Business, Economics and Jobs

Sudan masses more troops and tanks


Sudan's Khartoum government has been accused of an "act of war" for its attack on the key border town of Abyei. Sudan tanks have rolled into the town. Here, Sudan tanks are displayed in a parade through the streets of Khartoum.


Ashraf Shazly

BOSTON — There is a rapid deterioriation already along Sudan's disputed North/South border, with a buildup of troops that is pushing the country towar a renewed civil war.

The Khartoum government's Sudan Armed Forces are massing more troops, tanks and artillery near Abyei, possibly in preparation for more conflict in the disputed area. 

North and South Sudan fought a bitter war for 22 years in which an estimated 2 million people were killed. The war ended in 2005 but the rapid military buildup makes the resumption of the war look possible.

The Sudan army, equipped with heavy armor and artillery, has increased its numbers at the El Obeid Barracks, approximately 270 miles from Abyei town, possibly preparing for deployment to southern areas, according to the latest high altitude photos from George Clooney's Satellite Sentinel Project.

The newly encamped Sudan army forces are capable of quick attacks on Abyei, charged the satellite project in its new report on the situation, “Troops, Tanks and Artillery at El Obeid Barracks.”

The latest satellite photos show newly expanded force includes troop units of at least company size, towable artillery pieces, main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and Heavy Equipment Transports capable of reaching Sudan’s North/South border or Abyei town in less than a day, said the Satellite Sentinel Project.

This troop build up further inflames the situation in the Abyei border area, where photos taken on May 23 show the Sudan army in organized ransacking and razing of buildings in Abyei.

“Unless the Sudan army withdraws from occupied territories and the conflict is de-escalated, the new imagery reveals that the government of Sudan is prepared to intensify military operations in Abyei and along the contested border, where most of Sudan's oil lies,” said John Prendergast, co-founder of the Sudan activist group, Enough Project.

“The Khartoum regime seeks to intimidate the government of Southern Sudan and the international community into deeper compromises at the negotiating table over critical issues of border demarcation, the disposition of oil revenues, and the future status of Abyei," said Prendergast, who helped start the satellite project. "President Bashir is betting that the blunt instrument of force will succeed in securing his interests where diplomacy has failed.”

This new massing of forces is part of the rapid increase in Sudan army operations in the Abyei region and the border with South Sudan since May 21 when the Sudan army and the Misseriya militia incursion into Abyei on 21 May.

“Satellite Sentinel Project imagery and analysis has shown the escalation of military deployment, including the massing of main battle tanks, artillery and troops who are capable of imminent forward deployment,” said Harvard Carr Center Executive Director Charlie Clements, MD. “This satellite image provides further, compelling evidence of the rapidly deteriorating human security situation in Sudan.”

The Satellite Sentinel Project combines satellite imagery analysis and field reports with Google’s Map Maker to deter the resumption of full-scale civil war between North and South Sudan. Not On Our Watch provided seed money to launch SSP. The Enough Project contributes field reports and policy analysis, and, together with Not On Our Watch and Sudan Now, pressures policymakers by urging the public to act. UNOSAT analyzes satellite images and collaborates with Google and Trellon to design the web platform. Harvard Humanitarian Initiative provides research and leads the collection, human rights analysis, and corroboration of on-the-ground reports that contextualizes the imagery. DigitalGlobe provides satellite imagery and additional analysis.