New Vision Uganda reports
U.N. task force looking into one of next Congo targets - ADF
UNITED NATIONS - After the defeat of M23 rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, U.N. peacekeepers are trying to learn more about one of their next targets in a region overrun by armed groups - the Allied Democratic Forces, Islamist extremists blamed for kidnapping at least 300 people in the past year.
It is hard to know what to make of the ADF. They certainly merit the attention of the both FARDC ( The Congolese Army ) and the MONUSCO Intervention ( Africa ) Brigade. Back in July I blogged about the events in Kamangu and provided this brief history of the group.
" The ADF was formed by puritanical Muslim Ugandans of the Tabliq sect who merged with the remnants of another rebel group, the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda.The main figure of the group was Jamil Mukulu, a former Catholic. The members were largely from central Uganda, in particular Iganga, Masaka and Kampala, and portray themselves as religious crusaders. Beyond this vaguely stated religious ideology and statements that the government discriminates against Tabliqs, the ADF has given few coherent rationales for their insurgency.
The ADF chose western Uganda apparently for three reasons: terrain that is ideal for a rural insurgency, proximity to the DRC where the rebels could set up bases and recruit fighters, and the presence of some Ugandan ethnic groups unfriendly to the government that could offer assistance."
However that it would seem is a bit dated. Al Jazeera reports.
" While the ADF’s initial years were marked by brutality towards civilians, this changed when they were forced to relocate deeper into the DRC’s jungles and become more self-sustaining. They achieved a degree of embeddedness into the surrounding community: they intermarried and socially integrated into the wider society, they further developed their business interests, and they acquired some political influence in the area. While they first began with a majority of Ugandans, the number of Congolese members steadily rose until they constituted over 60 percent of the force."
If the above is correct then they might almost be regarded as a domestic Congolese group, that said they have been designated as a terrorist group by the US government.
The deployment of a 3,000-strong U.N. Intervention Brigade with an unprecedented mandate to help Congolese forces hunt down rebel groups has been hailed a success after the M23 ended its 20-month revolt earlier this month. Now the brigade - and Congolese troops - are preparing for their next moves.
I very much doubt that ADF will be the next target I would rate the FDLR as a more deserving bunch of pricks for that attention. Also it makes a lot of sense to deal with them next and remove what little legitimacy Rwanda has for interference in the Eastern DR Congo.
At the top of the list of dozens of armed groups to be dealt with in resource-rich eastern Congo are the ADF and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, which includes some Hutus who fled neighboring Rwanda after the 1994 genocide of 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus.
While the aim of the FDLR is to take over Rwanda, the objective of the ADF - which was created to fight the Ugandan government and was initially called the ADF-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda - is less clear.
The FDLR are a joke from a military perspective. Promising kids a position in the Rwandan Government when they take over next year and paying said kid $20 US to throw a grenade at a group of innocent bystanders. They are however a political problem and one that needs tidied up.
"The toughest nut of all, they say, is the ADF," a senior U.N. diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
I doubt that. M23 were far more of a problem. I would rate ADF as about the third cab off the rank.
The U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo, known as MONUSCO, has set up a task force to investigate the group, which the International Crisis Group think tank has described as "one of the oldest but least known armed groups ... and the only one in the area to be considered an Islamist terrorist organization."
The preliminary findings of the MONUSCO task force, in a note obtained by Reuters, are that while "it is extremely difficult to estimate what the ultimate objective of the ADF might be ... we cannot allow this group to continue unscathed, the potential threat they represent is too great."
That is most definitely true.
"The Uganda Red Cross Society said 66,000 Congolese refugees have so far crossed into the east African country since the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) started attacking the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo town of Kamangu on Thursday."
"One must also remember the ADF has been known to dabble in terrorism in the nineties, and such an evolution should not be ruled out," the task force note said. "A military intervention against the ADF is necessary, and could be successful, as they were, relatively, in 2005 and 2010, if well prepared."
Handing over the foreign elements to Uganda and disarming them would probably count as a success.
Aside from a military offensive, the task force said the Congolese and the United Nations must cut off the ADF's financing and access to weapons, ammunition and supplies, and win the support of the Congolese people in territory held by the ADF.
That may be overstating the financial situation of the ADF. Again from Al Jazeera.
" In fact, the ADF’s increasing commercial achievements encouraged the rebels to uphold a better relationship with the surrounding public. The ADF were able to become a part of the local agricultural scene: they farmed a wide variety of products, used their produce to feed the ADF community, and traded their goods at local markets. They also became involved in gold mining, controlled timber forests, and set-up businesses in local urban centres. While funding from various outside Islamic national and regional actors such as Sudan played a part at times, this support was generally sporadic and minimal. What proved by far to be most sustainable and lucrative for them were their local economic endeavours in the borderland."
The Ugandan government says the ADF is allied to elements of Somalia's al Shabaab movement, an al Qaeda-linked group whose name means "The Lads" in Arabic. The U.N. task force said that during an attack on a town in eastern Congo, witnesses said, "Each small group of ADF fighters included one bearded man who was speaking Arabic."
I doubt that. However if it is true it will certainly aid in target identification.
The task force said that ADF training videos discovered in an apartment in Nairobi more than a year ago and during a Ugandan raid in July on an island in Lake Victoria, which was thought to be deserted but was actually an ADF youth training camp, showed that "military training is intense."
Again why train on an Island in Lake Victoria when you are based in the Jungles of the Eastern DR Congo ?
"As is visible in the videos, most of the trainers are foreigners, seemingly either from Somalia or Sudan," according to the task force. A U.N. Group of Experts, which monitors violations of sanctions on Congo, said in an interim report in July that former ADF soldiers told them that foreign trainers taught them how to assembly improvised explosive devices.
The task force said that while it was difficult to assess the size of the group, the force now appears to have between 1,200 and 1,400 fighters. That puts it around the same size as the FDLR, according to MONUSCO figures, and both groups are several hundred fighters larger than the M23 group was thought to be.
But the task force also warned, "If you add the families (let us not forget that women and children undergo military training as well) the figures are between 2,800 and 3,400. It is estimated around 40 percent are Congolese."
Children are also recruited through mosques in eastern Congo and reportedly Uganda and Tanzania with false promises of jobs, English lessons and other inducements, the task force said, while another source of recruitment is kidnappings.
"The sharp expansion in the number of kidnappings since last November is impressive, probably close to 300 to date, and increasing daily. None of the kidnapped persons have ever been heard of again, no bodies found, and no demands for ransom received," said the task force, adding that some people were likely kidnapped for their skills.
There can be little doubt that the ADF are a legitimate target and I think MONUSCO would probably quite enjoy teaching them a very hard lesson. What I don't understand is why they have decided to draw attention to themselves when it must have been very clear to them that such activities would be noted by the UN. They may have even jumped up the priority list as a result of their stupidity.
The ADF has been able to obtain shoulder-fired ground-to- air weapons, as well as .107-caliber artillery, the note said.
"These developments, compounded by the fact that the ADF has never hesitated to fire on MONUSCO (indeed, during training they are told to do just that) are of course extremely worrying, and trying to find out more about the supply lines must be a priority," the task force said.
I am guessing that the drones might be a very useful tool for that activity. Something that will start this week.
The ADF gets most of its money from the timber industry and gold, which is smuggled into Uganda and sold, and the group is led by Ugandan Jamil Mukulu, who has been subjected since 2011 to U.N. sanctions - an asset freeze and travel ban.
The U.N. experts said in their July report that Mukulu had been primarily based in the Congo.
Martin Kobler, head of the 19,850-member U.N. mission in Congo, has said the United Nations was ready to use Intervention Brigade against the ADF and the other armed groups. "We have teeth and we are using those teeth," he said.