Sudan demands United Nations immediately lift arms embargo

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Sudan is demanding the UN Security Council immediately lift an arms embargo and other sanctions imposed during violence in the western Darfur region in 2005, saying the punishment did not include conditions or require the military government to meet UN benchmarks.

Sudan’s UN ambassador, al-Harith Idriss Mohamed, said in a letter to the council circulated Friday that the sanctions “are no longer relevant to the magnificent reality on the ground in Darfur today compared to the situation in 2005.”

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“Darfur has, for the most part, overcome the state of war, as well as previous security and political challenges,” he said.

Mohamed said Sudan’s transitional government is committed to addressing the remaining social and security issues in Darfur, including sporadic tribal clashes. He added that efforts are being made to form and deploy a Joint Security-Keeping Force to protect civilians.

The Sudanese government has repeatedly urged the Security Council to lift sanctions but this letter was much stronger. It said that “Sudan will accept nothing less than the immediate lifting of these sanctions without conditions or benchmarks.”

The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when rebels took up arms against the authoritarian government in Khartoum then led by former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. The UN previously estimated 100,000 people died in the conflict and 2.7 million fled their homes.

Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged atrocities in Darfur. The court issued an arrest warrant for him in 2009 for crimes against humanity and war crimes and added genocide to the charges in 2010.

In April 2019, al-Bashir was ousted after three decades in power. He is incarcerated in Khartoum, where he is facing corruption charges and charges related to the overthrow of the former elected government.

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

Sudan’s ambassador told the Security Council that the continued sanctions have had “a detrimental impact and negative consequences that extend beyond the arms embargo in Darfur and the targeted sanctions on some individuals,” including asset freezes and travel bans.

Sanctions discourage investors and “encourage the rogue armed transboundary bands to disrupt peace and order in Darfur, owing to the imbalance of hard power,” Mohamed said. Lifting sanctions would enable Sudan “to further play an active regional role,” he said.

In July 2021, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recommended four benchmarks to guide the Security Council in reviewing sanctions: progress on political and economic governance issues; transitional security arrangements in Darfur; the National Plan for Civilian Protection; and transitional justice and accountability.

Mohamed said some of the benchmarks and targets “are completely unrealistic and cannot be met, neither in the Sudan nor elsewhere in the majority of developing nations.” He did not single out any of the benchmarks.

The ambassador also accused some council members of refraining from engaging with Sudan’s government “to achieve realistic, applicable and measurable benchmarks.”

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