New military fortifications and positions have been established inside the Abyei region by armed actors linked to both North and South Sudan, respectively, according to new satellite imagery and analysis from the Satellite Sentinel Project. These new developments follow outbreaks of violence and the burning down of three villages in Abyei last week, raising the prospect of renewed conflict on an even more serious scale in the highly-contested region.
Satellite images show three fortified sites inside the Abyei region, including a new encampment at Bongo (a site some 20 kilometers from Abyei town), newly dug foxholes at Tajalei, and enhanced fortifications at Todach. Both the villages of Tajalei and Todach were intentionally burned last week. The positioning of the fortifications at Bongo appear consistent with a Sudanese army or Misseriya militia encampment while fortifications at Tajalei and Todach appear to be reinforcements by the South Sudanese army or other southern forces, the report concludes.
Vehicles capable of transporting heavy armor were also seen in DigitalGlobe satellite images of a known Sudanese army facility at Nyama, north of the Abyei area.
“The close proximity of northern and southern Sudanese combat-ready units and recently built defensive em¬placements to one another poses an urgent threat to the security of civilian populations on both sides of the border,” Satellite Sentinel Project warned.
The U.N. peacekeeping force operating in the area has reportedly been denied access to sites of recent violence.
On Wednesday the White House condemned the deployment of forces “by both sides” into the Abyei region, saying that such actions stand in violation of the 2005 peace agreement. The statement also noted that such acts are “counter” to efforts at the political level toward an agreement on Abyei’s status.