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Monusco seeks surveillance drones over eastern DRC

Since 1999, about US$ 8.73 billion have been spent to fund the UN peacekeeping effort in DRC. With a total force of more than 17,000 troops, MONUSCO has so far failed to accomplish its mission, that was to protect civilians and to support the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo in its stabilization and peace consolidation efforts.

Herve Ladsous, the UN peacekeeping chief, was on Tuesday asking the security council for more means to strengthen its DRC mission. He was quoted by AFP news agency as saying that he explained the Security Council  that more helicopters with night vision, river capacities and aerial surveillance equipment – drones were needed to successfully carried out MONUSCO operation in DRC.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, is expected to reinforce the case for drones in a report he is preparing on strengthening the UN mission in DRC according to Aljazeera, . A report by AFP says that peacekeeping chiefs have been in contact with the governments of DR Congo and of Rwanda about the sensitive move, which could set a precedent that would worry some United Nations members.

Western countries have backed the UN plan. France’s UN mission said in a Twitter statement that the UN needs additional modern resources – in particular drones – to be better informed and more reactive. The US as well as the UK support UN use of surveillance drones in eastern DRC according to Voice of America.

Rwanda has on Tuesday opposed the use of surveillance drones in eastern DRC as proposed by the United Nations until there is a full assessment of their use, saying it did not want Africa to become a laboratory for foreign intelligence devices. Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s deputy UN ambassador told Reuters that it is not wise to use a device on which they don’t have enough information.

Diplomats said the Rwandan delegation informed the Security Council behind closed doors on Tuesday that MONUSCO  would be a “belligerent” if it deployed drones in eastern Congo. Mr Nduhungirehe explained that it was vital to know before deploying drones what the implications would be for individual countries’ sovereignty. He said Rwanda had no problem with helicopters, night-vision equipment or other high-tech gadgetry for the UN peacekeeping force.

Rwanda is not only the only UN member states that are suspicious about the use of surveillance drones in eastern DRC. Russia, China, Azerbaijan, Guatemala and Pakistan are among other nations on the council that have concerns about the deployment of drones in the eastern DRC, diplomats told Reuters. Others diplomats have also expressed reservations. They said there were unanswered questions about who would receive the information from the drones and how widely it would be disseminated. They expressed discomfort at the idea of the United Nations becoming an active gatherer of intelligence.

According to Electric Frontier Foundation, surveillance drones or unmanned aerial systems ( UASs) raise significant issues for privacy and civil liberties. Drones are capable highly advanced surveillance that can gather intelligence information from the whole great lakes regions. Thus Rwanda question over individual sovereignty of countries surrounding the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Whatever the outcomes of this move, the UN has to respect the sovereignty of African countries. Regional initiatives such as the International Conferences on the Great Lakes Regions have to be given a chance to find a lasting solution to peace in eastern DRC. Negotiations between DRC government and M23 rebels are underway in Kampala and the latter has declared a unilateral ceasefire to give a chance to peace. So there is hope for peace in foreseeable future and interferences in African peace initiatives have to cease.


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