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UN force to go after other armed groups in DR Congo

Malawi UN soldiers patrol outside Bunagana in DR Congo, close to the Uganda border, on October 31, 2013/AFP

Malawi UN soldiers patrol outside Bunagana in DR Congo, close to the Uganda border, on October 31, 2013/AFP

Goma, DR Congo December 3- The United Nations on Tuesday announced its peacekeeping troops will go after other armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo, after helping to defeat the M23 rebel force.

Tackling such groups is now “a prospect” for the UN’s 20,000 strong MONUSCO force and “that’s just what we are going to do,” the head of UN peacekeeping operations, Herve Ladsous, said in the northeastern city of Goma, capital of strife-torn North Kivu province.

Ladsous was speaking after the UN peacekeeping mission launched an Italian made surveillance drone from the airport in Goma the first time the United Nations has used such a pilotless aircraft in any country.

The MONUSCO mission in the DR Congo currently has two such unarmed drones. Both are fitted exclusively for reconnaissance missions, to back up its ground forces. The mission is to be equipped with three more by March next year.

The deployment of drones comes at a “symbolic” moment, Ladsous said, after the “fundamental change” on the ground in North Kivu when Congolese troops backed by a UN special intervention brigade forced the powerful M23 rebels to surrender on November 5.

The drones will be “an incomparable tool”, Ladsous said. They will fly over North and South Kivu provinces and “are going to give us precise usable information in real time in tactical terms”, he added.

The drones will survey mineral rich territory fought over by dozens of armed movements, which the 3,000-strong special brigade, with soldiers from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania, has been ordered to neutralise.

The aircraft will also be used to survey the porous borders between North Kivu and Rwanda and Uganda, in a bid to prevent these countries providing support to groups inside DR Congo.

MONUSCO forms one of the two biggest UN missions in the world, along with the force in Darfur, Sudan. First deployed to the DR Congo in 1999 and then known as MONUC the mission has hitherto failed to prevent conflict.

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