(MENAFN - Arab News) The United Nations wants to use drones for the first time to monitor fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where Rwanda has been accused of aiding rebels, officials said yesterday.
Peacekeeping chiefs have been in contact with the governments of DR Congo and of Rwanda about the sensitive move, which could set a precedent that would worry other United Nations members, diplomats said.
UN leaders are looking for ways to strengthen their peacekeeping mission in DR Congo, MONUSCO, where guerrillas from the M23 rebel movement have taken over much of mineral-rich North Kivu province.
UN experts say Rwanda and Uganda have sent troops and arms across the border. Both strongly deny the allegations.
The UN "is considering a range of ways to strengthen the capabilities of MONUSCO to protect civilians from the threat of armed groups in the vast area of eastern DR Congo," UN peacekeeping spokesman Kieran Dwyer told AFP.
"Unarmed aerial vehicles, drones for monitoring the movements of armed groups, are one tool we are considering," he said.
"Of course, we would do this carefully, in full cooperation with the government of the DR Congo, and trialing their most effective uses for information gathering to help implement our mandate to protect civilians."
"Ultimately, to introduce these, we would need the support of member states to equip the mission," Dwyer said.
While the drones would not halt the current M23 advance, the UN is also considering bringing in extra troops and redeploying its current force. UN leader Ban Ki-moon is to recommend options to the UN Security Council soon.
MONUSCO currently has about 17,500 troops but could go up to about 19,500 under its Security Council mandate.
Fighting in the eastern DR Congo has blocked access to all but one of 31 camps for displaced people in the North Kivu region, the UN's refugee agency said yesterday.
The 31 camps usually overseen by the UNHCR host some 108,000 people, agency spokesman Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva.
"But the fighting has meant that we and our partners have not been able to access most of these," he said, pointing out that only the Mugunga III camp, just west of the provincial capital of Goma, was currently accessible.
Congo's President Joseph Kabila issued a statement saying that he was immediately suspending the chief of staff of Congo's army following the publication of a United Nations report, which alleges that Gen. Gabriel Amisi has overseen a criminal network selling arms to rebel groups.