Sudan Government declares UN envoy ‘persona non grata’
In a statement issued to the United Nations and the Security Council by the State of Sudan on Thursday 8th June 2023, the government of Sudan declared that the head of the UNITAMS mission in Sudan was no longer welcome in Sudan.
UN Envoy, Volker Perthes no longer welcome in Sudan
The statement read:
‘The Government of the Republic of Sudan has notified the Secretary-General of the United Nations of declaring Mr. Volker Perthes, Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and Head of the UNITAMS Mission, persona non grata, as of today's date’
According to The National Museum of American Diplomacy definition, the term ‘persona non grata’ is a legal definition and its meaning is unequivocal:
‘As a legal term, [persona non grata] refers to the practice of a state prohibiting a diplomat from entering the country as a diplomat, or censuring a diplomat already resident in the country for conduct unbecoming of the status of a diplomat.’
Security Council members told UNITAMS was at a crossroads
The statement comes after a meeting of the Security Council, held on June 2nd last week, saw the 15-member organisation vote overwhelmingly to extend the expiring mandate of the Assistance Mission (UNITAMS) for an additional six months, rather than the usual 12 month term. The statement from the Security Council members proclaimed that the Mission’s presence was more important than ever to coordinate the United Nations response to the complex challenges facing Sudan.
The Security Council meeting received a rare request from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, for him to speak with them behind closed doors on the impact of the ongoing conflict on the UN mission. After his briefing, he announced that he had told the 15 council members it was up to them, whether to continue the political mission in Sudan or whether “it is time to end it”.
Sudan's Ambassador protests to deaf ears
The Sudan Ambassador to the UN, Ambassador Al-Harith Idriss Al-Harith Mohamed, responded by contesting the continuing role of Perthes as head of the UNITAMS mission, saying that such a decision would represent a violation of the UNITAMS agreement between his government and the UN. He made reference to the letter sent by the current Head of State, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan at the end of May, in which he had made clear the dissatisfaction with the ‘partisan’ actions of Perthes and had demanded his removal from post. The Sudan Sovereign Council members had accused Perthes of aligning in particular with factions of the ‘Forces for Freedom and Change’. One of the members, General Yasir al-Atta, said openly that:
‘His [Perthes] role is very negative because he falls into a circle of influence that made him go in one limited direction’
These protestations seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as suggested by subsequent official statements from the group of G7 countries and other major allies, under the banner of ‘Friends of Sudan’ - France, Germany, Norway, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the European Union. A group statement published on 7th June read:
‘We support all international and regional efforts that work towards a cessation of hostilities and a resolution of this conflict. In this context, we would like to reiterate our steadfast support for the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) and Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) Volker Perthes and their tireless work to assist the Sudanese people in their aspirations for a civilian transition, freedom, peace and justice.
We call on the conflict parties to heed to calls of the Sudanese people for freedom, peace and justice by resolving their differences peacefully leading to the restoration of the political dialogue.’
This Thursday’s ultimatum, that Volker Perthes will no longer be welcome in Sudan, should have been anticipated and represents a clear indication that the current Sudan administration has no intention of backing off on this issue.
Fighting continues and humanitarian crisis worsens
All the while and since the cancellation of talks and the formal end of the ceasefire on June 3rd, fierce fighting continues in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, in the regions of Darfur and across the country. The death toll has increased to as many as 2,000 at the last count, with up to 1.5 million citizens being displaced and seeking sanctuary in neighbouring countries according to the UN. The humanitarian crisis worsens day by day, with hospitals either under attack or unreachable. Reports of civilians being used as human shields and humanitarian aid being blocked or looted continue to impact the conflict areas.