The United Nations Security Council (UNSC), in cooperation with the African Union (AU), was ensuring the implementation of the Darfur peace process and the continued protection of vulnerable civilians, especially in the camps of the internally displaced people and in the prevention of gender-based violence.
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said the political situation in Sudan had become volatile due to the precarious economic situation in the country, such as the rising price of food and other commodities. On-going protests which started in December 2018 had also taken on a political tone, with calls for President Al-Bashir to resign. Khartoum, however, blamed external influence on the call for regime change. The upcoming elections in 2020 and the efforts by some political parties to change the constitution to allow Bashir to run for a third term would likely give rise to instability going forward.
The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), the UNSC and the AU Peace and Security Council had authorised the first deployment of UNAMID in 2007, and Darfur had come a long way since then. UNAMID had played a significant role in assisting the Sudanese government and the parties in Darfur to resolve their challenges. It had also been a practical manifestation of joint cooperation between the AU and the UN. In 2017, it had been decided that the UNAMID would proceed with a drawdown of troops and police officials and a transition concept, in collaboration with the UN country team over a two-year timeframe with a view to an exit of the mission on 30 June 2020.
The UN Security Council had requested the Secretary-General to present a report on the situation in Darfur, and the report covered three months. It stated that the security situation in Darfur had remained relatively calm during this period. There had also been no major inter-communal violence reported. In addition, the number of crime-related incidents and human rights violations had declined. These improvements had had a positive impact on the humanitarian situation. However, the incidence and threats of sexual and gender-based violence such a rape, arbitrary detentions and arrests aimed in particular against the vulnerable population, such as women, children, and internally displaced people, remained significant. The recent C34 substantive session on peacekeeping which had concluded on 8 March had expressed very strong sentiments against sexual exploitation and abuse, and had called for more stringent oversight and monitoring of conduct and discipline as part of the performance in theatres of conflict.
South Africa welcomed the improvements in the security situation in Darfur, especially as no major inter-communal violence had been reported in recent weeks and the number of crime-related incidents and human rights violations had declined during this period. South Africa, however, noted with concern that the incidence and threats of sexual and gender-based violence remained significant. It welcomed the gains made in advancing the Darfur peace process and the implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, and stressed that it remained important for all parties to continue their commitment to the negotiation process under the auspices of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel.
The Committee considered and adopted its Legacy Report and minutes of recent Committee meetings.
Security situation in Darfur
The Chairperson called on Dr Rachel Morake, Director: National Office for the Coordination of Peace Missions, Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) to brief the Committee on the security situation in Darfur.
Dr Rachel Morake said that the directorate was placed under the Global Governance and Continental Agenda, and that it was in charge of the ‘hotspots’ -- the regions torn by conflicts -- such as Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Mali, the Sahel, and also monitoring elections around the African continent. The briefing was on the security situation in Darfur, including how the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), in cooperation with the African Union (AU), was ensuring the implementation of the Darfur Peace Process and the continued protection of vulnerable civilians, especially in the camps of the internally displaced people and in the prevention of gender-based violence.
Giving a context, she said the political situation in Sudan had become volatile due to the precarious economic situation in the country, such as the rising price of food and other commodities. On-going protests, which started in December 2018, had also taken on a political tone, with calls for President Al-Bashir to resign. Khartoum, however, blamed external influence on the call for regime change. The upcoming elections in 2020 and the efforts by some political parties to change the constitution to allow Bashir to run for a third term would likely give rise to instability going forward.
She reminded the Committee that both the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (AU-PSC), at its February 2019 Summit, and the United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG) in his latest report on Darfur (14 January 2019), had reiterated the importance of enhancing and strengthening cooperation between the United Nations (UN), the African Union and other regional organisations in conflict prevention, mediation, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, and in relieving conflict-torn countries of the scourge of humanitarian strife and lack of human rights and the rule of law. Tis call had been based on the joint UN-AU Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security; signed April 2017.
In addition, in their annual joint consultative meeting, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, along with UNSG, Antonio Guterres, had outlined ways to best support African capacities in the prevention of conflict and response to peace and security challenges. Chergui had also stressed the importance of joint AU and UN assessment and analysis; supporting efforts to develop the African Standby Force; working together on sustainable Project for Conflict Resolution and Development (PCRD) initiatives; and the need to enhance predictable, sustainable and flexible funding for AU PSOs, including through UN assessed contributions.
In terms of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), the United Nations Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council had authorised the first deployment of the UNAMID in 2007, and Darfur had come a long way since then. UNAMID had played a significant role in assisting the Sudanese Government and the parties in Darfur to resolve their challenges. UNAMID had also been a practical manifestation, as ahybrid peace mission, of joint cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations. In 2017, it was decided that the UNAMID would proceed with a drawdown of UNAMID troops and police officials, and on a transition concept, in collaboration with the UN country team, over a two-year timeframe with a view towards the exit of the mission on 30 June 2020.
She said that the UNAMID mandate was due to be renewed this year, and it was expected that the troops would be reduced further leading into their final or eventual exit. Following this decision, UNAMID’s reconfiguration was proceeding with the repatriation of military personnel, the redeployment of formed police units, as well as the development of sufficient capacities for the rule of law and respect for human rights as part of the transition period. Presently there were 36 South African Police Service (SAPS) members deployed -- one doctor and 35 peacekeepers.
The UN Security Council had requested the Secretary-General to present a report on the situation in Darfur, and the report covered three months. It stated that the security situation in Darfur had remained relatively calm during the past three months. There was also no major inter-communal violence reported. In addition, the number of crime-related incidents and human rights violations had declined during the period. These improvements had had a positive impact on the humanitarian situation. However, the incidence and threats of sexual and gender-based violence such a rape, arbitrary detentions and arrests aimed in particular against the vulnerable population, e.g. women, children, and internally displaced people, remained significant. The recent C34 substantive session on peacekeeping which concluded on 8 March, had expressed very strong sentiments against sexual exploitation and abuse, and had called for more stringent oversight and monitoring of conduct and discipline as part of the performance in the theatres of conflict.
In 2019, the Special Committee on Peacekeeping C34, through its leadership of the Working Group of the Whole, had made a call for the United Nations and the T/PCC to respect and implement the directives of the Action for Peace initiative launched in March 2018, which emphasised the role of women peacekeepers, especially in the intervention of IDPs and assisting returnees -- women and children -- to resettle in communities. South Africa’s police contingent in Darfur, 15 female and 20 male, already played this important role. At the same time, relevant parties continued their commitment to the negotiations process under the auspices of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel, in collaboration with the joint UNSG HR.
South Africa welcomed the improvements in the security situation in Darfur, specially as no major inter-communal violence had been reported in recent weeks and that the number of crime-related incidents and human rights violations had declined during this period. South Africa noted with concern, however, that the incidence and threats of sexual and gender-based violence remained significant. It welcomed the gains made in advancing the Darfur peace process and the implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), and stressed that it remains important for all parties to continue their commitment to the negotiations process under the auspices of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel. While South Africa noted the continued reduction in the military strength of UNAMID, it was of importance that UNAMID continued to address the security concerns of the local communities and internally displaced people (IDPs). South Africa stressed the importance of humanitarian support to affected areas in Sudan. It was essential that there was an eventual transition from humanitarian support to reconstruction and development in the Darfur area as UNAMID eventually exited Sudan.
Dr Morake added that South Africa would continue to stress the importance of UNAMID continuing to provide technical and logistical assistance to the Sudan DDR Commission to assist with the disarmament and demobilisation of armed combatants. South Africa had also called on the UNSC that, notwithstanding its drawdown, UNAMID must continue to ensure the protection of vulnerable civilians, especially in IDP camps and in the prevention of gender-based violence. Women and children were the most affected by sexual violence which had also increasingly become a weapon of war and conflict affecting the long-term prospects for peaceful and prosperous communities.
The Chairperson welcomed Mr Madlopha and Mr Ezrom Siyabi as new Members joining the Committee, who had been sworn into the Parliament to replace the five Members who had resigned.
He expressed his disappointment that that the situation in Darfur had persisted for so long. He asked for Dr Morake’s opinion on the speculation by international actors that the insecurity in the Darfur may not be going away soon as a result of foreign interests there. He also sought her opinion on the criticism by social scientists that the UNAMID peacekeeping mission was not necessarily put in Darfur for the right reasons, as well as the allegation levied against the President about using the Janjaweed as a destabilizing outfit in the region. He also sought her opinion on the comment that the UNAMID was a “milking cow,” especially as many troops of countries that get paid through the United Nations and the African Union peacekeeping system received a large benefit.
On a final note, the Chairperson asked whether the United Nations Human Rights Commission had the power to refer perpetrators of crimes within Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or some other similar institution. He regretted the fact that sexual harassment was used as a weapon of war and asked about the possibility of head of states and governments working with the Sudanese government to arrest and sentence those perpetrators, regardless of whether or not they were soldiers. He expressed regret that the most vulnerable of society were the victims and the issues that harmed them -- such as forced marriages and disruption of schools -- could lead to intergenerational poverty. He added that the position of South Africa in Darfur needed to be strengthened, as many questions were being raised as to whether the approach employed was working.
Ms T Kenye (ANC) asked about the negotiation agreement which had been signed in December. She inquired why the agreement between the Government, the Sudan liberation movements and the Justice and Equality Movement was not signed by the rebels. She also asked on whether the exit planned for 2020 would take place?
Ms D Raphuti (ANC) expressed delight that the Report showed that the situation in Darfur was returning to calm. She speculated on whether a change in the approach of South Africa would result in more calmness in the region in order to achieve goals. She observed that most of the perpetrators in the conflict were men and the victims were women, and recommended that women should be given more roles in the conflict resolution process to assist. She noted with distaste the fact that the crisis in Darfur was hampering African development and achievement of the Agenda 2063 and added that in both entities women should be better represented.
Ms S Kalyan (DA) asked if there were any members of the Defence Force among the 35 SAPS officers currently in Darfur as stated in the presentation. She also asked whether there were any women amongst them, and what the criteria were for recruiting them to be peace officers as well as the conditions of employment for them. She asked whether, and what, disciplinary proceedings had been carried out against any SAPS officer involved in sexual assault situations before. She noted that in the presentation it was not mentioned that between 25 and 50 international relief organisations had left Darfur due to an inability to do their work effectively, and asked what South Africa was doing to convince them to come back, considering that they were very much needed.
Ms R Lesoma (ANC) appreciated the Members of the Committee who attended the training last week, and also the Department for finding a way of fitting Members in. She urged the Department to organise more training for the Committee. She referred to a portion of the presentation where it was stated that South Africa welcomed the improvements in the security situation in Darfur, and wanted to get a full reason of what informed the Department's conclusion in that regard. She also asked about the vulnerable people in Darfur -- who took care of them, and did they have any representative voice in the crises? She pointed out that the vulnerable were important in building a nation, and advised that South Africa should find a way of incrementally allowing their voices to be heard. In terms of the targets that had been set by all parties to end the crisis by 2020, what mechanisms were in place for that? Was the target a moving target?
The Chairperson commented that one of the issues about Sudan that had made the crisis to persist was the leadership. When agreements were signed, the Sudanese government did not respect them. He asked Dr Morake to comment on this.
Mr Madlopha asked for Ms Morake’s opinion on the perception held by foreign troops that the UNAMID was merely a retirement plan. He said that because of this perception, not enough effort was being put into the peace-building process. He also asked for a recommendation on how the reengineering of the social context in Darfur could be driven so that civil societies could rise in the region to ensure that the society relearnt, and issues of reconstruction and reconciliation could be addressed.
Dr Morake began by commenting on the general issue of conflict Africa, stating that it was truly regrettable. However, external influence remained a reality, depending on one’s perspective on the theatre of the conflict, and it occurred mostly where personal interests were made a priority. She advised that where South Africa was looking for a solution, it was important that it understood the real issues.
On the issue of likelihood of the head of state of Sudan being the cause of the conflict, she said that in general, the United Nations frowned on issues of regime change and interference even where it was glaringly obvious that the government may be causing the conflict. This often became a hindrance to peacekeeping and therefore resulted in an escalation of the conflict.
On using sexual exploitation as a weapon of war, the regrettable reality was that the plight of women and children was not getting better. South Africa took this issue very strongly, and the Department of Defence planned to present a bill soon to criminalise sexual exploitation and abuse in South Africa.
An issue which was becoming prominent in the theatre of conflict concerned sovereignty and the issue of command and control. In some instances, a group may be prevented from intervening in an incident due to caveats in their own country’s laws -- for instance, to say that their troops may not patrol in the evening and so on. It was important for South Africa to keep impressing on other countries about these caveats so that peacekeeping yielded results.
The restriction of access to people in need relief was really a problem and regrettable. Where there was a conflict, such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and the Sahel, soldiers had intensified patrols and the forces were beginning to accompany the vulnerable in order to guarantee access to relief and assistance. As a part of South Africa’s foreign policy, peace-building and preventive diplomacy were encouraged, because the prevention of conflict was believed to lead to the respect of rights. She emphasised the need to keep pushing for preventive diplomacy and on the need to impress on the minds of other countries to support this, as it would be a way of promoting development.
On whether the peace agreement had been signed by the rebel groups, she said that the other two groups in Darfur were not part of the negotiations and that in a way, a reason for the calmness being experienced was the fact that the stakeholders had begun to come into the negotiations to carve a road map to ensure that peace prevailed. As part of what South Africa and the Africa Union were doing, September had been designated as a gun free month under an initiative called ‘silencing the guns’. However, members states were encouraged to continue on with the initiative throughout the year so that it did not just become a once-off exercise.
The biggest challenge everywhere where peacebuilding was discussed in Africa had been the issue of funding. She said that there were recommendations to put together 25% of asset contributions into a peace fund, and this was one of the issues that had made them reach a deadlock on 8 March. The issue was still being deliberated.
Regarding the President becoming the chairperson of the African Union next year, she said that DIRCO was looking at ways to strategise and champion the need to place women at the forefront of conflict resolution, and the Department iwass hoping that more troops and police-contributing countries would begin to implement the action for peace principles and roadmap for peace, amongst which women’s security was a priority. She added that it was only natural that women peacekeepers were better able to reach out to women and children.
On the criteria for selecting peacekeepers for peacekeeping, she said that South Africa was engaging all its troops in courses on preparation and training, and specific criteria werebeing set. At the moment, because of the high cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, the United Nations was making sure that the issue of performance was topmost in priority, and that issues of health, psychological and mental states were checked constantly. South Africa was also taking it a step further by even taking blood samples of the troops so that they could compare them if there was any litigation for sexual abuse. It was always important to ensure that where an incident of sexual exploitation and abuse had happened, that the investigation was settled and completed where the complaint was made. This was because sometimes it was found that if the issue left the area of jurisdiction, it resulted in difficulty in getting credible evidence and witnesses.
On what South Africa could do to get relief organisations to return to Darfur, she said that in light of the fact that the President was to be chairing the African Union in 2020, the issue would be escalated for a strategy to be developed in this regard.
Regarding the drawdown in Darfur, she said that there were indicators which had been put in place as part of the drawdown road map, which included a recommendation that protection for civilians should be intensified and increased, mediation should be implemented, as well as issues of peace-building, so that there was a reasonable situation on ground when the drawdown took place.
The lack of respect for agreements was a regrettable trend, but South Africa must regardless believe and trust in a democratic process of doing things and ensure that lessons were learned from consultative and inclusive negotiations. This remained difficult due to the fact that there were individuals who came to the table as proxies of other interests to muddle the whole process
She added that as the African Union and United Nations championed peace in the region, South Africa would ensure that peace was experienced in Darfur. All the sentiments of the Committee would be escalated to the Department to ensure that they took them into consideration when drafting a strategy, especially in light of South Africa’s chairing the African Union in 2020.
The Chairperson said he intended issuing a statement regarding the people who had died in the Ethiopian Air disaster on behalf of the Committee. He also stated that the Department must make sure that SA citizens knew the protocols governing people who died outside the country, and people who were arrested.
Ms Kalyan raised a point of order, saying that the issue raised by the Chairperson had no relevance to the agenda of the Committee and that it would be unfair ask the presenter to make comments on an issue she was not there for.
The Chairperson overruled the point of order, stating that Ms Kalyan was missing the context of his contribution. He intended to merely call on the Department to issue protocols to assist people who were arrested abroad, as most citizens did not know what to do about their relatives who died, especially information regarding what to do, who to contact, and how to get their mortal remains etc. He said that a protocol and a briefing in this regard needed to be made to the next Committee.
Ms Lesoma advised that the Committee should move on, as these were the final moments of the Committee.
Ms Raphuti said that the Chairperson had done well to raise the issue on Ethiopia Air, as the issue at hand was regarding conflict, and the pain caused by the crash was also conflict.
Dr Morake responded to the Chairperson’s query by stating that the Committee had already made recommendations to the Department, and DIRCO had provided a travel-smart kit for travelers which covered everything, including information regarding citizens who died abroad.
Adoption of Legacy Report
The Chairperson asked for clarification on the proper date of the Legacy Report, and the Secretariat responded that the proper date would be the date in which the Report was adopted.
The Chairperson gave a recap on the progress regarding the Legacy Report, and said that the Secretariat was supposed to have made corrections. He invited the comment of Members on the pages of the corrected draft Report.
Ms Kalyan said she had sent some points of amendment to the Secretariat and expressed satisfaction that most had been effected. However, a correction had been left out on the first line of the third paragraph of Page 2. She advised that it should be corrected as follows: “...has been consistent over the past five years” as against “..it has been good..”.
Mr D Bergman (DA) said that a line in Page 2 should be corrected from: “the manner in which the Department has portrayed South Africa when engaging with global partners has put the country on a better space internationally,” to “...it put the country in a more relevant space internationally...”. He saidit was important to be careful about the use of words and that the language used might lead to a conclusion that there had been a poor performance by previous Committees.
Ms Raphuti objected to the correction, and said that the way it was put before was fine.
Ms Kalyan said that if the term ‘better’ was used, it would amount to casting aspersions on the previous performance.
Ms Lesoma said that the issue of performance in international spaces was not a subjective issue, but rather a factual one. There had been an increase or improvement in the performance of the Committee, even though it was an issue of perception. She was happy with the way the queries of Members had been captured in the amended draft.
The Chairperson disagreed with Mr Bergman, arguing that the word ‘better’ should be used in order to have a uniform voice to the outside world, as was the agreed policy of the Committee.
Ms Kalyan maintained her disagreement and on behalf of the DA, reserved the right against adopting the Report if major disagreements were found.
Ms Dineo Mosala, Content Advisor, advised that the Committee should construed the portion in contention as “putting South Africa in a better place internationally” in comparison with other countries, rather than in comparison with the efforts of previous Committees.
The consideration of the draft Legacy Report progressed, and the Chairperson commented on Page 3 on how the programme stated had been summarised. On Page 4, he asked if it was necessary to recommend that the Committee resolved to call on the Department, experts, think tanks etc on other matters arising for a briefing.
Ms Lesoma said that the method of work was already covered in the Report.
The Chairperson said that paragraph 4 of Page 13 relating to international transfers did not appropriately capture the resolution on the travel-smart kits.
Mr Bergman said that on Page 16, he had previously recommended that the Palestine-Israel, Morocco-Western Sahara, Ukraine-Russia and China conflicts be added. However, the Russia, China, and Ukraine conflicts seemed not to be properly captured. He recommended that the section should be corrected to state “..the current disputed territories”.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee at some point had gone to Palestine in 2012, and sought clarification on the issue of Morocco with Western Sahara and also Israel with Palestine.
Mr Bergman said that South Africa could help with internal support, but must allow the people in those countries to decide internally. However, that debate was one for the Sixth Parliament.
The Chairperson concluded by recommending that the paragraph be corrected to “...consider an investigative oversight towards understanding the situation better in Palestine, Western Sahara and other disputed territories.”
Ms Kenye commented that the recommendations for further work in Page 13 did not appropriately capture the resolutions of the Committee.
Ms Kalyan sought clarification on the exact number of missions existing abroad.
The Chairperson wanted to be reminded of the meaning of ‘statutory appointment,’ as expressed on Page 29.
Ms Mosala said that this happened when the Committee was appointing the board or official of a statutory body after interviews had been done by the Committee.
Ms Kalyan said that the expression used on Page 30 relating to issues for follow up was inadequate i.e. “...peace talks have collapsed, and South Africa continues to be in solidarity with the people of Palestine”. She said that the sentence should be corrected to read that “...South Africa continues to be in solidarity with the people of Palestine and Israel.” It was more advisable for the Report to adopt the wording of the recommendation in Page 53, point 19.21, of the oversight Report, that South Africa continued to campaign for the independence of Palestine and the two-state solution, instead of stating that South Africa continued to be in solidarity with the people of Palestine.
The Chairperson said that the official position of South Africa, which had been communicated to the Ambassador of Israel, was that it was in support of the two-state solution. He explained that as a matter of history, South Africa supported nations it considered oppressed and maintained its solidarity with the people of Palestine, because the Palestine Liberation Organisation led by Yasser Arafat had worked with the ruling ANC party. He added that, for example, South Africa also maintained solidarity with Western Sahara because it was the only country on the continent which was not decolonised. He said that that issues of foreign policy were largely the preserve of the President, and in essence, the oversight function of the Committee did not extend to altering the position of the government of South Africa.
Ms Kalyan argued that Page 11 of the Legacy Report already stated (in its last three lines) that the Committee had discussed and engaged civil society organisations on South Africa’s position in support of a two-state solution for the conflict, with Palestine gaining 67 borders, along with East Jerusalem as the capital, so there was no point in stating something different. She added that the Committee was a multi-party Committee, and the Legacy Report was one which should reflect the sentiments of all the parties in the Committee. However, she would like her objection to be put on record if the Chairperson was unwilling to change the Report.
Ms Kalyan noted that the word ‘conduct,’ as stated in the penultimate last line of Page 30, was inappropriate as it referred to behaviours. She recommended that it be corrected to ‘execution,’ which refers to an action, i.e. ‘towards enhancing the execution of foreign policy.’
Ms Raphuti thanked the Secretariat for their efforts over the past five years and moved the adoption of the Legacy Report and the oversight report, with recommendations in the oversight report being a part of the Legacy Report.
Ms Kenye seconded the adoption with the inclusion of the recommendations that were in the oversight report.
Consideration and adoption of Committee Minutes
Draft minutes of 5 December 2018
Ms Kalyan asked for clarification as to what had been declared regarding President Ramaphosa – had the declaration been that he was to chair the AU in 2020?
Ms Mosala said that what was intended to be reflected, which came out of the oversight report, was the President being the champion of the AU-UN peace partnership.
Ms Kalyan suggested that this should be clarified.
Ms Lesoma commented that there should be consistency in the writing of the minutes, and that the Committee should double check on the consistency.
Ms Kenye moved the adoption and Ms Raphuti seconded.
Draft minutes of 13 February 2019
The Chairperson noted that on Page 2, the surname of the Deputy Director General (DDG) of the Department was not properly spelt.
Ms Kenye noted a typographical error on Page 4.
Ms Kalyan moved adoption of the minutes and Ms Lesoma seconded the adoption.
Draft minutes of 20 February
There were no corrections, and Ms Lesoma moved the adoption. Ms Raphuti seconded the adoption.
It was announced that this was the last meeting of the Committee and that there would be presentations on Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The meeting was adjourned.
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