Michelle Nichols 5 hours ago
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Thursday it has procured an unarmed surveillance drone from Italian defense electronics firm Selex ES, a unit of Finmeccanica, that will be deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the coming weeks.
It will be the first time the United Nations has used such equipment and, if the trial use by peacekeepers in eastern Congo is successful, officials and diplomats also hope the drones could be used by missions in Ivory Coast and South Sudan.
"Unarmed UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) will allow our peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo to monitor the movements of armed groups and protect the civilian population more efficiently," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters.
"The selected vendor is the Italian company Selex ES. The UAV is known as the Falco and is designed to be a medium altitude, medium endurance surveillance platform capable of carrying a range of payloads including several types of high resolution sensors," Nesirky said.
Thick forests, rugged terrain and the scarcity of roads on Congo's eastern border with Rwanda and Uganda have complicated U.N. peacekeepers' efforts to control the resource-rich area.
Congo and U.N. peacekeepers have been battling a year-long insurgency by M23 rebels. U.N. experts have accused Rwanda of sending troops and weapons across the border to support the M23. Rwanda denies the accusation.
"The deployment of the UAV is planned in the coming weeks," Nesirky said.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, told Reuters earlier this month that the United Nations had signed the commercial contract for the surveillance drone on July 12, but did not initially name the company.
The United Nations has also deployed a 3,000-strong Intervention Brigade as part of its Congo mission. The brigade has been charged with aggressively neutralizing armed groups and is this week carrying out its first operation in eastern Congo.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission, known as MONUSCO, said on Tuesday its troops would disarm, by force if necessary, anyone other than members of the Congolese security forces found carrying weapons within the zone after a 48-hour grace period.
The United Nations has also set aside money to deploy surveillance drones eventually in Ivory Coast to monitor its border with Liberia following a recommendation by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and a request from the West African country.
Ban has also suggested surveillance drones as an option for the U.N. Security Council to consider to boost the effectiveness of the world body's peacekeeping force in South Sudan.
U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Thursday that the goal of the zone is to provide better protection to the more than one million civilians living in the city of Goma and nearby Sake, including internally placed persons.
On Tuesday, the U.N. mission in Congo said it was giving people in the zone who were not part of the national security forces 48 hours to hand in their weapons.
It said any civilians with weapons after the deadline would be considered an "imminent threat" and U.N. peacekeepers would take measures to disarm them.
In a statement Thursday, U.N. officials say the security zone is not an offensive operation and does not target any armed group.
The zone is being set up after a series of attacks against the Congolese army by M23 rebels. The U.N. has said indiscriminate fire during these attacks has caused civilian casualties.
The group is one of many militia and rebel groups operating in Congo's North Kivu province, fighting for political power and control of the region's rich mines.
Nesirky said as part of the security effort, U.N. and Congolese security forces "will continue patrols to ensure that the region is free of unauthorized weapons."
The M23 briefly took control of Goma last year and still controls parts of North Kivu province.
The group is made up of former rebels who were integrated into the Congolese army in a 2009 peace agreement. The rebels later deserted the army, complaining of discrimination and poor treatment.
UN envoy 'shocked' over eastern DR Congo abuses
Posted Wednesday, May 1 2013 at 03:16
- In March, the UN Security Council unanimously approved the creation of a brigade of more than 2,500 troops to help MONUSCO curb violent unrest in the region, where Rwanda and Uganda have been accused of backing rebels.
|UN Peacekeepers Start Enforcing Security Zone in Eastern Congo|
Radio Okapi - August 1, 2013
|A 48-hour ultimatum given by the UN peacekeeping mission in DR Congo to armed groups around Goma and Sake to disarm or be disarmed expired on Thursday. The spokesman for the UN mission, Carlos Araujo, said the security zone will be enforced to secure more than one million people, including displaced people living in the area.|
|Rwanda 'recruiting for M23 rebels'|
BBC News - July 31, 2013
|Four Rwandans have told the BBC the army forcibly recruited them to fight for the M23 rebel group in neighbouring eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The four said they were seeking asylum in Uganda after fleeing the fighting.|
|UN mission sets up security zone in eastern DR Congo, gives rebels 48 hour ultimatum|
UN News Centre - July 30, 2013
|The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the DR Congo announced that it will, for the first time, use its intervention brigade to enforce a security zone around the flashpoint city of Goma in the eastern part of the country, giving rebels 48 hours to disarm.|