I think drones are an unacceptable intrusion and violation of territorial integrity and people’s rights no matter how sugar-coated. Innocent 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 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 exercise 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 almost vacated) 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 (Internally displace persons) than any other country in Africa-a huge chunk of them became so during the MONUC/MONUSCO mission. 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 presidential 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 hopelessness is the norm. Perhaps the whole name needs some reengineering 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 out rightly rejecting. The world will probably count the cost after the failure of drones to stop the mushrooming of armed groups.
Peace Richards, New York, USA
(Reaction to the article, “Does DRC need surveillance drones?”in The NewTimes, January 10)