U.N. Plans to Deploy Surveillance Drones for Congo Peacekeeping Missions

Thursday, January 10, 2013
Photo Credit: Jerome Delay, AP


Drones aren’t just for assassinations and counterterrorism. They can also help maintain the peace, or so the United Nations hopes.


The U.N. Department of Peacekeeping announced recently that it would deploy three unmanned drones to help with peacekeeping operations in the eastern region of Congo. During the past year, U.N. peacekeepers have been supporting Congolese troops fighting M23 rebels, who are allegedly backed by both Rwanda and Uganda.


One U.N. official characterized the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as nothing more than “flying cameras,” to assuage any concerns from foreign leaders about the drones’ capabilities. The U.N. insists that they will be unarmed.


The UAVs—which have a range of about 150 miles and can remain airborne for up to 12 hours at a time—will be equipped with infrared technology to allow peacekeepers to detect troops hiding in jungles or operating at night.


But a Rwandan representative to the U.N. objected to the plan.


“Africa must not become a laboratory for intelligence devices from overseas,” Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s deputy ambassador, told The Washington Post. “We don’t know whether these drones are going to be used to gather intelligence from Kigali, Kampala, Bujumbura or the entire region.”


China, Russia, and various European diplomats have also expressed reservations about the drone plan, questioning the advisability of the U.N. becoming an intelligence-gatherer and where that information would be disseminated. Western diplomats, including the U.S., largely support the operation.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

U.N. wants to use Drones for Peacekeeping Missions (by Colum Lynch, Washington Post)

Rwanda Opposes Use of Drones by the UN in Eastern Congo (by Louis Charbonneau, Reuters)

Obama Administration Accused of Blocking UN Report on Congo Rebels to Protect Dictator Ally (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

U.N. Report Accuses U.S. of Using CIA as Pseudo-Military (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Coming to a Neighborhood Near You…Drones You Can’t See (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov) 


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