AFRICANGLOBE – The United Nations will begin flying surveillance drones over the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday to help peacekeepers spot rebels and monitor their movements according to UN officials.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous is in Goma to preside over the launch of the unarmed drones. Monday, he described the situation in eastern Congo as “very different” from a year ago, when the rebel group M23 captured several cities in the region.
Last month, M23 announced it was laying down its arms after the Congolese army captured the group’s last strongholds with the help of a special U.N. intervention force made up of mainly Tanzanian and South African troops.
An expected peace agreement between the Congolese government and M23 was never signed, as the two sides disagreed on the wording of the document.
DR Congo and neighboring Uganda, which has helped mediate talks between the two sides, said after a meeting Monday between Presidents Joseph Kabila and Yoweri Museveni that the leaders want the peace talks concluded “as soon as possible.”
The U.N. and its 20,000-troop peacekeeping mission are now focusing on other rebels in the region, including a Rwandan Hutu group, FDLR.
The mission called the drones built by the Italian firm Selex ES an important new tool for protecting civilians. It plans to deploy as many as five of the unmanned vehicles, which can hover over an area for 10 to 12 hours at a time and give commanders information needed to direct troops on the ground.
Eastern Congo has been ravaged by years of fighting between the government and various rebel groups, who compete for control of the area’s rich mineral resources.