Political Reports

UN Missions Expelled from Africa

Report: Talal Muddathir


“It failed in its work and duties stipulated in the mandate.” “It ignored the observation expressed by the official regarding the negative performance that characterized the mission’s activity from the beginning.” “Its performance was disappointing.” Based on these three phrases, Sudan last Thursday ended the work of the United Nations Mission to Support the Transition in Sudan – UNITAMS – in a gesture that brought to mind two African decisions similar to the same Sudanese position taken towards the mission by Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Mali.. evident bias leads to expulsion

Last January, at the UN Security Council session, Guillaume Njifa Atundoko, head of the Human Rights Department at the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), presented a group of civilian witnesses against Mali. Such position did not satisfy the Malian government, which accused him of what it described as “biased selection” of civil society witnesses in the UN Security Council sessions on it. Because of this bias, the interim government in Mali gave the head of the mission’s human rights department “48” hours to leave the country. Even the denunciations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, did not succeed in dissuading “Bamako” from its decision against Guillaume Njifa Atundoko, who is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to leave, complied with the decision of the Mali authorities.
Does it stop here? No, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) soon aroused the anger of the Malian government again, so that Mali demanding last June, through its Foreign Minister Abdullah Diop, “to formally withdraw without delay” as it has become part of the problem by fueling sectarian tensions which arose due to very serious allegations that cause serious harm to peace, reconciliation and national cohesion there.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mali at the time rejected all choices for amending the mandate of the United Nations mission proposed by the Secretary-General of the international organization, and insisted before the UN Security Council on the “withdrawal of MINUSMA without delay,” while the head of the UN mission, Al-Qassim Wine, considered this decision to be a decision that must be taken by the Security Council. He then recalled, saying “But the point I would like to make clear, and which I think everyone agrees on, is that peacekeeping depends on the principle of the host country’s approval, and in the absence of this approval, working without the government’s approval becomes “almost impossible.”
The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali, which is estimated to number about 15,000 troops and police, is scheduled to withdraw by December 31 in compliance with the Bamako decision.

Congo.. the blue caps are undesirable

In the same way as what happened in Mali, the scenario was repeated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which began expelling UN officials early in 2014, when it became fed up with the actions of the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Scott Campbell, so it expelled him in turn and gave him 48 hours to leave the country.
In 2022, the Congo decided to expel the spokesman for the United Nations Mission for Stabilization in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) from its territory.
For the same reasons mentioned by Mali, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, announced last August that the work of his mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had entered its “final phase” after a mission that lasted nearly 25 years with a mission that included more than 14,000 peacekeepers.

Sudan follows in the footsteps of Mali and Congo

In Sudan, things began to take a different turn, as the head of the UNTAMS mission, Volker perthes, submitted his resignation from the post last September, four months after General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan requested the United Nations to replace him with another representative as the Sudan has leveled accusations against not being impartial and of devoting himself to political issues far from the mandate of the mission
In his letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Al-Burhan went even further by indicating that the leader of the Rapid Support militia would not have rebelled if he had not received signals of assurance and encouragement from a number of parties, including Volker Perthes himself.
On November 16, Sudan returned to officially inform the Security Council of the termination of the mandate of the United Nations Mission to Support the Transition in Sudan (UNITAMIS) because it had failed in its work and duties stipulated in the mandate and “ignored the observations of officials regarding the negative performance that characterized the mission’s activity from the beginning.” Its “performance was disappointing,” ending the request for an era of a 400-person mission that was brought to Sudan in the year 2021 at the request of then Prime Minister Hamdouk for the purpose of being a “special political mission that comprises a strong peace building component for a period of 12 months as an initial phase, and the Security Council recently extended its mandate until the third of next December.

Guterres’s options for dealing with Sudan’s request

To deal with the crisis of ending the work of the United Nations Mission to Support the Transition in Sudan (UNITAMS), many observers expect that the options of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to resolve the crisis will be limited to submitting a recommendation to the Security Council for a compromise solution that requires “restructuring” the mission so that its mission is limited and restricted to number of priorities.
This seems to be the most likely scenario, and the United Nations paved the way for it with the Secretary-General’s announcement of the appointment of the English expert “Ian Martin” to lead the strategic review process of the UNITAMS mission, with the aim of providing the Security Council with options on how to adapt the mission’s mandate to better suit the current context.
Ian Martin, an English human rights consultant, previously headed the United Nations mission in Libya from 2015 to 2018.
This step corresponds to Sudan’s step before submitting its request to terminate the mission’s work, as it formed a committee to deal with the United Nations mission, headed by a member of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, Lieutenant General Ibrahim Jabir, which concluded that the mission’s tasks would be different from the way it recently turned to and that it would contribute effectively to establishing the foundations of peace and working to achieve peace, reconstruction and preparing the ground for elections
This is a position that the Sudanese government’s statement before the Security Council last week confirmed its commitment to dealing constructively with the Security Council and the United Nations Secretariat.
If this consensual formula is adhered to, a new role will await the new UN Envoy to Sudan from Algeria, Ramtan Lamouamra, who was appointed by Guterres last Friday to succeed the expelled Volker Perthes.
UNTAMS is at stake
There have been many failures witnessed by the United Nations missions sent to African countries, as six peacekeeping missions out of the 12 current UN missions in the world are in Africa, facing numerous accusations such as interference in the internal affairs of African countries and the “politicization” that faces their performance, along with the failure to contain African conflicts, and even inflaming some of them. Will the United Nations Mission to Support the Transition (UNITAMIS) continue its work in Sudan according to a new description and a different mandate from the previous one, or will its fate be the fate of the deported missions of Congo and Mali, the “MONUSCO” and “MINUSMA”? Let us wait for next December 3rd, the expiry date of the extension.

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