US Drones over the D.R.C.?
KPFA Evening News, 01.13.20
U.S. UN Ambassador Susan Rice blocked UN Security Council sanctions against top Rwandan military officers, including Rwandan Defense Minister James Kabarebe, despite a 2012 UN investigation concluding that Kabarebe heads he chain of command of the M23 militia making war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.) However, this week a State Department spokeswoman announced that the U.S. will be willing to send surveillance drones to assist MONUSCO, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the D.R.C.
KPFA Evening News Anchor Anthony Fest: The United States says it's ready to send surveillance drones to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to help the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the African state despite the Government of Rwanda's objections, from its new rotating seat on the UN Security Council. On Wednesday State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the U.S. also supports the plan to use drones to increase surveillance capacity in other African countries. KPFA's Ann Garrison spoke with Maurice Carney, Executive Director of Friends of the Congo, about the drone plan.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Maurice, what's your response to this US plan to send surveillance drones to the DRC, after the U.S. refusal to sanction the highest level commanders of the M23 militia implicated in last year’s UN Government of Experts report on the conflict in the DRC?
Maurice Carney: Yes, thanks for the question. I believe the plan was floated at the UN first by the French, but irrespective of whose plan it was, we see here a pattern that Congolese people have been victim of for the last 16 years, where the evidence has been presented to the international community against Rwanda, for Rwanda’s crimes in the Congo. And instead of holding Rwanda accountable, sanctioning Rwanda, what we’ve seen the international community do, led by the United States, and to some degree by the United Kingdom as well: it’s come up with various schemes, all but what is really necessary and direct, and that is to sanction Rwanda, hold Rwanda accountable, place on the sanctions list the individuals high up in the Rwandan government who’ve been identified as directing, orchestrating the M23 militia inside the Congo.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Could you respond to the Government of Rwanda, speaking from its new seat on the Security Council, where it said that it opposes the use of drones over the DRC and elsewhere in Africa?
Maurice Carney: Well, I mean. . .Rwanda can hardly speak for the African continent, even though it’s on the UN Security Council, the one African country to be there. We see here the pattern where Rwanda feels, somehow, that it has jurisdiction over what happens in the Congo. We’re certainly against drones being used in the Congo, but we’re also against Rwanda having a say about what the Congo does, or what happens inside the borders of the Congo. So, analysts have said, “well, Rwanda’s got something to hide," but again, after so many years, there is just not any more evidence that can be produced that can demonstrate the destructive practices that Rwanda has pursued in the Congo. So, whether Rwanda agrees or not, it’s really inconsequential.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Even if France floated this plan at the UN Security Council, it’s the U.S. that’s going to send these drones to the eastern D.R.C., to the peacekeeping mission, so-called, there.
Maurice Carney: Right.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: What do you think the U.S. really hopes to accomplish by sending them?
Maurice Carney: I’d like to know what the U.S. hopes to accomplish, but what I can say is that if drones were to be authorized for, quote unquote, information collecting purposes, in the Congo, that would be yet another step towards normalizing the use of drones, in this case on the African continent.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: And that was Maurice Carney, Executive Director of Washington D.C.-based Friends of the Congo.