Since the 3rd December 2013 spy-drones have been flying over the eastern region of North Kivu, bordering Rwanda, in order to monitor groups of armed anti-government militias as well as movements of the civil population.
The planes arrived on the 15th November 2013 at the Congolese army base in Goma on board a C-130J Hercules aircraft belonging to the Italian air force. The purchase contract of 5 “Falco” drones (price about €50million) was signed at the end of July with Selex ES by the Department of Maintenance Operations for peace of the UN. The delivery of the 3 remaining drones is scheduled before the end of February 2014.
The “Falco” drone is a remote-controlled aerodynamic plane that flies at average altitudes and with an operational range of 250km, independent of over 12hours flying time and capable of carrying various cargoes including high resolution radars which are able to spot both day & night real-live objects at considerable distance. The drone was first trialled in 2004 in the Sardinian military shooting range of Salto di Quirra.
“We’ll be able to make use of these weapon less & pilotless planes, in the conviction that we are a deterrent” said Hervé Ladsous , in charge of the UN Peacekeeping force. This DRCongo military mission is the first one in which the UN has used drones. “We need a more accurate squadron such as is taking place in the DRC, and if the use of drones is successful, it can pave the way for future such UN missions” added Hervé Ladsous. According to the website of Analisi Difesa then perhaps Mali & the Central African Republic could be the next countries to welcome these UN drones “in order to monitor their huge areas containing small armed contingents”. In first place of remote controlled systems is Selex ES still.
Having sold “Hawks” to Pakistan in September 2013, the Finmecanica group announced a new contract- signing worth €40million for the supply of several spy-type drones to an undisclosed Middle East country. As in the past, Selex ES had begun negociations for the sale of “Falco” drones to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as to the armed forces of Algeria & Malaysia.
The MONUSCO mission in the DRC is the biggest UN mission in place. More than 20,000 men from various African countries are in its makeup, and includes 3000 army personnel from the “Intervention Brigade”, created on 28th March 2013 in UN resolution n.2098 of the Security Council which has extended its mandate of “blue helmets” till 31st March 2014. As the UN spokesman declared “let the made in Italy drones as used by the Rapid Intervention Force be the new means that the UN uses to support its renewed political efforts in African countries”. The Intervention Force consists of three infantry battalions, an artillery battery and a company of “special forces” supplied by South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi. “The aim of the brigade is to help reduce the threat by armed militias who are fighting against the state authorities, to provide security to the civil population and to reinforce stability in the eastern region of the DRC” it was explained to the UN. In the official declarations coming from the “glass palace” amongst other things is the necessity of the new task force not to limit itself to separating the two sides in the conflict, but equally important to neutralise “the armed militias” either independently or in conjunction with the Congolese armed forces. A combatant brigade which, in order to identify and “neutralise” the targets, can rely today on Selex ES drones. In close cooperation with the military of MONUSCO and the Intervention force, is the EUPOL DRC mission, established by the EU with the aim of overseeing the education and training of local police forces. In this mission, which will doubtless continue until the end of September 2014, around forty special policemen from seven EU countries are taking part and are based in Kinshasa and Goma.
The DRC has been torn apart by one of the bloodiest conflicts in the whole of Africa. Bolstered by western governments and large international agencies which aim to control the important strategic resources, there are in the forefront at least a dozen rebel groups armed and supported by the governments of those countries bordering the DRC. Amongst these groups one of the most important is the M23 (23rd March movement) openly propped up by the Rwandan army; then there are the following: the democratic army for the liberation of Rwanda (known as FDLR), organised by extreme Hutu elements who in 1994 took part in the Rwandan genocide and who subsequently took refuge in the DRC; the Allied Democratic Forces and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU); the Mai-Mai movement Kata Katanga. A few months ago a militia group from M23 launched an attack against a military camp belonging to MONUSCO at Kibati, where the command for the newly constituted Intervention force was based and under UN direction. The UN and Congolese armed forces repelled the attack by the M23 with massive force and which by the end of November 2013 resulted in the complete collapse of these rebels. On the 12th December the leaders of M23 signed a “peace treaty” with the DRC government in Nairobi (Kenya) promising to renounce the armed struggle and to turn itself into a political force.
So what is the downside to this state of affairs?
1-. Two years ago the UN Security Council had requested to use drone type spy-planes in this troubled African region, but both Rwanda and Uganda especially, were vehemently opposed. For what reason?
2-. According to official UN sources the military conflict in the DRC has already produced 2.6 million people uprooted and over half a million refugees. Between 3.5 and 5 million killed as a result of armed conflicts as well as 6.4 million Congolese in urgent need of food and health assistance for the months to come. Of the aid promised by the “Glass House” up till now, nothing has been received. In return, to feed the war, are the drones from Selex ES, at €10 million apiece.
If people live well and are content they do not go to war.
Note. Minor adjustments were made to the text to update the article.