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After UN's Congo Failure, Ladsous Re-Floats His Drone Plan, Exposed by ICP in March

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 23, updated -- As the M23 mutineers advance past Goma to Bukavu in Eastern Congo, UN Peacekeeping is trying to erase it failure with a technological fix: drones.

  Back in March 2012, Inner City Press exclusively reported that Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in row atop the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, had proposed in a closed-door session of the C-34 the use of drones.

  Several delegations criticized it to Inner City Press, questioning not only "who would get the information," but also Ladsous' motives.

  The representative of a Francophone African country told Inner City Press that Ladsous already had a French company, Thales, in mind.

  Inner City Press after its exclusive report got the Office of the Spokesperson of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on March 27, 2012 to confirm the proposal, click here for the UN's e-mail to Inner City Press.

  Then on May 1, 2012 Inner City Press was able to ask Ladsous himself about his drone proposal. From DPKO's own online transcript:

Matthew Lee, Inner City Press: You should set up a time, I think, to take questions on Sudan and Haiti. But here is on Syria, on air assets. I know you proposed in the C34 committee the use by the UN of surveillance drones. Now I wanted to know if that is something that you would consider in this instance and if not, why not? Given the need to monitor a ceasefire. Also, there is a talk about freedom of movement. Can you say what the restrictions have been to date and also how they would compare for example with restrictions that DPKO accepts in MINURSO?

USG Ladsous: As far as drones, I think the issue is not here and now. We are conducting a study on the issue because there are numbers of aspects, technical, financial and others. And of course one very strong parameter of any deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles would be to secure the consent of the government concerned. So we are not there yet.

  After that, even more delegations complained to Inner City Press, noting that Ladsous has no approval at all to even proceed and ask "the government concerned" about flying UN drones.

  Inner City Press paraphrased one of the complaints and coined the nickname, Herve "The Drone" Ladsous, which a diplomat said also referred to Ladsous' speaking style.

By late May, Ladsous openly refused to answer any questions from Inner City Press. In this, he was emboldened by other attacks on press freedom in Ban Ki-moon's UN, on which we will have more.

  On drones on June 20, 2012, Inner City Press asked Ladsous about safeguards; Ladsous replied, "I don't talk to you, Mister." Click here for that, and more on Ladsous' DPKO and drones.

  Also on June 20, Inner City Press asked one of Ladsous' DPKO's force commanders Major General Moses Bisong Obi about drones; at first he said he didn't get the question. Video here, by Minute 35:22. THen Obi said of course he'd like drones, and any kind of surveilance.

 But, Inner City Press asked, who would get the information? Only the Mission? Troop Contributing Countries? All Security Council members? Only the P-5? Only France?

 Obi said the policy would be made "by the UN" -- Ladsous? Ban Ki-moon? -- and that if he got these resources, he'd be given limitations and guidance. By Ladsous? Ladsous doesn't answer.

   Most recently on November 21, after Goma fell to M23 with no fight back from Ladsous' peacekeepers, giving rise to protests and threats against UN personnel in Bunia, Kisangani and Bukavu, Inner City Press sought to ask Ladsous if UN Peacekeeping would even try to defend Bukavu, and for Ladsous' response to the protests and threats in Bunia, Kisangani and Bukavu. Video here, at Minute 10:13, 13:25 and especially 11:50.

  Ladsous refused to answer; his spokesman Kieran Dwyer told staff to not give Inner City Press the microphone, while "une question en Francais" was sought out.

  Since then UN personnel have been attacked and UN buildings burned down; several Congolese protesters have been shot dead, at least three in Kisangani, click here. In Bunia, at least six were killed, four of them students, click here (all in French, a la Ladsous).

  Now the drone('s) proposal has taken flight again, spun by none other than Kieran Dwyer, Ladsous' censorer in chief. Inner City Press has posed a number of questions to the UN and will be reporting them and all responses (or, if up to Ladsous, non-responses) here.

Update: Inner City Press asked the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General, "How would such [drone] use be consistent with USG Ladsous' statements to the C34, which were never approved or acted on, and USG's Ladsous' statements since?"

 Ladsous' spokesman Kieran Dwyer, saying the questions were referred to him, on this emailed back: "the consideration on utilising unarmed aerial vehicles in eastern DR Congo is one of a set of measures which DPKO is considering in response to the Security Council request for proposals on how to strengthen MONUSCO's capabilities to fulfil its mandate to protect civilians."

  So does Ban Ki-moon's UN believe that only the Security Council would need to approve drones? Or the member states of the General Assembly? Watch this site.

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