14 January 2013

Rwanda Remains Cautious On Drones in DRC - Mushikiwabo

In recent weeks Rwanda has questioned the use of surveillance drones in Eastern DRC as proposed by the United Nations.

The United Nations wanted to use drones since 2008; at that time Alan Doss, the former UN undersecretary general in charge of peacekeeping mission wanted helicopters, drones and other devices in order to improve real-time intelligence gathering.

Though at that time the proposal was not put in practice, it was again reconsidered recently due to the M23 rebellion.

Yet Louise Mushikiwabo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, said that the use of drones in the Eastern DRC has been received with caution not only by Rwanda but also by other countries on the continent. "There is a general sense of mistrust on what can be done with drones," Mushikiwabo said. She added that as a (non-permanent) member of the United Nations Security Council, Rwanda wants to know exactly who will be receiving the intelligence collected by those drones.

"This issue has both legal and diplomatic aspects. We want to know exactly who receives the intelligence gathered. As long as that is not cleared, Rwanda will always be always cautious about the issue," attested Minister Mushikiwabo who further added that drones won't solve the problem for Congo's citizens. "They have been suffering from the useless peacekeeping Monusco forces. They are dissatisfied with what they have been doing and drones won't solve that. They want to feel safe."

On Saturday, Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi also rejected the idea. He tweeted that the DRC needs goodwill from leadership, good governance, respect of human rights for all citizen, including Rwandophones, rather than the use of drones. "The UN in the DRC doesn't need drones to do what it is supposed to do. This will not help the peace process in the country nor in the region," the Premier wrote.

For Habumuremyi, it is more logical to invest into supporting the region's peacemaking efforts.

Rwanda's UN deputy ambassador to the UN, Olivier Nduhungirehe, in an interview with Reuters said that Africa should not become a laboratory for intelligence devices from overseas. "It's not wise to use devices on which we don't have much information," Nduhungirehe said.

He stressed that, before deploying drones, it was vital to know what the implications would be for individual countries' sovereignty. However, Nduhungirehe said that Rwanda has no problem with other modern equipment which might be used like helicopters, night-vision equipment etc.

While Uganda gave cautious support for the plan on the condition the drones are not used for combat purposes, DRC welcomed the proposition. The UN's secretary general Ban Ki-Moon is expected to submit a report to the Security Council late this month recommending ways of improving the UN force in the area.

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