Over the past few weeks members of The Sentinel Project have been following the events in Sudan with grave concern. News and NGO reports out of Abyei have described what many have called ethnic cleansing, and what may amount to genocide. Khartoum’s security forces have sustained a massive military assault on South Kordofan, especially the capital, Kadugli, in a campaign that appears to target opponents of the regime and especially the Nuba people. Soldiers and militiamen have been performing house-to-house searches and rounding up suspected supporters of the SPLM. The Sudanese air force has been bombarding villages near the mountains, with helicopter gunships hunting people as they flee to the mountainside. Eyewitnesses report the digging of mass graves, truckloads of people with bound hands and in blindfolds, and orders given to security forces to “sweep away the rubbish”: “If you see a Nuba, just clean it up.”
In late June the United Nations Security Council approved a peacekeeping force for Abyei, comprised of Ethiopian troops. This was a positive step but the situation there remains very serious as civilians continue to face attacks and live under constant threat of severe violence.
Some supporters of The Sentinel Project may be confused as to why we have not adopted the crisis in Abyei as a situation of concern. I can assure you, it is not for lack of merit. What is happening in Sudan deserves the attention and the peacemaking efforts of the entire world, and we wish we were able to do more there. There are two primary reasons. One reason is that hostilities there are very active. The model we are developing is designed to focus on areas where violent conflict has not yet broken out on a mass scale, thereby enabling prevention. Because we focus primarily on preventative action and less on intervention or conflict mitigation, we must direct our very limited resources toward those situations that we might affect before the onset of violent conflict.
But there are many organizations doing very brave, very important work in and on Sudan, and that is the other reason we have not initiated monitoring efforts there. There are so many well-established and well-respected groups and individuals who are already reporting on the conflict in so many different ways that we believe any monitoring efforts we undertake would not contribute substantially to the situation. This is not so much a defeatist approach as it is a recognition that our role in helping to stop genocide in Sudan is different than what we envision it to be in other situations: in this case there is frequent and robust media coverage; there are human rights and humanitarian workers on the ground; and there is global outcry and concern and a massive effort to push policymakers toward a search for peaceful and diplomatic solutions. Our job now is to amplify those efforts, share those news reports and otherwise support those doing the difficult and dangerous work necessary to achieve peace.
Within days–perhaps even hours–the news items we’ve linked above will be outdated, assuming they aren’t already. We encourage readers to seek out more information about the situation there. In traditional news publications you can find strong reporting via The Guardian and The New York Times. On Twitter, the #abyei and #sudan hashtags are rich with reports from the ground and links to news items and NGO alerts. And we’ve found that some of the most impressive research and advocacy has been undertaken by the Satellite Sentinel Project, Enough! and Human Rights Watch. And the work of Eric Reeves, linked above, is very thorough, thoughtful and highly recommended.
These lists are not exhaustive and if you have other suggestions or links, please include them in the comments here or, better, tweet them to us @sentinelproject.