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On Drones, Ladsous Spins Crash into Hard Landing, Aims for 5, When FDLR?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 22, updated Jan 23 -- While the UN Security Council was meeting on January 22 about Cyprus, unannounced Herve Ladsous the head of UN Peacekeeping went into the Council with two staff members. While Ladsous has said he has a policy against answering Press questions, other Council sources told Inner City Press the topic: "drones."

   Only a week ago, one of Ladsous' drones crashed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Multiple Council sources told Inner City Press that on January 22, Ladsous spun the crash as no more than a "hard landing" -- not what even the UN spokesperson's office said -- and said he'd have five drones in the Congo in April.  One asked: what happened to three? [See update below.] And where does Ladsous want to go next? At least one Council member told Inner City Press that Ladsous' drone-show was impressive.

   Rwanda, which continues to question when Ladsous' MONUSCO mission will go after the Hutu FDLR militia, asked about the use of drones in this regard. They say when UN envoy Martin Kobler met with the diplomatic corps in Kinsasha earlier this week, he was pressed for what evidence he had for this claims, quickly repeated by Reuters, about the M23. Only the often dubious Group of Experts report?

   Others have said MONUSCO can always point at the Congolese authorities' lack of will to go after the FDLR as their own excuse. We'll have more on this.

   With last week's news that a Selex ES Falco drone procured by UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous has crashed, we turned back the clock.

  On August 5, 2013, Inner City Press reported that the Selex ES Falco had a history of crashes, from Pakistan to Wales and asked, how then was it selected? There was little transparency -- Ladsous has a "policy" of not answering Press questions; peacekeeping procurement, particularly but not only threw "Letters of Assist" such as those France got, is opaque.

  In Pakistan last year: "an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) crashed near PAF Mureed base during a test-flight mission due to a reported technical fault, some kilometres away from the district Mianwali in Punjab... The crashed UAV was identified as SG Falco-I (Selex), a sophisticated PAF surveillance drone equipped with the latest stealth and surveillance features."

  Before that in Wales: "a drone spy plane has crashed just weeks after an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle test centre was launched in West Wales. The crash, involving a Selex Falco unmanned plane, has raised fears about the safety of testing unmanned aircraft in the skies over Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.The crash happened at the Parc Aberporth UAV centre near West Wales Airport in Ceredigion, where new craft being tested include drone planes capable of delivering missiles."

  So how was the Selex ES Falco chosen? On July 31, with the UN then as now allowing its Herve Ladsous to conceal which units of the Congolese Army he is aiding, on July 31, Inner City Press asked the UN who won its contract for drones:

Inner City Press: Ladsous announced during the Bastille Day in France that the drone contract had been signed. Iíve checked various databases that are publicly available. Whatís the company that won? And if itís not yet public, how could the UN be signing a contract declaring a winner and not have it be public? Is it public and what is the name of the company?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: I will check. I donít believe it is public...Yes, Evelyn?

Question: Just to be certain the drones that are being used are for observation

  This last is a point Ladsous drone-like makes: he, his mission and the drones are not offensive. To not parrot that, according to Ladsous, is "innuendo," a basis to explicitly refuse to answer Inner City Press' questions. Video compilation here.

  The Office of the Spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon provides answers between noon briefing to some media, notably Reuters as well as Ladsous' favorite, Agence France Presse (Ladsous served on one of AFP's management boards.)

But on this who won the drone contract question, neither Nesirky nor his office got back to Inner City Press. Twenty four hours later at the August 1 noon briefing, Nesirky read out this answer:

I was asked [and] the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations can confirm that it has reached the final stage of the procurement process in relation to the trial use of unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, by its Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The selected vendor is the Italian company SELEX ES. The UAV is known as the ďFALCOĒ and is designed to be a medium-altitude, medium-endurance surveillance platform capable of carrying a range of payloads, including several types of high-resolution sensors. Of course, its payload does not include weapons.

  When Spokesperson Nesirky was further elaborating that final point of Ladsous', and Inner City Press asked to follow up, Nesirky refused. He had given others two rounds of questions, but refused to Inner City Press.

  Now these question must be answered, particularly given the history of crashes by the Selex Falco documented and raised (including h/t by a source the UN's former Group of Experts chief Steve Hege tried to intimidate by listing in his last report): how was the Selex Falco selected? How many other companies bid?

  How much is the UN spending? Who would run the drones? Who would get the information? Watch this site.

Update of January 23, 2014: Inner City Press at the day's noon briefing asked of Ladsous calling the crash a "hard landing," and about five drones. Later this arrived, which we publish in full:

Subject: Your question on UAVs
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 3:43 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com

Regarding your question on UAVs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we have said previously that there will be five of them by April. Martin Kobler mentioned it during his media activities when he was in NY on January 13, as in the following interview with UN Radio:

http://www.un.org/apps/news/newsmakers.asp?NewsID=101

UN News Centre: Another new tool that youíve introduced into peacekeeping has the use of unarmed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). How did this come about and what has been the result so far?

Martin Kobler

: Yes, these unarmed drones were introduced beginning of December. There are two UAVs right now and we have another three coming by March or April (...). They are used extensively. The purpose is if we do military action, we need reconnaissance before. This can be done by helicopters and by other means, but it can be best done by high technology. The unarmed drones have really good technical set up to gather information. On the basis of this information, the force can plan military activities.


 

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