Satellite Imagery Confirms North, South Sudanese Armed Actors at New Frontline Positions inside Abyei

WASHINGTON – The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has released images showing a buildup and entrenchment of armed actors, aligned with the 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 Enough Project Executive Director John Bradshaw. “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.

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“These most recent images indicate that the already volatile situation in Abyei has further deteriorated,” said Charlie Clements, MD, Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School and Director of Human Rights Documentation for SSP. “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 the 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.”

Read the Satellite Sentinel Project report, “Frontline Abyei.” URL:

View or download the DigitalGlobe satellite images for SSP. URL:

Read the March 9 White House statement on Abyei. URL:


About the Satellite Sentinel Project
The Satellite Sentinel Project, combines satellite imagery analysis and field reports with Google’s Map Maker to deter the resumption of full-scale war between North and South Sudan. Not On Our Watch provided seed money to launch the Satellite Sentinel Project. The Enough Project contributes field reports and policy analysis, and, together with Not On Our Watch and our Sudan Now partners, pressures policymakers by urging the public to act. UNOSAT analyzes satellite images and collaborates with Google and Trellon to design the web platform. Harvard Humanitarian Initiative provides research and leads the collection, human rights analysis, and corroboration of on-the-ground reports that contextualizes the imagery. DigitalGlobe provides satellite imagery and additional analysis.