News / Africa

Drones Bolster UN Peacekeeping Capabilities

Margaret Besheer
The United Nations is preparing to send at least three unarmed aerial vehicles - commonly known as drones - to bolster its peacekeeping mission in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.  Force commanders from other U.N. missions say advanced technology could also help their operations.

As rebels, terrorists and other dangerous elements obtain more sophisticated weaponry and equipment, the U.N. is working to stay a step ahead in its efforts to combat threats from such groups.

Currently, it is planning to send several unarmed aerial vehicles - UAVs or drones - to assist its 20,000 peacekeepers in the eastern Congo.

Lieutenant General Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz, who is the Force Commander for the U.N. Stabilization Mission in DRC, MONUSCO, says he hopes the UAVs will be fully operational by September.

The commander told the U.N. Security Council during a peacekeeping meeting on Wednesday that they want to use the UAVs to identify where the armed groups are and to provide early warning of their movements.  He said with a drone’s ability to hover over an area for 10 to 12 hours, it could detect imminent threats to civilian populations.
“They will help in deterring hostile action by the armed groups and will trigger the use of quick reaction forces,” Cruz said.

He said the mission is already using ground-based radar and other advanced military technologies in the Congo to provide better awareness of activity in the area.
Asked about the use of UAV’s in U.N. peacekeeping, Major General Delali Johnson Sakyi, Force Commander of the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, told reporters he would welcome this technology.

“It can really help identify flashpoints in time so that the proper processes would be engaged to mitigate conflict, so it is a welcome idea,” Sakyi said.

Commander Sakyi said currently his mission collects information through patrols and with an infrared camera mounted on a helicopter.  He said the mission only has one of these cameras and would like more.  Such equipment would be particularly useful in a country like South Sudan with its vast size and lack of roads.

There are about 11,000 peacekeepers in south Lebanon, monitoring the so-called Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel.  Major General Paolo Serra commands that mission, UNIFIL.  He said having new technology would be very useful.
“UNIFIL would like to have an enhancing technology - and I think about cameras, I think about mobile capabilities in order to better check the Blue Line,” Serra said.

If the use of UAVs is successful in eastern Congo, they could be employed in other missions to monitor cease-fires, borders and arms embargoes, and could eventually reduce the need for as many peacekeepers on the ground.

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