, even despair” that their briefings “had been followed by inaction and paralysis within the Security Council while the plight of victims of crimes committed in Darfur has gone from bad to worse” (5 June 2013 UNSC meeting), noting that hardly any of the 55 UNSC resolutions adopted on Sudan since 2004 had been implemented (Report of the ICC to the UN on its activities in 2013/2014). Amid ongoing refusal by some member states (including signatories of the Rome Statute) to surrender President Bashir to the court and the Council’s inaction on the issue, the ICC Prosecutor Fatau Bensouda announced on 12 December 2014 the suspension of investigations into war crimes in Darfur, even though the ICC indictment and arrest warrants remained in place.
The negotiation process remained stalled despite ongoing efforts of AU, UN, and individual member states (especially Germany) and the signing of the DDPD by several breakaway rebel factions. In late 2014 and early 2015, the largely uncoordinated international negotiation efforts achieved only limited rapprochement between the SRF opposition and the Sudanese National Dialogue Committee, and AU-mediated talks broke down in November 2014. President Bashir’s National Dialogue and Constitutional Progress initiative, which began work in January 2014, produced hundreds of recommendations for political and constitutional reform by 2016, but the vast majority were not implemented. Despite a major opposition boycott, general elections took place in April 2015, and President Bashir was reelected.
By July 2016, the LJM remained the only rebel group to sign the DDPD with JEM, SLA/N, Abdul Wahid (AW), and Minni Minawi (MM) factions disagreeing on key passages of the agreement. The non-signatory rebel movements continued to reject the DDPD as a comprehensive peace agreement. The government proceeded with the implementation of elements of the DDPD and organized a referendum in Darfur to determine the administrative status of the region in April 2016. Voters opted to retain the five-state administrative structure rather than a one-state administrative structure preferred by rebel groups (who boycotted the referendum). The non-signatory rebel movements categorically rejected both the referendum and its outcome. Following the referendum, the government declared the DDPD process completed and decided not to renew the mandate of the Darfur Regional Authority (established by the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement), which expired in July 2016.
The Special Report of the Secretary General and the Chairperson for UNAMID noted in 2016 that the government began fresh military operations against SLA/AW positions in Jebel Marra after accusing the rebel movement of looting and attacking civilians. The government expanded its ground fighting and aerial bombardment, targeting other rebel groups (JEM and SLA/MM). By the end of 2016, both groups were pushed outside of the territory of Darfur, and started increasingly basing their attacks on Sudanese government forces from bases in South Sudan (for JEM) and in Libya (for SLA/MM). As a result, there was very little progress on the engagement of key rebel groups which remained outside of the DDPD during the year, and the agreement remained unrecognized by them.
The Sudanese government created a Darfur Peace Follow-up Office in January 2017, which in effect put the DDPD and the engagement of rebel groups behind it. Although there were heavy losses for the SLM/AW and its splinter group still operating in central Darfur, as well as for an SLM/MM incursion from Libya in May 2017, the total number of reported clashes, fatalities, and offensive Government of Sudan air attacks declined from the levels of previous years. From the Sudanese government perspective, the conflict situation was largely under control by the end of 2017, and the December 2017 Panel report concluded that the government had no interest in continuing talks with rebel groups. Another major development during 2017, was the lifting of US unilateral sanctions on the country. In early January, former President Obama suspended US sanctions, pending Sudanese government cooperation on a number of key issues (mostly related to counter-terrorism), and the Trump administration followed up with a lifting of all US sanctions on Sudan in October 2017.
An even more significant change in conflict dynamics came with the overthrow of the Bashir government in April 2019. Public protests against the government, stimulated in part by deteriorating economic conditions, erupted across the country in December 2018. While he attempted to stay in power using traditional authoritarian means (declaring a state of emergency in February 2019), Bashir was ousted by a military coup in April 2019. Street protests continued, calling for civilian involvement in a transitional government to replace the Transitional Military Council (TMC). Following extensive negotiations between the TMC and civil society groups, a constitutional document was signed on 17 August 2019 establishing a new civilian-led transitional government and transitional institutions to be headed first by a military figure (for the initial 21 months), followed by a civilian leader (for the succeeding 18 months). The new transitional government has already had some success in resolving the longstanding conflict, as exemplified by the signing of a framework agreement on 28 December 2019 with the main rebel groups previously operating in Darfur outlining issues to be negotiated. The agreement was facilitated by peace talks in Juba, convened by South Sudanese President Kiir in the final months of 2019.
With regard to the joint AU/UN peacekeeping operation, UNAMID, there were already signs of an improvement in the security situation in Darfur (probably linked to the expulsion of the principal rebel groups from the territory in 2017), and UNSCR 2429 (13 July 2018) welcomed the fact that the Government of Sudan and principal rebel groups in Darfur had announced unilateral cessations of hostilities. It also noted progress in the implementation of the DDPD. UNAMID has been undergoing a gradual drawdown in forces since early2018, but there has been an ongoing debate among Security Council members on the pace of the drawdown. UNSCR 2525 (3 June 2020) extended the mandate of the force for only six months (to the end of December 2020), and called for the UN Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU to provide the Council with a Special Report assessing the security situation on the ground and making recommendations on “the appropriate course of action regarding the drawdown of UNAMID” by the end of October 2020.
Over the course of the long episode, successive Panel of Experts reports have highlighted violations of the arms embargo both by the Government of Sudan and by rebel forces. The March 2020 report states that the government continues to violate the arms embargo with transfers of weapons into Darfur and that rebel groups have access to arms from cooperation with factions fighting in neighboring Libya. In general terms, UN member states do not appear to be using end user certificates when making arms transfers to Sudan. The asset freeze on Sudanese officials has also not been implemented by the government. The conclusion of the 2015 Panel of Experts report that the “sanctions regime is in effect inoperative within Sudan” remains an appropriate description of the implementation of the UN sanctions measures over the course of the episode, although the panel indicated increased cooperation from the new government for the first time following the regime change in 2019. After a briefing to the Sanctions Committee by Pramila Patten, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, in October 2018, some European members of the Council called for sexual violence to be added to the listing criteria for the sanctions regime in Sudan, a proposal that has been resisted by Russia.
Despite his indictment by the ICC, President Bashir travelled to ICC member states, including Uganda in May 2016 and Rwanda in July 2016, without the arrest warrant being enforced. However, the new transitional government indicated in February 2020 that it was prepared to hand over former President Bashir, currently in prison for corruption and facing a trial for orchestrating a coup that brought him to power in 1989, to the ICC to face trial for charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur.
Signaling a new phase in its relationship with the country, the UN created a transitional assistance mission for Sudan (UNITAMS) in UNSCR 2524 (3 June 2020). The transitional government signed a formal peace agreement with all of the major actors in the Darfur conflict (the Sudan Revolutionary Front Alliance, the Sudan Liberation Army and Movement, JEM, and the Minni Minnawi faction) on 29 August 2020.
Coerce all parties to the conflict (including the Government of Sudan) to fulfill their commitments, agree on a ceasefire, and reach a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Darfur.
Constrain all parties to the conflict from engaging in violence, including against civilians.
Signal support for humanitarian law and human rights protection.
Ongoing arms imports embargo on any belligerents in Darfur expanded to include all parties to the 2004 N’djamena Ceasefire Agreement (the Government of Sudan exempted with prior Committee approval).
Newly imposed individual travel ban and asset freeze (from February 2012 also applying to entities) to those who impede the peace process, constitute a threat to stability, commit atrocities or violations of international humanitarian or human rights law, violate sanctions measures, or engage in offensive military over-flights.
Current and maximum number of designees during the episode: 4 individuals (two on each side of the conflict).
UN sanctions can have some non-discriminating impact on the general population, since they include arms embargoes, diplomatic sanctions, and/or restrictions on the conduct of particular activities or the export of specific commodities.
Sanctions implementation deliberately delayed by 1 month. Sanctions Committee and Panel of Experts created. Designation criteria were specified and targets designated. Enforcement authorities not specified.
The transitional government of Sudan and the principal rebel groups operating historically in Darfur signed a formal peace agreement in August 2020, but the implementation of the agreement has yet to be realized.
There is little evidence of sanctions contribution to the signing of the August 2020 agreement or to the signed peace agreements in May 2006 and June 2011. The 2019 change of regime in Sudan, regional mediation efforts, and the success of the Government of Sudan’s military campaigns in 2017 (in violation of the arms embargo) played more important roles.
Constraints appear to have been easily managed by the targets. The Government of Sudan moved arms into Darfur without Sanctions Committee approval, while rebel groups obtained arms from non-state armed groups operating in Libya and neighboring countries and they finance themselves from territories under their control, including in neighboring states. The Government of Sudan sponsored proxy militias in Darfur early on in the episode and Darfur militias extended their operations outside of the Darfur region later in the episode.
No evidence of sanctions contribution (PoE 2015 report proclaimed sanctions regime in Sudan “in effect inoperative”). Presence of UNAMID peacekeeping mission with mandate for enforcement and Sudanese government military victories against rebel groups and its systematic weapons collection in 2017 have been more important in limiting violence in Darfur.
While the Government of Sudan under Bashir was stigmatized, President Bashir was able to travel with impunity to a number of countries party to the Rome Statute; the US lifting of unilateral sanctions and normalization of relations in 2017 reduced government stigmatization. Following the change of government, the transitional government expressed willingness to extradite former President Bashir to the ICC.
The UNSC referral of the situation to ICC in 2005 was more significant than the sanctions regime (limited to listing only four individuals in 2006), since the referral ultimately led to President Bashir’s indictment in 2009. The change in regime was most significant to the outcome.
Resource diversion, decline in the credibility and/or legitimacy of UN Security Council, increase in criminality, particularly along the Libyan border, where former Darfur rebel groups assist and benefit from human trafficking networks.