Does DRC need surveillance drones?

  • By The New Times Team
  • January 10, 2013
Ladous’ proposal has met stiff resistance while Nduhungirehe (R) believes that more assessment needs to be carried out before drones are launched. The New Times/ Net Photos

As efforts towards a negotiated solution to the crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continue, the UN is pushing for deployment of surveillance drones in the area.

In a closed meeting on Tuesday, UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous asked the Security Council to support deployment of surveillance drones in the east of the DRC, purportedly to improve the UN peacekeeping mission’s ability to protect civilians.

Brieuc Pont, the spokesperson of the French Mission to the UN, also tweeted that “the UN in Congo needs additional and modern assets, including drones, to be better informed and more reactive.”

But analysts are skeptical about the drone’s effectiveness to bring lasting peace in the vast country.

Conflict in the region has escalated since last April, when M23 rebels mutinied from DRC’s national army (FARDC).

Hundreds of Congolese civilians have since been displaced in North Kivu Province, some fleeing to Rwanda and Uganda.

Several diplomats, however, reportedly expressed reservations.

According to the Inner City Press news agency, countries including Russia, China, Azerbaijan and Guatemala, through their Permanent Representatives, also expressed concern about Ladsous’ proposal.

Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, told The New Times vial e-mail yesterday that whereas Rwanda welcomes the Secretary-General’s intention to reconfigure MONUSCO [UN mission in Congo] by strengthening its capabilities and enhancing its operational mobility in order to implement its mandate, it is reserved on the use of a technology, whose implications are still being assessed.

Nduhungirehe said, “We recognise that the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in peacekeeping operations has far-reaching implications on national sovereignty and territorial integrity and thus believe that, as suggested by the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping (C-34), a clear legal, financial and technical assessment is needed before any endorsement of such technology is put forth”.

“Therefore, we express reservations about the introduction of UAVs to peacekeeping operations when the issues that go along with it are still being discussed,” the diplomat added.

This position of Rwanda, he said, has nothing to do with Congo.

“Rwanda expressed it as a member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which has expressed the same reservations. Last year, before even the creation of M23 and before the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) proposed to use UAVs in MONUSCO, we already had the same stand.

“Our position would have been exactly the same if the UAVs were proposed for Côte d’Ivoire, Somalia or Sudan! It’s a matter of principle, of sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.”

France, the US and Britain are reportedly some of the countries in support of the proposal.

Analysts say there are unanswered questions about who would receive the information from the drones and how widely it would be disseminated, among other issues. There are suspicions, especially in developing nations, that drones will become a new intelligence-gathering tool for the West.

Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a political scientist and senior research fellow at the Makerere Institute of Social Research in Uganda, told The New Times that it is not clear why the UN only targets eastern DRC for such military interventions yet the country has many other regions infested with armed groups.

“I would think that the surveillance drones should be deployed in all the DRC regions that have armed groups, especially the various Mai-Mai militias and FDLR [Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, who are largely blamed for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda]. Why is the UN so much concerned with M23?”

According to Inner City Press new agency, the concerns ranged from the control of information – that is, who would get it – to compliance with International Civil Aviation Organisation rules, and the tender process, among others.

Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) Spokesperson Col. Felix Kulayigye also said that the deployment of surveillance drones in eastern Congo can only be a viable option if UN doesn’t deploy them in a selective manner.

Susan Thomson, a professor of peace and conflict studies at the Colgate University in New York, tweeted yesterday, “I am against the use of drones anywhere in the world. Period. Those arguing Rwanda to submit are not making a rights-based one. Shame.”

Ladsous was France’s Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN Security Council in 1994 during the Genocide against the Tutsi, and at the time, he allegedly supported the escape of the genocidal machinery into eastern DRC.


Understanding drones

DRONES are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVS). They are essentially planes remotely flown by pilots from the ground or follow pre-programmed flight missions.

While their use in war and intelligence missions is a thing from the 1980s, it has been increasingly adopted by industrialised countries such as theUnited States, the United Kingdom, Italy, among others.

There are different types of drones which are divided into two major categories: those used for reconnaissance and surveillance missions and those that are used in actual warfare that carry missiles and bombs and release them to kill when remotely ordered.

The use of drones has been quickly growing in recent years due to their ability to stay in the air for many hours without having people in their cockpits. One drone may cost between $20 and $50 million to make but it remains a perfect war tool since its users don’t have to lose their lives on the battlefield.

The British and U.S. drones have physically been in Afghanistan and Iraq and their control is done by the United Sates Airforce via a satellite from their Nellis and Creech bases outside Las Vegas in Nevada. Ground crews launch drones from the conflict zone, then operation is handed over to controllers at video screens in specially designed trailers in the Nevada desert.

One person could fly the drone, another person could stay in contact with the troops and commanders on the ground in the war zones while another could operate and monitor the cameras and sensors.

Drones were first used in the Balkans war, and then in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it’s the CIA’s undeclared war in Pakistan that has made them popular in recent years during American attacks on Al-Qaida leaders.

Most drones are manufactured in the United States by engineers at companies like General Atomics Aeronautical Systems based in San Diego, California.

Many human rights activists and researchers have highly criticised the use of drones in intelligence and warfare because of their low ability to separate innocent civilians from warriors during their attacks.

Eugene Kwibuka


Please UN, if you are for all nations,exempt us from drones.AS we have not got rid of colonialism, even the lives are going to be halved or taken away as they wish. France through US, UK and other allies has not exhausted the genocidal ideology and still wants to go ahead. Don't you think that because France's co-implimenters of genocide-FDLR have failed to fully acomplish their goal, now this an other strategy to fight alongside them using UAVs because other means have failed? France would love to use every weapon possible to fight the Kigali Government because it stopped them from whipping out part of Rwandans. Secondly, lets not be mislead that the west is being compassionate to the DRC, the eyes on the wealth not people. The Congolese could jubilate for the help but should know that the so called good samaritans simply yearn to protect their interests and when the soils have been exhausted, the poor Africans will be dumped for very hyena to pick.So please, simply ask yourselves why all eyes on Eastern DRC and not on Damascus, the poor in third world who do not have access to medical care, clean water, education and so on. Even on DRC, the main topic is about stopping the M23 from advancing but why don't they also add more points on the agenda like: social welfare(education, health, water, electricity). Plundering Congo's wealth has been there since the start of colonial times but what have these masters brought to their servants apart from dividing them so that as the Africans are bent on conflicts, their wealth is carried in the Drone like machines.We say no to drones and the like because they do not benefit the people of DRC but only to serve their masters by tight controlling us. Such machines can even be used to exterminet any un desirable race.

04:31:33 Thursday 10th, January 2013 Kigali - Ali Hereza

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In a closed meeting on Tuesday, UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous asked the Security Council to support deployment of surveillance drones in the east of the DRC, purportedly to improve the UN peacekeeping mission's ability to protect civilians. The UN estimate that some 60,000 people have died in the fighting in ... that transcends Syria. Then i wonder why the UN is interested in deploying surveillence drones in eastern D.R.C and leave more Syrians to die when the Eastern D.R.C rebels accepted peace talks. I guess i would not be wrong to conclude that the UN is protecting other interests in Eastern D.R.C than the Congolese lives.

09:37:30 Thursday 10th, January 2013 Kigali - Muyango Kambanda

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It is now that the French have come up out right. Currently we have 3 fiace conflicts which are on going.a. Syria "the war within"b. Norther Mali{ the TOUalegs and their AL -quida alliesc. M23d. India and apkistan conflict in addition.Why Drones in DRC and not in Mali or Damascuse.The UN has no shame . You are doing what the whole world can see. The Head of the peace Keeping department is the one who tasked The grp of experts who have constantly lebeled the country of Rwanda badly in support of M23, He participated allegedly in the genocidal plan when he could not push the UNSC in 1994 to deploy kigali and save the innocent people who were dieing. Now he is appealing to the SC to support the use of Drones in DRC. This is maintenance of the aim and it is a principle of war.Look the enormous budget the MUNOSCO is using every year and achieving non of the objectives of its depolyment. Now add to that the cost of 3 drones to be deployed in 3 different locations along the DRC porous border. Each costs $20-50 million. This moneywould rather support the displaced congolise or syrians who are starving in Turkey instead of serving France inerests.To the US nobody touched your diamond factories in DRC or gold concessions in walikale go ahead and exploit but give the region peace. Somikivu still has alot Of tantalite for your sisters to survive but God forbid deployment of Drones means another colonisation.

09:45:38 Thursday 10th, January 2013 Nyamyumba - KWIBUKA

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The use of drones in Africa should be vigorously opposed at all cost. Why are western countries, namely USA, Britain AND France OBSESSED WITH THIS TECHNOLOGY OF DRONES ? The use of drones will never solve any problem in the DRC. wHY CANT THEM GIVE DIALOGUE A CHANCE; ESPECIALLY NOW THAT DRC government and M23 are indulged in peace talks in Kampala, Uganda, to find a solution to their countries's problems ? The west has a hidden agenda to bring back their neocolonialism through the back door, or the wondow.The African union should seize the initiative to categorically reject the use of Drones( USA, FRANCE blackmail that is currently targeting Rwanda)in the east DRC, BECAUSE TODAY THEY ARE TARGETING Rwanda, TOMORROW, THEY will target other African countries, until they totally erode independence of all African countries. The west should be stopped meddling in the affairs of Africa through a unitary voice of the AU, otherwise, AU has no business being there.Rwanda's mission at the UN has done commendable job by opposing this senseless move of sending drones near our country's borders.

10:07:07 Thursday 10th, January 2013 Kigali- Rwanda - Chebes Celestine

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While I agree that this technology must be further assessed and I understand the apprehensions of several member states based on concerns over national sovereignty and territorial integrity, what then, I dare ask, does Rwanda propose as a solution to end this 20-year devastating conflict? More dialogue and useless talk at a round table in Kampala where half of the member parties are directly involved and instigators of conflict in E. Congo and where the other half have direct interest in the vast amounts of natural resources there? Get real people! Do concerns over national sovereignty and territorial integrity really outweigh the need for accountability in E. Congo? An accountability that could possibly be facilitated through unarmed drones. An accountability that would likely implicate bordering countries and the incompetent Congolese government itself? Warring parties, both militias and states alike, have been given countless opportunities to put down their arms in search of stability and peace. I feel as it is easy for those not grasping the full gravity of this war to express opinions about privacy and feeling violated as a country in the event that unarmed drones be used in E. Congo. But what about the physical and sexual violation of millions of women and children? Instigators of human rights atrocities don’t deserve territorial integrity. Where is the territorial integrity of these sovereign states as they are illegally and clandestinely crossing over the border to support armed groups? Let’s be honest, we don’t want Big Brother looking at us, because we already know of our direct implication and what his little wandering eye will find.

11:27:53 Thursday 10th, January 2013 Goma - Tell the children the truth

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Dear Friends of Africa and Africans;I would just want to remind you the French government's position on the support to Central African republic wars, the French leader openly on media expressed his position to support the Bosize government. The same French people wants to send their Drones to DRC for obtaining "intelligence information" remember these ones in Libya how it happened when they sought UN permission to "Protect civilians"Suppose the Drones' mission is changed then expect fire from them in future.In SYRIA French government acknowledged Rebels and in Mali and Somalia they have no interest there it said that the SEREKA rebels have got some good terms with this Government but in DRC only they fear M23 and the remained means is to strike them using the long range air raid.They don't want peaceful negotiations any more as Great lakes Region initiated.So let us be careful. This is time.

12:43:49 Thursday 10th, January 2013 Nyarugenge - Rutagengwa Joseph

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I think drones are an unacceptable intrusion and violation of territorrial integrity and people's rights,no matter how sugar coated. Inncocent victims of drones wherever they have been deployed, have been justified as collateral damage. Surveillance drones are no less. With cameras taking videos of huge swathes of ground situations expected to be deciphered by ground staff to decide what appears hostile and what appears friendly, most times they operate against advance conclusions, merely supplying the technical justification, leaving a very thin line between manipulation and factual situation.Monusco happens, in my view, in the view of most objective UN staffers, member states and indeed in the view of most citizens of Congo and of the wider Great Lakes area, to be an outfit that has outlived its usefulness and has remained on because that is the way most UN Missions remain on; you know when they start but you never know when they end; they are born with a shape but grow to become amorphous. With the incursion of PR into every sphere of modern organisational architecture, it seems MONUSCO has embarked on a repackaging and rebranding excercise meant to renew and resell the same product whose shelf life is unfortunately over.The old Monusco mandate was as of December 2012 repackaged to include integration of armed groups such as M23 and FDLR, protecting Congolese officials and institutions, advising DRC on essential legislation including constitutional and electoral laws, coordinating operations with FARDC against armed groups,training and mentoring FARDC in Human Rights and Human Rights Law and to actively seek to hold accountable those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity thru cooperation with the ICC. The old mandate (now vacated almost) included disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of armed groups, monitoring ceasefires and protecting civillians.The million dollar question should be whether the mission needed drones or any advanced technology to work on its mandate or whether it needs them now to accomplish the repackaged mandate.All armed groups plus some more are still in existence and building more capacity. DRC has more refugees and IDP'S than any other country in Africa-a huge chunck of them became so during MONUC/MONUSCO. DRC got accolades as the global rape capital during MONUC/MONUSCO. More illegal mining and minerals for guns trade took place during MONUC/MONUSCO. The March 23 agreement was killed and the Lusaka agreement almost killed during MONUC/MONUSCO. The most controversial presidiential and parliamentary electoral process in DRC since independence took place under MONUSCO'S technical guidance. With this record PR experts had to be contracted to repackage and possibly rebrand the mission. The Mission will now present itself as successful but overwhelmed, armed but in need of a technological edge against, armed groups, popular but facing a onslaught by regional countries, relevant and inevitable if only the population could give it benefit of doubt and build some hope where hopelesness is the norm.Perhaps the whole name needs some reingeneering as well, to something like "The Repackaged and Rebranded Monusco". Drones or no drones the eastern congo question will need a political solution, the likes of what is now happening under the auspices of the ICGLR-which the UN itself, or interested parties therein, are actively undermining and/or outrightly rejecting. The world will probably count the cost after the failure of Drones to stop the mushrooming of armed groups.

13:09:04 Thursday 10th, January 2013 New York - Peace Richards

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Let me attempt a response to the person who wrote as "Tell the children the truth", from Goma. I share your concerns over the mess in DRC. But why you ask Rwanda to propose a solution to this 20 year disaster I cant fathom. Is it because of Rwanda's position on drone deployment? Or you belong to the school of thought that Eastern DRC would be a bed of roses but for Rwanda? If it is the former you need to appreciate that Rwanda is entitled to an opinion as a minimum, inalienable, right. if it is the latter you know that you are lying or simply wishful thinking; Eastern Congo has not known governance since Congo's independence and I am not aware when it was a cradle of seems to be your case that drones will bring about accountability because warring parties, states and militias alike, have consistently turned down opportunities to lay down arms and find stability and peace. Consequently, you argue, physical and sexual violation of the rights of millions of women and children have happened. Further you seem to suggest that drones will bring about accountability by seeing these violations (and perhaps reporting about them).I think you do not have proper knowledge of this part of the world, though you are writing from Goma. Eastern DRC is one of the few spots in the world where the violations of rights of children, raping of women, illegal mining, trading of minerals for guns,institutional corruption, illegal roadblocks and taxation by armed groups, sharing of territorry by armed groups etc all happen in broad day light, never under the cover of darkness. It is one spot where in 1994, after committing genocide in Rwanda, a whole army in regular formation plus a host of militias supporting it were allowed safe and unfettered passage into the country, given official sanctuary and facilitated to retrain, rearm and launch attacks on Rwanda from bases in DRC. Those bases are still very much intact and more were subsquently established. Areas known to all, (including DRC, MONUC and MONUSCO) as FDLR teritorry are physical,clearly known and accessible areas, under effective FDLR presence and control, not hidden in caves and rugged mountains as is the case in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border areas. Nearly all rapes in DRC have happened en masse and have been documented. Many have happened after Monusco was given intelligence they were impending. All armed militias in DRC operate during the day, in accessible areas, many times they even hold public rallies. If Monusco has failed to bring about sanity in that part of Congo surely it isnt because it has lacked intelligence or proper surveillance. How drones can bring about accountability therefore, search me! Will drones reduce or completely dismantle armed groups just by hovering over their heads? Can the US, UK, FRANCE, claim they have no information on eastern congo's mess? There is instead a hidden agenda. When one asks Rwanda for a solution to Congo's 20 year disaster, then undermines or discredits the ICGLR (to which Rwanda is a party) dialogue going on in Kampala and instead prefers drone dialogue, the cat is then let out of the bag. Then the purpose of the drones becomes a witch hunt, to facilitate the printing of a conclusion long written. I think it is those warring parties, who, precisely because they are warring, will produce a political solution to their warring. Only give them a chance and encourage them to look forward. Congo will be governed by Congolese, not by drones.

17:14:11 Thursday 10th, January 2013 Mile 40 Nyamirambo - Hope

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What will drones find out that is not already known? The way to fix Africa's problems is to stop selling weapons to Africa, not more advanced killer technology. Imagine drones flying above the most undeveloped humans on earth, looking for what? Gorillas and chimpanzees? Africans don’t make any weapons and should not be exposed to them. The real causers of the conflict in Africa are the arms manufacturers and dealers. Africa is paying so much money buying weapons, one of the reasons it is difficult to develop, always depending on aid from the arms manufacturers!A weapons embargo on all fighting factions would do it better than the drones? Does UN support the selling of lethal weapons to Africa?

21:14:51 Thursday 10th, January 2013 Kigali - Justin Rwema

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While Africans called for dialogue and a peaceful settlement of the Libyan confilict, Westerners refused them a chance and kept bombing Libyans until (they think) their foes were eradicated. Poor maths.These people are not behind peace in Congo, they are always driven by own agendas, E.A watch out !!

00:43:35 Friday 11th, January 2013 UK - Didace

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Dear editor,The world needs drones in Eastern DRC like a dog needs fleas; not at all. Drones will not bring an accountable government in Kinshasa responsive to it's people rather than those of foreign interests - including those who have now captured the supposedly universal Organization known as the UN. They will also do nothing to improve the functioning of a bloated UN military operation as well as a massive civilian support bureaucracy both intent only on self-perpetuation rather than their original mission of eradicating the various terrorist bands from neighbouring countries which have erected their domicile in the DRC from whence they threaten the security of those neighbours. No number of war-supporting machinery or equipment will change the basic factor for the current dire situation in the Congo: the fact that like an alcoholic the Kinshasa Government is congenitally incapable of acknowledging its primary role in the failure of its state and that the UN's Western Powers have elected to act as indefatigable enablers to that self-destructive behaviour by Kinshasa, safe in the belief both can shift the blame - with the support of non-state actors - to innocent neighbours. The DRC doesn't need drones but rather to fully subscribe to a version of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-Step recovery programme overseen by the ICGLR therapist. To have any chance of recovery under such a programme, the DRC would need to give a wide berth to the current self-interested enablers of it's self-destructive addiction, aka the Western Powers and their mineral interests whose rapacious hunger for Congolese mineral resources is really at the bottom of that countries addiction to violence and the cause of it's race to the bottom.

00:44:00 Friday 11th, January 2013 - Keene Kalinda

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Today in US there is a biG DEBATE ON BANNING RIFLES.tHIS VERY TODAY,THE fRENCH AND THEIR ALLIES ARE PRPOSING TO SEND drones to DRC.DOWN WITH DRONES.IF they like them let them use them to protect their schoolchildren.No damned droned needed in Africa.NO drones please!!!!!!!

21:06:41 Wednesday 16th, January 2013 TZ - Ncuti Nziza.

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