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South Sudan: Independence stumbles over Abyei

TURALEI — South Sudan's fragile independence process has been pushed to the breaking point by North Sudan's seizures of the contested border zone of Abyei.

George Clooney condemns Sudan seizure of Abyei (VIDEO)

Hollywood activist denounces Khartoum regimes actions, urges punitive measures.
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George Clooney in South Sudan in October 2010. (Tim Freccia/Enough Project/GlobalPost)

George Clooney called on the United States and the United Nations to take punitive measures against Sudan President Omar al-Bashir's regime in retaliation for its seizure of the disputed Abyei region.

Bashir's Sudan army sent tanks and troops in to occupy the Abyei region, about the size of Connecticut, which is on the border between North and South Sudan.

Bashir's military occupation of the territory threatens the peace process between North and South. South Sudan is set to become independent from the North on July 9.

"How long is the international community willing to tolerate this deadly dictator?" asked Clooney, in an opinion piece he co-wrote with John Prendergast of Enough Project and which was published in the Washington Post.

"President Omar al-Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, is escalating bombing and food aid obstruction in Darfur, and he now threatens the entire north-south peace process," said Clooney and Prendergast in the piece, titled "Dancing with a dictator."

The two urged the U.S. and the international community to take harsh measures against Bashir's Khartoum-based regime.

"We are not advocating military intervention. But the evidence shows that incentives alone are insufficient to change Khartoum’s calculations," wrote Clooney and Prendergast.

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Sudan masses more troops and tanks

George Clooney's satellite project shows Sudan army pushing region toward war.
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Sudan's Khartoum government has been accused of an "act of war" for its attack on the key border town of Abyei. Sudan tanks have rolled into the town. Here, Sudan tanks are displayed in a parade through the streets of Khartoum. (Ashraf Shazly /AFP/Getty Images)

BOSTON — There is a rapid deterioriation already along Sudan's disputed North/South border, with a buildup of troops that is pushing the country towar a renewed civil war.

The Khartoum government's Sudan Armed Forces are massing more troops, tanks and artillery near Abyei, possibly in preparation for more conflict in the disputed area. 

North and South Sudan fought a bitter war for 22 years in which an estimated 2 million people were killed. The war ended in 2005 but the rapid military buildup makes the resumption of the war look possible.

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North Sudan's seizure of Abyei is a "declaration of war"

Some 20,000 people — almost the entire population of Abyei — have fled the fighting, Doctors Without Borders said.

More troops move to Sudan's border zone

Clooney's satellite project releases new images showing troop buildup.
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Satellite Sentinel Project images show a buildup of troops along the volatile border between North and South Sudan. (DigitalGlobe/GlobalPost)

As if the fighting in Libya and the threat of civil war in Ivory Coast were not enough, the situation in Sudan is becoming more militarized along the disputed border between North and South Sudan.

There has been a buildup of military forces along the Abyei border area and violence has displaced some 20,000 people. It appears the area is edging closer to a conflict between the North and South. There are significant oil deposits in the Abyei area and the border between the two sides has not been officially agreed upon.

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Sudan: Armed camps in border area

Satellite images show armed forces take new frontline positions near border.
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This satellite image of the village of Maker Abior in the Abyei region of Sudan was taken on March 3, 2011, and analyzed for the Satellite Sentinel Project by Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and UNITAR/UNOSAT. It was shot in false infrared to give more contrast to the burned structures. Approximately 20 out of an apparent 24 civilian structures, consistent with Sudan's traditional civilian dwellings known as tukuls, appear to be burned. The absence of scorched ground vegetation or trees is indicative of apparent arson, and is consistent with reports stating that the village was burned by armed Misseriya militia on March 2. (courtesy DigitalGlobe)

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.

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Clooney shows effects of Sudan violence

George Clooney's satellite project releases graphic video of Sudan violence
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George Clooney in South Sudan in October 2010. (Tim Freccia/Enough Project/GlobalPost)
George Clooney and Enough Project just released a graphic video of the results of the militia attacks along the contested border between North and South Sudan.
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Clooney warns of more Sudan violence

Star says violence and military buildup threatens Sudan's peace.
George Clooney is keeping on top of the latest worrying developments in the volatile border between North and South Sudan.
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Clooney warns of new violence in Sudan

George Clooney says satellite photos show alarming Sudan violence.

Clooney warns of new violence in Sudan

George Clooney's Satellite Sentinel Project warned Friday of escalating violence along the volatile border between North and South Sudan.
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