While combatants signed a cessation of hostilities agreement in Addis Ababa yesterday, devastation caused by the conflict, which began in December 2013, continues to be uncovered. The Satellite Sentinel Project just released a report which offers unique documentation of systematic and intentional destruction of civilian areas, which could be characterized as war crimes.
This latest report includes satellite images of civilian homes in the oil-rich Unity State reduced to scorched earth. The four images below give a glimpse into the saddening reality this conflict has created on the ground for hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese people.
U.N. officials have called Bentiu, the capital of Unity state, a “ghost town” that “doesn’t exist anymore.” The patterns of damage in this image suggest that this destruction was not accidental but deliberate and systematic torching.
This overview photo of the remnants of Rubkona, a nearby city, reveals the massive scale of the destruction created by this conflict. The UN has confirmed over 3,996 burned structures in just this city alone.
The destruction of Tutlek, a small village outside of Bentiu, confirms the extent to which civilians outside the major battle sites have been caught in the crossfire of violence.
This image of Mayom, a city west of Bentiu, again shows the sheer magnitude of civilian burden of this conflict with the almost complete destruction of all civilian structures in this town. 1,801 structures were burned or destroyed completely.
By continuing to monitor the situation in South Sudan, our Satellite Sentinel Project hopes to aid in combating impunity and ensuring accountability, as South Sudan moves along the long road to durable peace. As John Prendergast, Co-Founder of the Enough Project said in testimony to the U.S. Senate "Credibly holding perpetrators responsible for crimes committed in the past three weeks will require setting up independent mechanisms for investigation and prosecution. Otherwise a culture of impunity will prevail, preventing future reconciliation."
These images, taken from 300 miles above the earth, are not only meant to not only give a glimpse into the reality on the ground but also to provide evidence of the crimes committed during this conflict.