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Wed May 25 05:24:34 SAST 2016

UN seeks backing for drones in DR Congo

Sapa-AFP | 09 January, 2013 08:38
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. File photo.

UN leaders on Tuesday asked the UN Security Council to back the use of surveillance drones for the first time in Democratic Republic of Congo.

The introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles would be a major revolution in UN peacekeeping operations. But Rwanda has opposed using drones in DR Congo and other countries are also suspicious.

The UN peacekeeping department, backed by western nations, wants to introduce drones to monitor the vast eastern DR Congo border where Rwanda has been accused of helping rebels fighting the government. Rwanda denies the charge.

UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said he had asked the Security Council for the means to strengthen its DR Congo operation. “So more helicopters, perhaps some with night vision, river capacities and then this question of aerial surveillance equipment — drones.”  “I explained to the Security Council how necessary we think this is. Some questions were asked and I answered,” Ladsous told AFP.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is expected to reinforce the case for drones in a report he is preparing on strengthening the UN mission in DR Congo. The council called for action after M23 rebels swept aside government forces and UN peacekeepers as they took the key provincial capital of Goma in November.

DR Congo is already the UN’s biggest peacekeeping mission with more than 17 000 troops. But the forces are spread thin in the huge country and the UN is under orders to cut costs.

Western countries back the UN plan. “The UN needs additional modern resources — in particular drones — to be better informed, more reactive,” France’s UN mission said in a Twitter statement.

The Congo government is in favor of the move, but Rwanda, which is now one of the African members of the 15-nation Security Council is against. UN experts say that Rwanda and Uganda have given military backing to the M23 rebels.

“We as Rwanda bordering on the Congo, we are maybe not in a comfortable position to talk about it because people may perceive it otherwise,” said Eugene Richard Gasana, Rwanda’s UN ambassador.

“But member states have legitimate questions on legal issues, financial issues on implementation of this.”  “It might have a precedence on other countries. We owe them a kind of explanation,” said Gasana. “It is about human beings, it is not about Star Wars. We need this new technology, but at which cost.” 

UN officials say that drones could also be valuable in South Sudan and Sudan — huge countries where peacekeeping missions are spread thin. But the UN has stressed that it would not use drones in any mission without the permission of the country involved.

“Ultimately, to introduce these, we would need the support of member states to equip the mission,” UN peacekeeping spokesman Kieran Dwyer said recently.


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