“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,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said on Thursday.
The UN has reportedly bought its first drone to be used in Congo from Italian defense electronics firm Selex ES.
“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 added.
On January 25, the UN Security Council approved a proposal to deploy surveillance drones along the eastern border of the DRC.
On January 8, Herve Ladsous, the head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), said he had asked the Security Council for three aircraft-size drones to be deployed along the border in Congo’s mountainous eastern region.
The UN peacekeeping mission issued a statement on Tuesday saying the rebels around the eastern city of Goma should either disarm or face “the use of force.”
MONUSCO’s mandate, which was recently renewed by the UN Security Council, allows the creation of a special unit, called the Force Intervention Brigade, to carry out targeted offensive operations against armed groups rather than merely protecting civilians.
The March 23 movement (M23) rebels seized Goma on November 20, 2012 after UN peacekeepers gave up the battle for the frontier city of one million people. M23 fighters withdrew from the city on December 1 under a ceasefire accord.
The M23 rebels defected from the Congolese Army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). They had previously been integrated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed in 2009.
Since early May 2012, nearly 3 million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but more than 460,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.