BOSTON — George Clooney's Satellite Sentinel Project is keeping an eagle eye on the volatile border between North and South Sudan.
The satellite project has released images showing a buildup and entrenchment of armed groups aligned with the Khartoum government's Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Southern People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), respectively, at new frontline positions inside the contested border region of Abyei in Sudan.
“This increased military activity is a warning that the recent village razings in Abyei could be a prologue to wider and worsening conflict,” said John Bradshaw, executive director of Enough Project, the anti-genocide group that is working with Clooney to encourage peace in Sudan. “It is imperative that the United States and the international community speak with one voice in pressing the parties to find a political solution, and accelerate planning for consequences for any party whose actions risk a return to war.”
Northern-aligned troops appear to have constructed a forward operating base in the past two weeks at Bongo, some 15 kilometers from the recently razed village of Maker Abior. The Bongo base is some 20 kilometers to the north of where SPLA-aligned forces appear to have trenched in at the razed villages of Todach and Tajalei, according to SSP analysis. SSP has also revealed the presence of artillery at a known SAF base near Nyama and the recent arrival there of transports capable of moving heavy armor.
The DigitalGlobe satellite images, taken March 9, were analyzed by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and UNITAR/UNOSAT, with additional analysis by DigitalGlobe.
“These most recent images indicate that the already volatile situation in Abyei has further deteriorated,” said Charlie Clements, executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School and director of Human Rights Documentation for the Satellite Sentinel Project. “Civilians in and around Abyei remain in danger as long as armed actors from both sides continue to operate unchecked in such close proximity.”
The White House on Wednesday issued a statement condemning the breach of Sudan's 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) by both sides’ deployment of troops. The CPA ended a 22-year civil war; it stipulates that SAF and SPLA troops must remain outside of the Abyei region.
“The United States deplores the recent violence in the Abyei region of Sudan and calls on Northern and Southern Sudanese leaders to take immediate steps to prevent future attacks and restore calm,” the statement said. “This dangerous standoff is unacceptable for the Sudanese people, and we condemn the deployment forces by both sides. Their presence in Abyei stands in violation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and runs counter to efforts to reach agreement on the region’s final status.”
Enough Project and Sudan Now have launched an online petition to press Obama to take action on Sudan.
The Satellite Sentinel Project report, “Frontline Abyei” gives the full analysis of the situation in the volatile border area. And DigitalGlobe provides the latest satellite images of the border towns.