UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said on Monday that the drones will be used by the UN peacekeeping mission in the country to monitor the volatile border between DR Congo and Rwanda and the movements of armed groups in the region, AFP reported.
“UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous is in the eastern city of Goma, the capital of North Kivu, to “preside over the launch of unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicles,” Nesirky said.
The drones would be “an important tool to assist the mission in fulfilling its mandate to protect civilians,” he added.
UN officials said the surveillance mission will start with two of the drones that the UN has obtained from Italian company Selex ES, adding that up to five could be in operation after trials are completed.
On January 25, the UN Security Council approved a proposal to deploy surveillance drones along the eastern border of Congo.
UN experts have accused neighboring Rwanda of sending fighters and arms to Congo to support the March 23 movement (M23) rebels.
Congolese troops and UN peacekeepers have being fighting for over a year to crush a rebellion by the rebels, who defected from the Congolese army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the army. They had previously been integrated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed in 2009.
On November 5, the M23 announced an end to their revolt after a bruising offensive by the Congolese army and UN forces.
The rebels seized Goma on November 20, 2012 after UN peacekeepers gave up the battle for the frontier city of one million people. M23 rebels withdrew from the city on December 1 under a ceasefire accord.
Since early May 2012, nearly three million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but about 500,000 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.