The United Nations on Tuesday announced the deployment of two surveillance drones in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo to track down the numerous rebel groups operating in the area.
The two Italian-made drones will, according to UN officials, be followed by three more by the end of March, with one of them expected by the end of this month.
Pacifying this troubled part of the Congo that has for decades been the bedrock for instabilities in the Great Lakes region has recently featured prominently on the agenda of Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General, and not unjustifiably.
The region habours groups that have not only destabilised the Congo but also neighbouring countries, including Rwanda, in the case of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia.
There are also rebel groups from Uganda and Burundi, while the majority are Congolese, including a myriad of Mai-Mai factions.
In the words of Hervé Ladsous, the UN chief of peacekeeping missions, the drones are the “tools of choice” to monitor the activities of the armed groups and civilians in this region and, if they succeed, they will be deployed in subsequent UN operations elsewhere.
The drones are being deployed within months of the deployment of the UN Force Intervention Brigade that has since repulsed the M23 rebels.
It goes without saying that the Intervention Brigade was the first UN force to be deployed with combat mandate. M23 was indeed neutralised, but of course there is no guarantee that similar groups will not arise if the root causes behind the group’s creation are not addressed.
For the record, I have totally been disappointed by the way people handling public relations of the M23 in the aftermath of their defeat have done their job, especially on social media, where in their quest for global attention they have gone overboard to publicise names of women they allege were raped by the Congolese armed forces after they were driven from their positions. For the victims, it’s rubbing salt into injury.
And so the drones are another ‘first’ in the peacekeeping history of the United Nations.
As had been reported in the media, next on the agenda of the Intervention Brigade was the FDLR, remnants of the militia that committed the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and which has never hidden its mission of picking up where they left off 19 years ago (read completing the Genocide agenda).
Accounts by various commanders who broke ranks with the FDLR, and several reports, some by the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Congo (MONUSCO), indicate that the group has penetrated into the ranks of the Congolese national armed forces, the FARDC. They are deliberately embeded with FARDC.
In addition, unlike the M23 which was engaged in a conventional war, most of the negative forces in eastern DRC are spread out across many villages and mixed with ordinary locals, which makes it a bit difficult to dislodge them.
One wonders how the drones will be able to sieve the rebels from the ordinary villagers and going by what drones have done elsewhere, especially in Pakistan and Yemen, MONUSCO clearly has its work cut out. Never mind that these are reportedly unarmed.
As Rwandan, naturally my primary concern is the FDLR, but how will the drones smoke them out of the Congolese army ranks?
It is also ironical that while the Special Representative for the UN Secretary General, Martin Kobler, sounds warnings to the FDLR, the group’s political leaders continue to roam western capitals without restraint!