UN UAVs headed for DRC


The United Nations is set to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for reconnaissance missions to the Democratic Republic of Congo, with Rwanda accepting the UN plans after initial opposition.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame yesterday said, “I have no problem [with the UAV deployment]…if they think it can help…it is up to them.”

On January 8 the head of UN peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, requested the UN Security Council to strengthen the mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), in part by the use of UAVs. UN operations in the DRC took a blow when M23 rebels took the strategic town of Goma in November before withdrawing after 12 days.

Officials from Rwanda initially opposed the deployment of UAVs. Rwanda, as well as Uganda, are suspected of actively supporting the M23 rebels.

The UN plans to deploy three unarmed UAVs to the eastern Congo, which will have a range of around 150 miles and an endurance of 12 hours. They will be fitted with infrared cameras for night operations.

United Nations spokesman Martin Nesirky earlier this month said that UAVs would be used to strengthen MONUSCO and protect civilians. “Unmanned aerial vehicles, unarmed, are one tool we are considering in order to protect civilians better and to monitor the movements of armed groups.”
“The United States does support the UN’s proposal to use unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicles, for example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to increase the surveillance capacity of the UN peacekeeping operation,” US State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said shortly after the UN plan to send UAVs to the DRC was announced.
“This would only happen with the consent of the country or the countries where the mission would operate, and their use would not impact in any way on sovereignty,” she stressed.

MONUSCO has more than 17 000 troops deployed in the DRC but is struggling to police the vast country, which is beset by instability fuelled by conflict over minerals.