UN Africa commanders want better technology
27 June 2013, 16:50
New York - The commanders of two peacekeeping missions in
Africa appealed on Wednesday for more sophisticated military technology to stay
ahead of armed groups threatening civilians and government.
Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, the commander of the 19 000-member UN
peacekeeping mission in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, welcomed the
decision to equip the force with drone surveillance planes to help new "intervention
brigades" neutralise and disarm rebel groups under a more robust mandate
from the Security Council.
Dos Santos Cruz, who is from Brazil, spoke before the
Security Council along with the commanders of other UN peacekeeping missions.
He said he expects the unmanned aircraft to help identify the logistical hubs
of armed groups and provide early warning of their movements and intentions.
He also spoke to the council about other advanced military
technology that could benefit peacekeepers. Those included equipment to
intercept communication signals of armed groups that "regularly change
their locations and methods of operating," and effective warning and
neutralizing devices against improvised explosive devices.
"If, as seems to be the case, negative forces are
increasingly resorting to the use of more sophisticated military technology to
achieve their objectives, so there will be a need for UN forces to at least
match that capability," dos Santos Cruz said. "This is an area that
needs to be continually monitored if the UN peacekeeping is to avoid being
outpaced and its effectiveness diluted."
At a news conference following the Security Council
briefing, the commander of the 7 600-member peacekeeping mission in South Sudan
said he wants drones for his force, too.
Major General Delali Johnson Sakyi says drones would greatly
help the peacekeepers quickly identify and reach violent flashpoints in their
mandate to protect villagers from armed attack.
"The importance of information collection and
verification to decide when or how to launch troops cannot be overemphasised,
particularly in South Sudan," said Sakyi, who is from Ghana.
Unmanned surveillance aircraft "can really help
identify flashpoints in time so that the appropriate forces will be engaged to
mitigate conflict. So it's a welcome idea".
Johnson Sakyi said protecting villagers from attacks such as
cattle raids is a key part of his force's mission, which allows the use of
force to protect civilians if necessary. He said the peacekeepers rely on
patrols to learn about planned attacks, along with one infrared device wanted
mounted on a helicopter. He appealed for more such devices and for more
"Inadequacy of helicopters to launch troops and sustain
troops continues to be our very big challenge," he said. "Get there
on time, or we act too late."
Sakyi's comments came amid rising tensions between South
Sudan and Sudan, which peacefully separated in 2011 after a six-year peace
process that ended 20 years of war. Both countries accuse each other of
supporting rebel groups that continue fighting on either side of the border.
For DRC, the Security Council authorised the
"intervention brigades" and the use of drones in March, an
unprecedented decision that gave the peacekeepers an offensive mandate. The
move came three months after M23 rebels occupied the Congolese city of Goma as
peacekeepers with no authority to intervene stood by.
Dos Santos Cruz said at the news conference that two of the
new brigades have arrived, one from Tanzania and the other from South Africa. A
third from Malawi is expected to arrive in late July. The United Nations is
still in the process of procuring the drones, and the commander said he hopes
they will arrive in the fall.