News / Africa

UN Launches Drone Patrols in Troubled DRC

Undersecretary-General Hervé Ladsous is given briefing on drones during their official launch in Goma, Dec. 3, 2013.
Undersecretary-General Hervé Ladsous is given briefing on drones during their official launch in Goma, Dec. 3, 2013.
Pamela Dockins
The United Nations has begun deploying its first drones to gather intelligence about rebel groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  Analysts have mixed views on how effective the surveillance drones will be in helping peacekeepers curb unrest in a country that has been ravaged by fighting for years.  

At a ceremony marking the launch of the first two of five drones that will eventually patrol the DRC, U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said his forces needed to get a better picture of what was happening with armed groups, refugees and displaced persons.

"This will be a tool of choice for improving the information of the mission," said  Ladsous.

  • A team of technicians prepare for the launch of a UN drone during an official ceremony, Goma, DRC, Dec. 3, 2013.
  • A MONUSCO Unarmed Aerial Vehicle (UAV) at a Goma airport during an official launch ceremony, Dec. 3, 2013.
  • Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous is given a briefing on the drones during the official launch in Goma, DRC, Dec. 3, 2013.
  • A MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission) drone on an airport runway during an official launch ceremony, Dec. 3, 2013.
  • The new drone technology will help MONUSCO fulfill its mandate to protect civilians, Dec. 3, 2013.
  • Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous inspects a MONUSCO Unarmed Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that will be used in Eastern DRC, Goma, DRC, Dec. 3, 2013.
  • The UN Mission in DR Congo launches the inaugural flight of unarmed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Goma, DRC, Dec. 3, 2013.
U.N. peacekeepers will use the drones to watch over the mineral rich eastern region, near the borders with Rwanda and Uganda.

The aerial surveillance is starting less than a month after one rebel group announced it was laying down its arms.

The M23 rebels gave up their fight after the Congolese army captured their last strongholds with the help of a special U.N. intervention force.

New York University Center on International Cooperation Research Director Richard Gowan says until recently, the U.N. mission had been losing credibility because it did not appear to have a long-term strategy for stabilizing the DRC.

"It is truly astonishing that the U.N. is only now mainstreaming drones in one of its most significant peace operations, and it has taken the U.N. a whole year, in effect, to get its first drone in the air over the eastern Congo," said Gowan.

Gowan adds the peacekeeping force needs to step up its reaction to conflict.

"The U.N. has to move quickly in terms of using new technology for peacekeeping because otherwise it is simply going to be left behind by rebel groups and armies," he said.

Analyst Philipp Rotmann of Germany's Global Public Policy Institute says the drones will be useful to the peacekeeping mission, but cannot be viewed as a panacea for the country's problems.

"Only a few drones over a huge area.  Drones need maintenance.  Drones need to refuel.  There will be a limited amount of visibility," said Rotmann.

He says expectations that the use of drones will automatically increase the safety of civilians would be unrealistic.

But John Villasenor of the Brookings Institution says the drones will be a useful tool for peacekeepers in the vast, rugged regions of the DRC.

"Anytime you have the ability to get overhead aerial imagery, it obviously increases the amount of information you have," said Villasenor.

The United Nations plans to deploy three more drones in the DRC in the coming months.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs