Uganda on Friday revealed it is in full support of a proposal by U.N. peacekeepers to deploy unmanned surveillance drones along Congo’s eastern border, an area that has provided a safe haven for rebels.
The United Nations says the nine-month insurgency, which has dragged the mineral-rich region back towards war, has received cross-border support from Rwanda and Uganda, accusations strongly denied by both governments.
last week, Herve Ladsous, the U.N. head of peacekeeping said he had asked the Security Council for three drones to fly along the permeable border in Congo’s mountainous east, after the big presence of U.N. peacekeepers failed to prevent rebels from capturing the strategic city of Goma in November.
Kampala, which is hosting talks between Congolese authorities and the rebels despite charges it is backing the insurgency, gave cautious support for the plan on the condition the drones are not used for combat purposes.
Ugandan Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga while speaking at a press conference said the Drones can help in gathering intelligence or and engaging the enemy in combat as along as a country’s sovereignty is respected.
However, Rwanda, which holds a seat on the Security Council, said this week it opposed the drones until their use was fully evaluated.
The country’s deputy U.N. ambassador warned that Africa should not “become a laboratory for intelligence devices from overseas”.
A U.N. experts’ report last year said Rwanda and Uganda had given support to the M23 rebels whose renewed conflict led to the seizure of Goma City.
Uganda and Rwanda however strongly rejected the report’s findings and Kigali has in turn accused Congo of failing to wipe out Rwandan rebels operating in its territory.
Despite the official end in 2003 of a regional war that drew in a host of neighboring countries, much of eastern Congo remains under the control of armed militia groups accused of rapes and killings. Nearly two decades of instability have left millions Congolese dead and many more displaced.
M23, named after a 2009 peace deal that saw a previous rebellion integrated into the army, initially took up arms saying the government had failed to respect the terms of the agreement.
The group later expanded its demands and threatened to march across the vast Central African nation and topple the government of President Joseph Kabila.
M23 leaders announced a unilateral ceasefire on Tuesday ahead of a second round of peace talks with the government in Kampala, boosting hopes of a negotiated end to the uprising.