Friday, January 17, 2014

DR Congo: ADF-NALU _ " On the outskirts of nowhere On the ring road to somewhere "

New Vision ( Uganda ) reports

Congo army attacks ADF rebels in lawless east

                                                  Some of the ADF remnants killed by FARDC in 2012

BENI, Democratic Republic of Congo - Democratic Republic of Congo forces attacked Ugandan Islamist rebels in the lawless east on Friday, launching a U.N.-backed offensive to clear insurgents from the mineral-rich zone.

Reuters correspondents outside the town of Beni, in North Kivu province, heard heavy gunfire as government troops moved in on positions held by ADF-NALU rebels who have been based in Congo for years and are seen as a major obstacle to peace.

When FARDC ( Congolese Army ) and the UN Forces including the Intervention ( Africa ) Brigade were dealing with the M23 rebels the ADF took the opportunity to make a point of ensuring that they were going to be the next targets of the FARDC and the UN.   

" Recently, eastern DR Congo areas have experienced intermittent attacks launched by the ADF rebels who operate bases in east of the country.

In July, over 20,000 Congolese fled to Bundibugyo following clashes in the areas of Kamango in eastern DRC.

Early this month, regional leaders under the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) asked the recently formed combative 
Intervention Brigade under MONUSCO to attack positions of foreign negative forces operating in DRC, including the ADF."

The FDLR were I would have said a far more significant target but the scale of activities and sheer brutality of the ADF has made it urgent that this mess be cleaned up first.

Another rebel movement, M23, that had operated to the south of Beni was defeated late last year, highlighting how Kinshasa and U.N. forces have begun to take the fight to gunmen that have plagued eastern Congo for nearly two decades.

"The Congolese army has launched operations against ADF-NALU in Beni and as usual (U.N. troops) will support the army to neutralize these rebels, who have been very active recently in this zone," said U.N. forces spokesman Colonel Felix Basse.

The UN Experts Group for the DR Congo reports: 

" During 2013, the ADF have grown stronger and become more aggressive, kidnapping dozens of local people; targeting medical facilities, shipments, and staff; abducting humanitarian workers; and attacking MONUSCO peacekeepers. According to Ugandan officials and UN sources, ADF has an estimated strength of 1,200 to 1,500 armed fighters located in northeast Beni Territory of North Kivu province, close to the border with Uganda. These same sources estimate ADF’s total population – including women and children – to be between 1,600 and 2,500. The sanctioned ADF leader, Jamil Mukulu, remains in DRC. "

A Reuters reporter said that Tanzanian troops from a specialist U.N. "Intervention Brigade", which is mandated to go after Congolese rebel groups, had deployed near Beni but it was unclear if they had joined the fighting.

The Intervention Brigade was a concept that evolved out of a meeting of the  ICGLR, (International Conference for the Great Lakes Region ) it was proposed by Uganda and Rwanda both countries assuming that it would be composed of their armed forces. Fortunately the ICGLR didn't comply with that or the now defeated M23 would probably be running the Eastern DR Congo rather than hiding in Kigali and Kampala. 

ADF-NALU is an alliance of groups opposed to the Ugandan government that has operated from bases in eastern Congo since the mid-2000s, undermining Kinshasa's grip on the area and handing Uganda a pretext for intervening there.

Earlier this week, Ugandan and Congolese army officers held a high-level planning meeting in Beni but Ugandan officials were not immediately available for comment on Friday.

The Intervention Brigade made up of soldiers from Malawi, Tanzania and South Africa has removed any pretext for Ugandan intervention, however I think Ugandan involvement working with the combined forces and under their command structure is a good idea if that is what was on the table at the  Beni meeting.  

Kampala has previously said it would share intelligence and capture fleeing rebels but not intervene directly in operations on the ground in Congo.

Congo and Uganda have long had rocky relations and U.N. experts have accused Kampala and fellow neighbour Rwanda of backing M23. Both nations denied the charges.

Denials that are laughable given the political asylum being enjoyed in both countries by the M23 combatants. 

ADF-NALU has been blamed for a spate of recent attacks and kidnappings around Beni, including the deaths of some 40 civilians in an attack on Christmas Day.

The rebel group is believed to number up to 1,400 fighters and has abducted about 300 Congolese civilians over the past year, according to a U.N. report.

Kidnapping seems to be a favoured recruitment tool for the ADF, they are a harder target than M23 in that they have families in the field and they are in the bush. I suspect the MONUSCO drone has been getting a fair work out.

Having helped the Congolese army vanquish M23, the 3,000-strong U.N. Intervention Brigade had been widely expected to turn its attention on ADF-NALU and Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebels who are also roaming Congo's east.

The Ugandan government has said ADF-NALU is allied with Somalia's al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab movement but analysts say the nature of these ties is not clear, despite the ADF-NALU's clear Islamist ideology.

Again from the UN Experts report:

The Group determined that during 2013, foreign, Arabic-speaking men have conducted military training courses and operations with ADF; however, the Group was not able to firmly establish the nationalities of these foreigners or their organizational affiliation(s).

I have seen other reports describing them as bearded Arabs. It isn't all that hard to connect the jihadi dots, or rather disconnect them in a final and terminal way.

1 comment:

  1. Update: It would seem unlikely that Uganda will be in a position to provide assistance