South Sudan opposes drones for U.N. peace mission

South Sudan’s U.N. ambassador Deng told the 15-member council that the use of UAVs was a ‘contested’ issue

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South Sudan told the United Nations Friday that it opposed the use of surveillance drones to help track ongoing fighting in the world’s youngest nation.

The comments came as the Security Council approved a resolution that asks Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to deploy more helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to strengthen the U.N. mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

South Sudan’s Ambassador Francis Mading Deng told the 15-member council that the use of UAVs was a “contested” issue and complained that the move was decided without consultation with Juba.

Such a decision will “invite controversy, and potential disagreement and hostility, when harmony and cooperation are what the situation calls for,” Deng said.

The United Nations has made successful use of drones in its mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, allowing peacekeepers to survey areas that are hard to access or too dangerous to deploy the blue helmets.

Russia and Venezuela abstained from the vote largely in protest at the new provision on the use of UAVs and another section on the threat of sanctions, but the resolution was adopted by a vote of 13 in favor.

Russian Deputy Ambassador Petr Iliichev said it was time to engage with South Sudan’s warring sides to advance peace and not “frighten them off with the threat of sanctions.”

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir signed a peace accord on August 26, a few days after rebel leader Riek Machar committed to the agreement, but fighting has continued.

Last month, the United States sought UN sanctions on the army chief and a rebel commander, but the move was blocked by Angola, Russia, China and Venezuela.

The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan descended into bloodshed in December 2013 when Kiir accused Machar of planning a coup, unleashing a wave of killings that has split the country along ethnic lines.

The violence has killed tens of thousands of people and driven more than 2.2 million from their homes.

The adopted resolution extends the UN’s mission to December 15 but with a stronger focus on steps to implement the peace deal.

The measure also asks Ban to report to the council within six months on UN efforts to help set up a hybrid court as advocated by the African Commission, another point of contention with Juba.

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