Despite their pledges to the contrary, DigitalGlobe satellite imagery acquired in May and June 2013 over portions of the demilitarized zone border proves that both countries were still in violation of their bilateral agreement in at least 14 locations within the zone. The Satellite Sentinel Project, or SSP, is monitoring Sudan and South Sudan’s shared border and tracking adherence to pledges from both countries to withdraw all troops to their respective sides, creating a 12.4 mile, or 20 kilometer, wide demilitarized zone. New DigitalGlobe satellite imagery, acquired in June 2013, shows that both Sudan and South Sudan retain prohibited and previously undetected military presence in multiple locations within the demilitarized zone. In an early May 2013 report titled “Broken Agreement,” SSP revealed previous instances of noncompliance based on April 2013 imagery of the Kiir Adem and Heglig areas. This follow-up piece offers an update on both Sudan and South Sudan’s compliance with the demilitarization agreement as of June 3, 2013.
Satellite imagery supports the conclusion that the SPLA maintain military installations or checkpoints in at least nine locations along the border, while the SAF have positions with visible tanks and heavy artillery in at least five locations along the border.
Creating a buffer zone
In September 2012, the two Sudans agreed to create a safe demilitarized buffer zone, or SDBZ, along their shared border in an effort to separate their armed forces and reduce the likelihood of cross-border conflict.3 The security arrangements agreement requires that both sides remove all armed forces from the SDBZ and establish a joint border verification mechanism to track compliance and investigate alleged violations. The presence of either side’s military or armed civilians within the exclusion zone is a clear violation of the terms of the agreement.The governments of Sudan and South Sudan bear the obligation of ensuring that no troops or armed elements of any kind are present within the demilitarized buffer zone. In early March 2013 Sudan and South Sudan agreed to implement the September agreements. These agreements have recently been put into jeapordy by Sudanese President Omar al Bashir’s rhetoric repudiating all of the nine cooperation agreements signed in September 2012 between Sudan and South Sudan. At this particularly sensitive moment, the persistence of military installations within the demilitarized zone is destabilizing. If the two countries return to war, these bases will likely become flashpoints.