Seeing a Better World™

Our Eyes Can’t Blink

By DigitalGlobe | Published:

Stephen Wood, Vice President, DigitalGlobe’s Analysis Center

Over the last few days, DigitalGlobe has worked with our partners at the Satellite Sentinel Project to release two urgent, new reports on the recent violence in the contested Abyei region of Sudan. Before the weekend, our satellite images showed evidence of increased military buildup in the region and, in the village of Maker Abior, evidence of burned civilian dwellings known as tukuls. This visual evidence corroborated on-the-ground reports stating that the village was burned by armed Misseriya on March 2. Over the weekend we found evidence of two new burned villages, Todach and Tajalei. The images of these villages, analyzed by DigitalGlobe, UNITAR/UNOSAT and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, showed once again that tukuls were being systematically destroyed, causing civilian deaths and tens of thousands of people to be displaced.

Since the beginning of the year, DigitalGlobe has collected more than 1.7 million square kilometers of imagery across Sudan, focused on the existing and emerging hotspots across a country with a total land mass of 2.3 million square kilometers. We’ve collected, processed, analyzed and delivered imagery and information in record time, given the urgency of the situation and the need to demonstrate to both sides that the world is watching. I am proud of the work we’ve done, excited that we are making such critical efforts and contributing to an important cause.

People are often fascinated by the work that goes on at DigitalGlobe. We’re asked, “You work for a company with a Mission Control Center? You actually launch satellites? Watch the world from outer space?!” Sometimes I’m even asked if it’s like working at a super-secret spying operation, where we can see into people’s houses. I have to laugh at the kind of question, because of course we can’t and no, we don’t.

But we do keep a constant eye on the planet, to gain early insights into the business, market, environmental and political changes that impact people around the world. That’s why we are keeping such a close eye on Sudan. It may be hard to watch, to look at an image and know someone’s home is gone, a livelihood destroyed, that many lives have been lost. All involved are seeking the truth in pictures, and delivering valuable information and insight to both sides of the country. We certainly hope that one day, peace will come to this nation.

One thing is certain: we’ll never stop watching.

Note: You can see some of these images, including the burned villages of Maker Abior, Todach and Tajalei, at

The views expressed in this posting are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of DigitalGlobe.

One Response to Our Eyes Can’t Blink

Murat says: September 16, 2012 at 9:07 pm

The NCP’s progression post-election that is is unnqlstiouabey clear. They are containing the unpredictability of domestic issues.Darfur’s security situation is being controlled through the exercise of military muscle flexing and sovereignty exercises (including recent demands to hand over the alleged instigators of previous clashes.) A conclusive peace agreement is being facilitated with the LJM through the inclusion of civil societies and the incipient promise of development and power-sharing. JEM have lost international public support. With regards to southern Sudan, the GOS is fixated on technical preparations for the referendum and border demarcations. Ali Karti has thrown public image bait in voicing superficial concerns of the freedom and fairness of the referendum vote. Wealth-sharing concessions will be agreed to as the NCP’s conceding bargaining tone is superseded by its need for survivability. On foreign policy, the NCP is gaining economic favor with the Conservatives in Britain. The Obama administration is too soft, Sudan-divided, and domestically pressed about prolonging the Democrats’ mid-term election and majority occupation of Congress. Questions about the U.S. President’s two-term survivability have emerged, which further weakens the Administration’s attention span on Sudan. To add to this exacerbation, the NCP don’t take Democrats seriously, ever since the U.S.’s Sudan-influence has succumbed to neglect. The NCP accurately calls bluffs and sees empty pockets. It’s a remarkable piece of diplomatic achievement. This discipline and adaptivity is to be expected by the incumbents, but we should take a minute to recall how the Sudanese liberal elite once forecasted that the NCP was doomed in light of then insurmountable obstacles.The rightward pull of the NCP shall see a continued prolongation of quasi-sharia police state, which shall conclude the decade-plus transformation of the NIF from a military initiative into a Tunisia-style police uniformed, albeit-religious law enforced republic. Welcome to NCP Sudan 2.0. Are we ready for the next 25 years yet?The true weakness of Sudan’s political economy is distorted by the oil economy. Therein lies the NCP’s visible achilles heal.As I’ve suggested before, the terminal problem rests in northern Sudan’s nativist nostalgic pull towards some reversion to the True and Just Islamic governance, in secular form or not. Lesser Sudan’s upcoming homogeneity will be more vulnerable to the NCP’s adaptations, as the majority population still clutches the short straw of Balad Islamiya end-time thinking. Clear lines must be drawn in hopes of countering this defective ambiguity harbored by the disgruntled and apocalyptic masses. The false peace and promise of the afterlife is a cop out. In metaphysical terms, I’m saying that invoking (and maybe provoking) some internal hellfire might make the NCP more fearful of us. That is one alternative to the absentia of leadership.

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