Ivory Coast wants surveillance drones to replace U.N. troops

UNITED NATIONS Tue Apr 16, 2013 4:52pm EDT

Ivory Coast's Ambassador to the U.N. Youssoufou Bamba listens to a question during a one on one interview with a Reuters journalist in New York City January 11, 2011. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Ivory Coast's Ambassador to the U.N. Youssoufou Bamba listens to a question during a one on one interview with a Reuters journalist in New York City January 11, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council should consider deploying surveillance drones in Ivory Coast to aid the world body's peacekeeping mission in the west African country, Ivory Coast's U.N. envoy said on Tuesday, echoing a recommendation by the U.N. chief.

Ivory Coast U.N. Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba told the 15-member council that surveillance drones should be deployed to offset any planned cuts to the peacekeeping force in the world's biggest cocoa producer.

The United Nations will soon deploy such drones for the first time in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help the peacekeeping mission in that central African country monitor its porous and mountainous eastern borders with Rwanda and Uganda.

In a report to the Security Council, Ban said drones should also be considered for Ivory Coast to "enhance situational awareness and monitoring ability, with a view to strengthening the ability of UNOCI to efficiently and effectively carry out its mandate, including the protection of civilians."

The peacekeeping force, known as UNOCI, is due to reduce its size by one battalion to 8,837 military personnel by July 31, when the council is due to renew its annual mandate. Ban has also proposed cutting a further two battalions by mid-2015.

Bamba told the council that any adjustments to the size of the force would need to be offset "by the deployment of qualitative resources, such as surveillance drones for the border zone between Ivory Coast and Liberia."

Western Ivory Coast has been the target of deadly raids blamed on supporters of former president Laurent Gbagbo, who was ousted in a civil war in 2011 after he rejected the election victory of rival Alassane Ouattara.

Soldiers in Ivory Coast killed three gunmen last month, part of a group that raided a village near the border with Liberia, senior army officials said at the time.

While Gbagbo is currently in The Hague charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, many of his top political and military allies are living in exile in neighboring West African nations.

Ivory Coast is recovering from a decade of political deadlock and civil unrest.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Joe Bavier; Editing by Todd Eastham)

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