Africa

Ivory Coast wants drones to monitor Liberia border

Surveillance drone
Image caption The UN is already due to deploy surveillance drones to DR Congo

Ivory Coast has asked the United Nations for drones to monitor its border with Liberia.

The country's UN envoy believes drones are needed to make up for the expected decline in the UN's personnel presence.

The UN is set to deploy such drones for the first time in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to help monitor its borders with Rwanda and Uganda.

Western Ivory Coast has seen deadly raids by supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo, ousted in 2011's war.

The UN peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast, known as UNOCI, is set to reduce its size from about 9,000 military personal by one battalion to 8,837 by 31 July.

Ivory Coast's UN ambassador, Youssoufou Bamba, told the UN Security Council that he thought the current level of security was good.

Enhanced monitoring

Mr Bamba said 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".

Mr Bamba's comments echo a recommendation by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

In a report to the Security Council, Mr Ban said drones should 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".

Mr Ban has proposed cutting a further two battalions of military personnel by mid-2015.

Image caption The border between Ivory Coast and Liberia countries has seen a number of attacks

When the decision to deploy drones to the Democratic Republic of Congo was taken in March, several Security Council members insisted that the move did not set a precedent.

'Fragile' situation

Several Liberian army units were deployed to border posts between Ivory Coast and Liberia in 2012 to counter armed gangs.

The UN assistant secretary general for peacekeeping operations, Edmond Mulet, said the Ivory Coast government had "made significant progress since February 2012 and especially during these past months... but the recent instability in the west of the country along the border with Liberia shows the fragility of the situation".

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

President Gbagbo was ousted in a civil war in 2011 after he rejected the election victory of rival Alassane Ouattara.

Although Mr 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 neighbouring nations.

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