Satellite Images Reveal Movement of More Forces Backed by Government of Sudan into Contested Abyei Region

WASHINGTON -- The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has released imagery confirming the movement of additional forces backed by the Government of Sudan into the contested Abyei region. The latest imagery reveals the presence of fortified encampments inside Abyei near Bongo, Goli and Diffra, according to the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative's analysis of the DigitalGlobe satellite imagery. These are the three locations to which the National Congress Party reportedly deployed as many as 1,500 northern police within the past week.
"Increased reinforcements inside Abyei are exacerbating an already dire situation, not contributing to a solution," said John Bradshaw, Executive Director of the Enough Project, an anti-genocide group based in Washington, D.C. "Both parties need to deescalate and ensure access to international peacekeepers, and follow through on their commitments to securing a political settlement on the Abyei area."
The border regions of Northern and Southern Sudan remain tense in the wake of this month's attacks on the Abyei villages of Maker Abior, Todach and Tajalei, which led to the displacement of some 20,000 civilians. The Satellite Sentinel Project's previous reports confirmed that the villages were razed by forces allegedly aligned with the Government of Sudan, and that armed actors aligned with Northern and Southern Sudan, respectively, have moved into the oil-producing and fertile region. Recently, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) has clashed with rebels allegedly aligned with the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in skirmishes in Sudan's Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states.
Based on a July 2009 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague, the areas that have reportedly been occupied by northern police forces fall within the disputed boundaries of the Abyei area.
“Satellite imagery confirms reports of the deployment of large numbers of northern forces as well as newly fortified encampments. This should be sounding alarms about the human security of all civilians in Abyei,” said Dr. Charlie Clements, Director of Human Rights Documentation of the Satellite Sentinel Project, and Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School.
SSP's report, "Abyei Incursion: Evidence of Northern-Aligned Forces Deployed to Abyei Region, Sudan," concludes: "The movement of additional northern-backed forces within 75 kilometers of Abyei town heightens the human security risk in the Abyei region, even as negotiations between Northern and Southern Sudanese representatives resumed on March 17, 2011."

View or download the DigitalGlobe satellite imagery.

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 Northern and Southern 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. UNITAR/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.