Friday, January 7, 2011

A Watchful Eye - The Satellite Sentinel Project

Sudan, one of Africa's largest nations, is at a crossroads. In just two days, January 9th, north and south will vote on a referendum that will determine whether or not Sudan will stay united or split into two separate countries.

We are witnessing, what could possibly be, the birth of a nation and like worried  family members we are pacing the waiting-room floor praying for celebratory news. But there is much reason for concern, as this has been predicted to be a difficult birth.

I've been in a quandary myself as I (a citizen of the United States with no personal vested interest other than I would dearly love to see a continent wracked with pain and suffering emerge triumphant out of a long and treacherous night of a collective soul) grapple with the question of whether or not separation is the best way forward. As, I imagine, everyone involved in this decision, this hope, this act of faith has grappled...far more than I.

I've wondered what would've happened to America if the south had seceded from the north. Would America have survived? Lincoln didn't think so. The official story is that the Civil War was fought over slavery, which it was, but it was also fought to keep the south from seceding and taking most of the maritime ports with it. It was about commerce. It's always about commerce.

The difference between America's civil war and Sudan's civil war was that America as a nation was working. To divide the Union would have destroyed the balance of power between the industrialized north and the agricultural south.

This is not, I believe, the case in Sudan. There is no balance of power. The developed north ruthlessly dominates the rural south even though the south has rich oil reserves which should give them some leverage in negotiating with the north. This will not be the case, however, if the south can not get out from under the boot of its northern brothers.

Which brings us to the referendum - a moment fraught with extreme danger. The danger of war. The danger of genocide. The danger of continued injustice and unimaginable acts of inhumanity.

And this is where the Satellite Sentinel Project comes in. The Satellite Sentinel Project, a joint effort funded and sponsored by the Enough Project, Not On Our Watch, Harvard University, Trellon and Google has put an eye in the sky over Sudan.

John Prendergast, co-founder of Enough! and George Clooney, one of the co-founders of Not On Our Watch, have been working tirelessly to shine a light on Sudan for several years now. Knowing that most atrocities occur while no one is paying attention they have spearheaded a plan to help prevent the very real and imminent threat of a bloody massacre before, during, and immediately following the aftermath of the referendum using the latest technology in global surveillance.

A Watchful Eye. Is it troops on the ground? No. But a watchful eye, by way of shocking and heartbreaking media images, eventually helped bring about a Civil Rights movement in America. A watchful eye beaming images of death and destruction the likes of which only the eyes of soldiers had ever before witnessed eventually helped end the Vietnam War.

Perhaps we could stand to lose the "eventually". Perhaps with the hindsight of history we can embrace the foresight of  lessons that should have been learned by now. We can't afford to look away as a nation but more importantly we can't afford to look away as a species.

I understand that politics is "complicated". That the question of commerce will always be a factor. But I also understand that for any hope of justice there must be a balance of power. Between right and left, between rich and poor, between right and wrong.

So let's be watchful,