PHOTOS: Viewing The South Sudan Crisis From Space

CREDIT: AP Photo/Ben Curtis

Since the clashes between the South Sudanese government and rebel forces broke out in late December, the toll on the civilians caught in the crossfire has escalated more rapidly than many could have predicted. Reporting from on the ground can be difficult to come by at times in situations such as seen in the areas where fighting has been the most intense, the states of Jonglei and Unity. The Satellite Sentinel Project — a collaborative effort between the Enough Project and digital-globe with the backing of actor George Clooney — is attempting to break through the fog of war through tracking conflict from above the clouds.

While the struggle in South Sudan is primarly between President Silva Kiir and political opponent Riek Machar, it’s the civilians of the young country that have borne the brunt of the conflict since it escalated into open fighting. In turning the project’s satellites towards South Sudan, the Satellite Sentinel team has captured images of destroyed property, damaged and leaking oil refineries, and increased displacement of civilians. The following images, the first three of which were provided exclusively to ThinkProgress, showcase the devastation.

In the first image, taken over Bor, Jonglei’s capital, shows several buildings in the town’s market center reduced to rubble. Since the last pass of the satellite this weekend, an additional four buildings have been completely destroyed.

Just 48 hours later, a satellite photo taken of the same area shows yet another building completely destroyed.


CREDIT: Satellite Sentinel Project

Bor is a key town that has swapped back and forth between the government and rebels since the fighting starting, placing residents at the center of the cross-hairs. Members of the South Sudanese army on Tuesday were advancing towards the town to launch a renewed offensive to recapture it from Machar-led forces.


CREDIT: Satellite Sentinel Project

The following picture, taken from the Project’s recently released situation report, shows the rapid expansion of displacement camps within South Sudan. In the weeks since the conflict began, more than 400,000 people have fled their homes to escape the fighting according to the United Nations.

ssp idp south sudan

CREDIT: Satellite Sentinel Project

In Mayom, within Unity state and a stronghold of the rebels, the destruction of homes is clear in the imagery. “One resident reported that Mayom had become a ‘ghost town,’ with ‘many dead bodies,’” the report reads.

ssp mayom south sudan

CREDIT: Satellite Sentinel Project

“Evidence of atrocities against civilians should be collected and used for future prosecution for war crimes,” Clooney said in a statement over the weekend. “There will be no peace if massive human rights abuses can be committed with no accountability. This time in South Sudan there needs to be an end to impunity.”