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Satellite Imagery Confirms Troops in the Demilitarized Zone in the Sudans

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Satellite Imagery Confirms Troops in the Demilitarized Zone in the Sudans

Posted by Katie Smith on June 14, 2013

 Satellite Imagery Confirms Troops in the Demilitarized Zone in the Sudans

A new report by the Satellite Sentinel Project, or SSP, reveals that Sudan and South Sudan have troops in at least 14 locations within their contested border zone in violation of September 2012 agreements to demilitarize the border region. While the two Sudans agreed to create a safe demilitarized buffer zone to separate their armed forces, both have continually breached the agreement by maintaining defensive positions within the zone. In the May 2013 report, “Broken Agreement”, the Satellite Sentinel Project revealed previous instances of noncompliance in the Kiir Adem and Heglig areas. New satellite imagery from June 2013, analyzed by DigitalGlobe, confirms that, contrary to May U.N. reports, both Sudan and South Sudan continue to maintain troops in an additional 12 locations.

Imagery in the report shows evidence of a Sudan Armed Forces, or SAF, reinforced infantry company , at Keri Kera and visible artillery howitzers, apparent tank tracks, and tents and structures consistent with military presence. Comparatively, satellite imagery shows elements of a Sudan People’s Liberation Army reinforced infantry battalion and four tanks in Wunthou, South Sudan, with at least 200 visible tents and temporary structures. There is also a platoon-sized infantry unit near the border village of Emtidad, in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state. 

This imagery comes in opposition to the reports of the United Nations oint monitoring team tasked with monitoring the implementation of the agreement. On May 17, a report from the U.N. Secretary General noted that a joint monitoring team composed of U.N., Sudan, and South Sudan forces had “verified that there was no military presence” in several border locations, such as the South Sudanese towns of Kiir Adem, Teshwin, and Wunthou. The report also said that the joint team had provided “aerial verification” that SAF had withdrawn troops from border locations, such as the Sudanese towns of Radom and al Kwek, and the South Sudanese village of Kilo 4, and that “no armed forces were observed during those verifications either.”

George Clooney, Co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project,  a partnership between the Enough Project and DigitalGlobe, said, "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."

Continued noncompliance has the potential to destabilize these states and curtail the current fragile peace in the Sudans. Enough Project and Satellite Sentinel Project co-founder John Prendergast states, “The great risk of such transgressions is that any spark between the two states involving forces under their control in the border zone could start a raging fire of conflict.” 

Read the full report.

View or download the satellite imagery here.