AROUND AFRICA: UPDATE — U.N. Drone Deployment Delayed; C.A.R. Militia Disbanded; China’s African Media Buys; Cassava Crop Threatened
U.N. Delays Congo Drone Deployment
U.N. peacekeepers’ plans to deploy an unarmed surveillance drone in the skies over the Democratic Republic of Congo have been delayed until December, Reuters reports.
The United Nations planned to deploy a Falco unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) made by Italian defense electronics firm Selex ES (a unit of Finmeccanica) last month in eastern Congo, but unanticipated procurement procedures have caused a delay “until the first days of December,” U.N. Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told a news conference Thursday (Sept. 12).
Congo troops and U.N. peacekeepers have been battling an insurgency by a rebel group known as M23, in the rugged eastern part of the country for more than a year. The rebels defected from the DRC Army in 2012 over alleged mistreatment. Thick forests and few roads have made ground patrolling difficult in the area, which borders Uganda and Rwanda.
The Falco is a medium altitude, medium endurance surveillance platform capable of carrying a range of payloads including several types of high resolution sensors. It will be the first time the U.N. has used a drone for aerial surveillance. If successful, officials and diplomats hope UAVs could be used in peackeeping missions in Ivory Coast and South Sudan. The United States is mounting unarmed drone surveillance of Mali and other strife-torn areas of the Sahel from a base in Niger.
Central African Republic
The president of the Central African Republic says he is disbanding the Seleka rebel group that helped to bring him to power earlier this year, according to the Voice of America. President Michel Djotodia made the announcement Friday (Sept. 13) in the C.A.R. capital, Bangui, saying the rebel coalition “no longer exists.” But he provided no details about steps he would take to dissolve the group.
Recently, fighters from the rebel movement have been blamed for clashes with rival militias as well as a surge in robberies, auto thefts, rapes and murders. The violence has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.
China News in Africa
If there is an “information war” between China and the United States on an African battleground, as former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested at a congressional committee hearing in 2011, it appears that China is beginning to win the war.
That’s the take away from Canada’s Globe and Mail in a story about Chinese media acquisitions in Africa.
“In South Africa, Chinese investors have teamed up with allies of the ruling African National Congress to purchase Independent News and Media, one of the most powerful media groups in the country, which owns daily newspapers in all of the major cities,” the Toronto-based newspaper reports.
China has been making big investments in African media from newspapers and magazines to satellite television and radio stations, and some observers believe that will allow the People’s Republic to promote its own agenda in the press and counter hostile coverage.
According to another South African newspaper, the Mail & Guardian, two Chinese companies — China International Television Corporation and China-Africa Development Fund — have acquired a 20 percent stake in Independent News and Media. The Mail & Guardian previously reported that the South African state-owned Public Investment Corporation (PIC) was buying 25 percent of the company, using Government Employee Pension Fund money.
Africa produces 60 percent of the world’s cassava crop, but it’s been drastically declining in East and Central Africa due to two plant diseases that have reduced production, according to the Voice of America.
Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and especially Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) pose an enormous threat to the food security of 135 million people in Central and East Africa, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). At least half of all plants in Africa are affected by one of these diseases.
The FAO says a minimum of $100 million is needed to support clean farm production, disease surveillance and research, and market and micro-finance development across the cassava production chain.
Entry filed under: Africa, Aircraft, BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China), Counter Insurgency, National Security and Defense, Peacekeeping, Unmanned Aircraft. Tags: Africa, BRICS, cassava, Central African Republic, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, FAO, food security, M23 rebels, Niger, Selex ES Falco, soft power, South Africa, Tanzania, U.N. peacekeepers.