UN deploys drones for peacekeeping in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

SOURCE: UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO)

United Nations is deploying drones to support its peacekeeping mission in vast areas of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where the long-running armed conflict has killed millions since 1996.

“The UN needs to use these kinds of tools to better perform its mandates,” said Herve Ladsous, Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.

For the first time in its 68-year history, the U.N. is launching two drones – or “unmanned aerial aircrafts” to help the international peacekeeping force improve patrols and protect civilians in difficult to reach areas.

“With this kind of equipment, we should be able to combine information gathered in flight with information gathered on the ground by people,” Gen. Santos Cruz, commander of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO). “One can observe the movements of armed groups, movements of populations and can even see the arms carried by people on the ground, and it is also possible to see people in forested areas.”

The U.N. plans to eventually expand its drone fleet so it can patrol all the areas of conflict in DRC around the clock. (Currently, just about 21,000 U.N. peacekeepers are deployed to the DRC, a country that covers more than 2.3 million square kilometers or roughly the a quarter of the size of the United States.)

Cruz noted that not only do the drones serve as a “force multiplier” for the peacekeepers but that they may deter rebel forces from fighting, pointing out the recent spike in defections from M23 in eastern DRC.

There is an operational aspect and a dissuasive aspect,” he said.

The latest round of fighting between DRC government forces and the March 23rd Movement (M23) has forced about 100,000 people to flee their homes. According to the U.N., there are about 2.6 million internally displaced persons and 6.4 million people in need of emergency food and humanitarian aid in the region.

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