The space formerly owned by diplomats and politicians now shares the stage with think tanks, advocacy organizations, and tech giants like DigitalGlobe. The Satellite Sentinel Project, SSP, a partnership between the Enough Project and DigitalGlobe, has essentially privatized statecraft when it comes to the two Sudans. With key vacancies at the State Department, notably the Special Envoy's office, the deterioration in Sudan and South Sudan lies the media shadow of Syria. The SSP has consistently delivered imagery and analysis of ongoing war crimes, atrocities, and other violations in the two Sudans. Their most recent report, released today, documents Troops in the Demilitarized Zone extensively.
Actor and Co-Founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project, George Clooney released a statement about the report:
"Our satellite imagery independently proves that in spite of their promises otherwise, both Sudan and South Sudan have troops where they should not be. By shining a spotlight on their violations, we hope that the two states will see that they have too much to lose to keep undermining these important agreements."
In March, Sudan and South Sudan agreed to withdraw all military forces from the border zone. SSP and DigitalGlobe Analytics imagery from May and June clearly show armed forces from both Sudan and South Sudan are present in at least 14 locations within the area the parties declared a demilitarized zone.
The United Nations Secretary General's office issued a report on May 17, regarding the Abyei region, at the center of disputed territory. It stated a joint monitoring team composed of U.N., Sudan, and South Sudan forces "verified that there was no military presence" in several locations, such as the South Sudanese towns of Kiir Adem, Teshwin, and Wunthou. The report also claimed "aerial verification" that SAF had withdrawn troops from Radom and al Kwek. The report notes "no armed forces were observed" near the South Sudanese village of Kilo 4.
The difference in Obama administration policy and management toward the Syria and the two Sudans crises are stark. With declarations of a "red line" being crossed in Syria, where 93,000 are dead, the United States is set to give military aid to rebels and consideration of a no-fly zone is underway. On Sudan, there are paper statements and mollifying appointments for Ambassador Susan Rice and adviser Samantha Power.
Within the advocacy community, concerns about the report are clear. The Sudanese government stands accused of genocide, President Omar al-Bashir has two arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court for genocide and other crimes against humanity outstanding. As he acts with impunity, many wonder what the "red line" will be for the two Sudans.
Eric Cohen, Chairman of Investors Against Genocide said: "Sudan has been attacking, killing and fomenting violence against the people of South Sudan for decades. Since independence, Khartoum has continued its aggression with its army and air force and funding civil wars in the South against the government. Khartoum has repeatedly reneged on agreements on borders, Abyei and the two areas. With Sudan's army still on its border, South Sudan would have to be crazy to unilaterally withdraw."
Millions have been displaced over the course of the genocide in Darfur and border clashes. The crisis on the border left 120,000 without critical food and medical aid just in Jonglei state, according to Doctors Without Borders.
Naama Haviv, Assistant Director of Jewish World Watch expressed the need for leadership and focus: "The international community has quite a bit to lose if escalation by both sides sparks renewed conflict between the Sudans. The evidence presented by the Satellite Sentinel Project is an opportunity to reengage. The U.S. in particular should reconsider its recent overtures to the NCP regime in Khartoum and advise its allies in South Sudan to de-escalate."