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Downed UN drone carrying guns and gold found in DRC? No, video from 2022 and no sign of suspicious cargo

IN SHORT: The UN’s peacekeeping force, Monusco, has been using drones to monitor potential conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2013. But a video of one of its drones on the ground has been misused as evidence that Monusco is not living up to its mission.

A United Nations (UN) drone carrying gold, guns and parachutes has crashed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

That’s the claim accompanying a video that’s been circulating on social media since early November 2023.

The video was posted to Facebook here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

The DRC is a large country in central Africa. The UN is an international organisation dedicated to peace, security and protecting human rights.

The clip shows a group of people gathered around a plane-like drone – an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV – on a dirt road. One man is wearing a military uniform. The group struggle to free the drone’s wings from the dense vegetation and begin to push it down the road.

At one point the camera lingers on “UN” painted on the side of the drone. We also briefly see the number 867.

The most common version is a TikTok video overlaid with this text:

UN drone found in a village in Congo. Transports 900 Pounds of Pure GOLD and guns and parachutes.

A UN Drone Found in The DRC Loaded With Gold & Guns. Now The Picture Can't Be Clearer Who is Bringing Instability to Africa.

Some captions to the video include:

  • The _UnitedNations is a criminal cabal controlled by the _UnitedStates_ The UN lies.
  • Why there’s a never ending war here.
  • After being there for 25 years there is nothing important they have done. America is a greedy country. they're all thieves.
  • #MONUSCO Mineral looting ... Now you can see who is bringing instability in DRC Operation "#Springbok " #TshisekediAgainstPeace

USDroneDRC_False

Conflict in the DRC

The DRC has suffered from internal conflict for decades. As a territory – formerly the Congo Free State – it has a history of violence dating back to 1885, when Belgium’s King Leopold II declared it his personal property.

The country has since been found to have large untapped mineral resources, include gold. Control of these resources has led to conflict between the country’s government, militias inside the country and foreign interests.

In 2010, the UN set up Monusco, a French acronym for Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en RD Congo. In English, it’s the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC.

The peacekeeping force is made up of troops from several nations, including the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

On 3 November 2023, Monusco and the DRC military launched Operation Springbok to prevent M23 rebels from capturing the eastern city of Goma. The city borders the country of Rwanda as well as the DRC’s famous Virunga National Park.

But the video circulating on social media is from 2022. And while the drone had a single parachute, it couldn’t have been carried guns, let alone 900 pounds – about 400 kilograms – of gold. Here’s why.

Falco Evo drone ‘falls out of the sky’ in 2022

A reverse image search of frames from the video revealed that it was indeed a Monusco drone deployed in the DRC.

The search led us to a 4 November 2022 post on X (the social media platform formerly known as Twitter) by the Chronicles, a news outlet based in Rwanda.

It’s captioned: “UN (MONUSCO) drone falls out of the sky in eastern DR Congo's Virunga park near Lake Edward to amazement of local villagers.”

UPDATE: UN (MONUSCO) drone falls out of the sky in eastern DR Congo's Virunga park near Lake Edward to amazement of local villagers. pic.twitter.com/PR58VOdz1T

— The Chronicles (@ChroniclesRW) November 5, 2022

The post includes the video and photos of the downed drone. It also features another video of an orange parachute being pulled by the drone.

One of the photos clearly shows the registration number UN 867 on the side of the drone.

A search for “UN 867 Monusco drone” then led us to several news reports about the incident.

One of them is from the South African site DefenceWEB and is dated 9 November 2022:

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has helped recover a crashed Falco Evo unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operated by the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monusco).

The aircraft (UN897) came down in Virunga National Park on 4 November but thanks to the deployment of a ballistic parachute, landed with minimal damage.

Monusco has been flying Falco Evo drones over the DRC since 2013 to protect civilians and monitor armed groups.

The craft is made by Leonardo, an Italian company.

According to its specifications, the Falco Evo can only carry a payload of about 100 kilograms. That weight is taken up by its extensive surveillance equipment. It can’t carry any other cargo – and certainly not guns and 400 kilograms of gold.

A closer look at the video shows no sign of guns and gold. There was a parachute, but it was used to help the drone land safely.

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