UPDF on high alert, deploys at the border
Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A spate of attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF)has sparked fears the rebel group could soon attack Uganda after many years of operating in eastern DR Congo.
Founded in Uganda by a group of Islamic clerics who sought to create an Islamic state, the rebel group last had a major attack on Ugandan soil in the 90s but has been blamed for a spate of murders of high profile public officials between 2010 and 2018.
But recent reports about their recruitment efforts and attacks in the eastern DR Congo’s Beni area, which is located only about 90 kilometers from the Ugandan border, have raised major concerns both locally and internationally. These reports come hardly a year after the Ugandan military carried out strikes against the group’s territory in DR Congo in what was intended to prevent an attack on Uganda.
Brig. Richard Karemire, the Spokesperson for the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) told The Independent that the Ugandan military is deployed at the border working with the Local Defence Units (LDUs) to ensure that the country’s border, people and their property are safe from any potential attacks from the ADF.
“We are on high alert,” Brig. Karemire told The Independent.
“It is unfortunate that civilians and UN peacekeepers are being killed. The ADF is clearly a regional menace, which needs to be dealt with by a robust regional mechanism.”
Karemire said that the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), a regional grouping of 12 states, had resolved to establish a joint follow up mechanism, which involved setting up a joint command centre where officers from member states would gather intelligence together and carry out other activities to neutralize such threats.
However, he noted, while Uganda provided the centre in Kasese, other member states never deployed officers to the centre.
“When attacks like these happen,” Brig.Karemire said, “You begin to think that if we had operationalized this facility, these sorts of things would be nipped in the bud.”
Karemire noted that the ADF is able to carry out these attacks because they have continued to recruit,have arms, and have been acquiring more by attacking the bases of the Congolese military.
In December last year, the UPDF launched an attack on the ADF. At the time, Karemire explained that the UPDF attacked ADF bases in DR Congo using fighter jets after shared intelligence between Uganda and the DR Congo confirmed that the ADF were planning to conduct hostile activities against Uganda. The army spokesperson explained that it was a preemptive move.
During those strikes, the UPDF reported that they had killed 100 ADF insurgents and destroyed eight camps of the rebel outfit.
The strikes came just days after the ADF had killed 15 UN peacekeepers and wounded over 50 others.
According to UPDF intelligence, the attack on the UN base was diversionary. The ADF’s real intention was to infiltrate and attack Uganda, UPDF officials noted.
Asked whether the UPDF was planning another onslaught in light of the recent developments, Karemire said: “DRC colleagues assured us that they had capacity to conduct ground operations and eliminate the threat,” Brig. Karemire said.
However, observers say the ADF has been overrunning the Congolese army, killing civilians and abducting others, all the while growing from strength to strength.
In the most recent attack, the ADF is reported to have killed another seven UN peacekeepers—six from Malawi and one from Tanzania.
This followed an intense exchange of fire between the UN forces and the Congelese military (FARDC). The joint military operation is in part intended to rout rebel forces out of Beni, the regional capital and the largest city in the area, which happens to be the most affected by the current Ebola outbreak. It is also the main base for efforts to fight the disease. The joint operation was meant to clear Beni of the rebel attacks and allow efforts to fight the disease.
A series of rebel attacks on civilian and medical personnel have in the recent past forced suspension of the efforts by different groups in the region to fight the disease.
200 deaths have been registered since the outbreak was declared Aug. 1 in what officials say is the worst Ebola outbreak in the country’s history.