United Nations forces in Democratic Republic of Congo have launched unmanned aircraft to monitor the volatile border with Rwanda and Uganda, the first time UN peacekeepers have deployed surveillance drones.
The aircraft will be used to look out for threats from a host of local and foreign armed groups in the mineral rich east where Congo and UN experts have accused Rwanda and Uganda of sending arms and troops to back the recently-defeated M23 rebels, something both countries deny.
“The drones…will allow us to have reliable information about the movement of populations in the areas where there are armed groups,” UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, said at the launch of the drones in Goma.
“We will survey the areas where there are armed groups, and we can control the frontier,” he added.
The UN mission has deployed two Falco drones manufactured by Selex ES, a unit of Italian defence group Finmeccanica.
UN peacekeepers have received widespread criticism for doing too little to end fighting in eastern Congo, a hilly and thickly forested region that Kinshasa has struggled to control during two decades of conflict.
But the drone deployment comes after the peacekeepers helped defeat M23, the most serious rebellion of President Joseph Kabila’s 12-year rule.
General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, commander of the UN force in Congo, said the drones would only fly over Congolese territory, as UN peacekeepers have no mandate to operate in neighbouring countries.
To watch a UN video of the drones taking flight click here .