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UN Security Council Okays Use Of Drones in DRC

The U.N. Security Council has okayed the use of surveillance drones in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after weeks of delay over concerns from Russia, China and Rwanda.
The U.N. Security Council has okayed the use of surveillance drones in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after weeks of delay over concerns from Russia, China and Rwanda.

 

In December last year, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote to the 15-member council to advise that peacekeepers in the war-torn country planned to use unmanned aerial systems to enhance situational awareness and to permit timely decision-making in dealing with the M23 rebel insurgency.

 

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.N., Masood Khan, the president of the council for January, said in response that the body had taken note of the plans for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, Monusco, to use drones, effectively approving the proposal.

 

Reuters news agency quoted Khan’s letter dated January 22 as saying it would be a trial use "in line with the Secretariat's intention to use assets to enhance situational awareness, if available, on a case-by case basis.

 

Khan is quoted as saying the DRC operation would be "without prejudice to the ongoing consideration by relevant United Nations bodies of legal, financial and technical implications of the use of unmanned aerial systems."

 

Independent U.N. experts say the M23 rebellion, now into its ninth month, has received cross-border support from Rwanda and Uganda, a claim both governments strongly deny.

 

Rwanda, which this month began a two-year term as a Security Council member, had initially opposed the use of drones in Congo, saying it did not want Africa to become a laboratory for foreign intelligence devices. China and Russia had also raised concerns.

 

The United Nations has wanted surveillance drones for eastern DRC since 2008.

 

The request was never met, but the idea generated new interest last year after M23 rebels began taking over towns in the mineral-rich eastern Congo.

 

The 19,000-strong Monusco force, in Congo since 1999, was criticised in November last year for failure to intervene when well-equipped M23 rebels seized control of the eastern Congolese city of Goma. The rebels withdrew after 11 days due to pressure from regional governments under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). Ban is expected to submit a report to the Security Council in the coming weeks recommending ways of improving the force.

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