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Jamil Mukulu: Behind the many unanswered questions

By Independent Reporters & Agencies

Are international networks protecting the arrested ADF leader? By Independent Reporters & Agencies

The arrest in Tanzania of the elusive Jamil Mukulu, leader of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) should bring to a close almost 20 years of the group’s quiet terror not only in Uganda but in the region. But any sense of excitement over the arrest in in Dar es Salaam in April has been mellowed by unexpected challenges around procedures for his extradition to Uganda. For most Ugandans and the world, the ADF is known by what it did on June 9, 1998 at Kichwamba National Technical Institute in then-Kaborole district in Western Uganda.  On that day, at about 5:30 am, the ADF rebels attacked the school with plans to abduct the students.

But the students had prior information about a likely attack, and barricaded themselves in their dormitories. The attackers set the buildings on fire killing up to 80 students and injuring many more.

Since then, although ADF continued attacks, including a bizarre grenade throwing campaign in Kampala city in the 1990s and 2001, their sniping was seen mainly as inconsequential nuisance.

Recently, however, President Museveni’s urgency to wipe out ADF has risen because of the threat, however small; it poses to the exploitation of the newly discovered oil field in the Albertine basin that straddles the Uganda-DR Congo border.

Since 2013, there has been a disturbing series of attacks on police stations and other government installations in the area by yet unidentified armed attackers. The name of ADF has been mentioned. Congolese officials also, among many attrocities, hold the ADF responsible for the killing of at least 21 people, including women and a baby, in villages near Beni in North Kivu province in December. So it was with relief all round when news filtered in that Mukulu had been arrested in Tanzania.

But the excitement was soon dampened by trepidation. Mukulu tough extradition negotiations led some observers to fear a reoccurrence of the case of former DR Congo warlord, Laurent Nkunda who Rwanda arrested but refused to hand over to the DR Congo government.

Trouble with Tanzania

The tension was not eased when weeks after the news of the arrest first trickled in, Tanzania failed to confirm it. When it did, legal issues swung in as the extradition case went to the Tanzanian High Court.

Uganda and Tanzania do not have an extradition agreement. However, initially it was thought that Mukulu could be extradited under the International Police (INTERPOL) channels and Uganda’s INTEPOL boss, Assan Kasingye led a high powered police delegation to Dar es Salaam to initiate proceeding. There was also the option of using diplomatic channels to execute what is called a “provisional arrest”.

Soon, however, it became clear that the Tanzania authority were playing by different rules.

Part of the challenge, according to sources familiar with the case, is that Mukulu is a wanted man in about four countries; Uganda, Kenya, DR Congo, and even in Tanzania itself. He is accused of committing different crimes in each.

So it was days later that Tanzania’s Deputy Director of Criminal Investigations (CID), Diwani Athman appeared to confirm the arrest of Mukulu.

Even then, he was not explicit but spoke of holding a “foreigner” and requiring Uganda to verify the identity. Athuman was quoted in a Tanzania newspaper saying he was amazed by Ugandan media reports that ascertained conclusively that the arrested man was indeed an ADF leader.

“I don’t know where they got the confirmation because we have asked our counterparts from Uganda to come over and help in the verification, but they haven’t so far,” he said.

The week before Athman made this comment, the Deputy Police spokesperson, Polly Namaye, had confirmed to journalists that Mukulu had been arrested in Tanzania.

On the face of it, Athman was behaving professionally perhaps, but knowledge of the anticipation that Uganda harboured for receiving Mukulu, his cautious lack of enthusiasm could easily have been seen as playing hard ball.

Although Mukulu has popped up in numerous disguises and aliases, he should have been a familiar wanted face to Athman and the Tanzania security forces. After all, he had been on the wanted list of INTERPOL for years.

Tanzania has for some time been accused of turning its territory into a ‘safe haven’ for senior rebel leaders operating in the DR Congo. It is believed that although the Kenyan capital Nairobi has been Mukulu’s hub for conducting ADF economic and financial activities, his cell based in the Tanzanian city of Tanga has been his base for travel, especially to the Middle East.

In 2012, a UN report found that Mukulu was using a Tanzanian passport for some years, according to the Guardian newspaper of Tanzania.

The report said Mukulu was operating his illegal activities at a hotel called Nyavyamo, located at the heart of Dar’s busy trading suburb of Kariakoo.

The Hotel was owned by one Thomas Hamenyimana, who is a naturalised Tanzanian of Burundi origin. His hotel was frequented by Congolese from DR Congo.

According to the UN report, as reported by the Guardian newspaper, Jamil Mukulu was also known as Julius Elius Mashauri, who claimed to have been born in Bagamoyo in 1965. He applied and obtained a Tanzanian passport number AO 415126, under which he claimed that he was a businessman resident in Bagamoyo, Tanzania.

The report concluded that Mukulu had operations in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi.

The Guardian also reported that the UK had confirmed to the UN Group that Mukulu’s wife and a close male family member had been living outside London since early 2011.

The UN report also claims that Mukulu is purported to have houses in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

“In August, 2011, East African anti-terrorist agents informed the Group that one of Mukulu’s homes had been raided by Kenyan authorities in Nairobi, accompanied by UPDF representatives … Kenyan authorities captured Hassan Mukulu, one of Jamil’s sons, during the raid,” the report says.

ADF starts to crumble

Mukulu had suffered major setbacks in the months leading to his capture.

Since January the DR Congo government forces have been attacking Mukulu’s camps in an operation called “Sukola I” a Lingala word meaning “mop up”.

As in the past, ADF initially fought back hard. But this time FARDC had a weapon the ADF was unprepared for; helicopters. MONUSCO provided limited intelligence and logistical support for FARDC. Using aerial superiority, big guns, and sheers numbers of boots on the ground, FARDC was able to gradually subdue Mukulu’s fighters.

But Jamil Mukulu’s troubles appear to have started on January 16, 2014 when the army of the DR Congo called FARDC attacked his camps in the Beni area of North Kivu province in the DRC near the Uganda border.

Initially, it appears, the ADF had an arrangement with the DR Congo government forces not to attack each other. This was made possible because the governments of DRC and Uganda and the UN stabilisation mission in Congo, MONUSCO, had failed to wipe them out militarily.

Between 1996 and 2003 the Uganda army entered DR Congo to flush ADF out and failed. From 2005, 2008, and 2010, FARDC, with UN backing, fought ADF but failed to wipe it out. Around most of this time, there was hostility between DR Congo president Joseph Kabila and Museveni. Therefore, it was argued, Kabila was propping up armed groups to carry out skirmishes on Uganda soil.

Under this arrangement, Mukulu appears to have been allowed to establish a network of camps that by 2014 housed approximately 2,000 people with a fighting force of about 500.

Mukulu ran a sort of bush government, according to the UN experts. He established Sharia law, had an internal security service, a prison, health clinics, an orphanage, and a school that children English and computer skills.

But he appeared to have suffered a setback 2010 when his son, Hassan Nyanzi Mukulu, his wife, and their son fled from their hide-out in DR Congo after he was injured in the eye. Nyanzi fled to Kenya but was arrested there and jailed for nine months on documentation charges. He was later handed over to the Uganda government in 2011.

When he was paraded before journalists in Kampala in September 2013, Nyanzi announced he had surrendered and denounced his father.

A few months later, in April 2014, according to reports, FARDC forces were closing in on Mukulu’s Medina camp headquarters. Mukulu reportedly sneaked out together with his head of finance, deputy army commander, and more than a dozen other senior leaders.

As Mukulu fled, according to reports, he assigned another commander, Sheik Musa Baluku, to lead about 1,000 women and children deeper into the forest.

Here, they were weakened by lack of food and medical care. Up to 800 of them died. But the survivors appear to have clung on until recently.

Meanwhile, in July 2014, the UN finally blacklisted ADF as a terrorist organisation for its recruitment and use of child soldiers, killing, maiming and sexually abusing women and children, and attacks on UN peacekeepers. Before that, the Mukulu had since 2011 been subjected to targeted UN travel sanctions and an asset freeze.

Through it all, Mukulu remained underground and was unheard of; until he was arrested in Tanzania.

Mukulu might be in custody, but the whereabouts of his others commander remains a mystery.

Maintaining its suspicion of collusion to save ADF, by late April 2014, the Uganda army was reporting that the ADF leader had been evacuated by some international allies.

Then recently, at around the same time when news spread that Mukulu was captured, on the night of April 24 and 25, the Congolese army announced it had killed Kasadha Kalume, a Ugandan who was believed to be the number three person in the ranks of the ADF.

Apparently, according to the DR Congo army spokesman, Maj. Victor Masandi, their special forces struck the ADF camp at Baruku between the Bango and Semliki rivers on April 22 and captured it after heavy fighting.

Masandi said Kasadha’s body was identified by a captured bodyguard to Musa Baluku, the number two person in the ADF. He added that Baluku and some of his lieutenants and dependents managed to escape from the camp during the fighting. The camp at Baruku consisted of 104 houses, including the headquarters, and was located inside the Virunga National Park in the foothills of the Ruwenzori Mountains.

At this point, it remains unclear how Mukulu was arrested. When he was asked about it, Athman said simply that a tip-off from wananchi facilitated the arrest. But many questions remain. How and why did Mukulu end up in Tanzania?  Who helped him?

Who is Jamil Mukulu?

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