For now, at least, the drones are being used only in Africa. While the aircraft are still unarmed at this point, concerns are growing that they could eventually be fitted with missiles to rain down death on enemies of the UN or its largely autocratic member regimes.
The testing ground for the drones used by the UN’s self-styled “peace” troops is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There, the dictator-dominated global outfit is operating a fleet of five “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles,” or UAVs, in its bloody effort to disarm various groups. According to media reports, the UN drones, almost 20 feet long, can take still pictures and video. They also have infrared sensors, helping UN forces pick up on hot spots even at night or through thick vegetation.
One day, possibly soon, they could also carry deadly weapons such as missiles. Despite UN claims that it has no current “plans” to arm its UAVs, analysts and officials are still expressing fears about the existing program, and especially its future potential for abuse and mayhem.
By this summer, UN bureaucrats were already openly and loudly agitating for a drastic expansion of the drone machinations around the world. UN “peacekeeping” boss Herve Ladsous said in May that the global outfit’s military needed to “upgrade” its technology to help the record numbers of soldiers it has deployed in its various wars around the globe.
“We do need them in countries like Mali, like Central African Republic and clearly in South Sudan. It would be my desire that we might deploy them,” Ladsous was quoted as saying in media reports. “Clearly we cannot continue to afford to work with 20th century tools in the 21st century. They [convoys] can use the images of the machines to make sure they are not going to be attacked or hijacked on the way. That, I think, is a very significant development.”
For now, the UN is touting the effectiveness of drones in gathering information to help its heavily armed soldiers crush their foes in the Congo. “We have a mandate here to neutralize armed groups — you can’t do it without intelligence,” Martin Kobler, UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo boss, told The New York Times in a propaganda piece that ran this month promoting the scheme. “They have also a psychological effect. Everyone knows they are flying.”
According to the Times report, the fleet of five drones has already proven highly useful to the UN and its so-called “blue helmets.” “Never before have foreign troops been able to collect so much fine-grained information about people and places of interest: who sells guns to whom, where illegal gold mines operate, the precise location of a rebel base,” the paper reported. “All of it, United Nations officials say, is classified and available only at the discretion of its lawyers.”
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Photo of UN drone in the Congo: AP Images