By Charles Birungi
The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a long time Ugandan Islamist terrorist organization with bases in Eastern DRC, has transitioned into a regional-cum- international jihadist movement similar to Somalia’s Al-Shabaab. ADF has changed its name, highly placed intelligence sources have exclusively revealed to Kampala Post.
According to these intelligence sources, the ADF is now called Madinat Twahid wal Muhadiin (MTM), loosely translated as the ‘Holy Monotheistic City of Medina. “ADF is no longer the one that we used to know, but is now a fully fledged jihadist organization like Al-Qaeda and ISIS, complete with foreign recruits from within the region,” revealed the source on condition of anonymity.
The Uganda Peoples’s Defense Forces on Friday confirmed that it attacked several ADF camps in the Eringeti area near the border with Uganda, in the North Kivu province. The UPDF attack utilized war planes and long range artillery, in what was described as “surgical strikes” by the UPDF military spokesman, Brig. Richard Karemire.
Brig. Karemire also revealed in the statement that high-level discussions on how to tackle the ADF threat have been going on between the governments of Uganda and DRC, particularly between the leaders of the two countries. He said as a result of these discussions, DRC and Uganda had decided to launch joint military operations on the ADF/MTM positions.
“Recently, the DRC authorities proposed that the two countries plan and conduct limited joint operations against this growing terrorist menace in our neighborhood," said Karemire.
“ADF terrorists may only buy time but will be targeted wherever they are hiding," added the military statement.
Fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) are suspected of being behind the December 7 assault on a UN base manned by Tanzanian U.N. troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled eastern borderlands, which killed 15 soldiers and wounded scores of others. Five Congolese soldiers were also killed in the attack.
Since October 5 2017, the ADF/MTM has carried out numerous attacks on DRC military positions, the UN peace keeping force (MONUSCO) and civilian targets. In one such deadly assault, the ADF, after attacking a UN Tanzanian base, ambushed civilians on the Mbau – Kamango road and killed 26 civilians, looting their goods and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
Rival militia groups control parts of eastern Congo, long after the official end of the 1998-2003 war.
Significance of Name Change
Since its founding leader Jamil Mukulu was arrested in early 2015, the ADF is now led by one ‘Sheikh’ Musa Baluku Lumu, with Hood Lukwago serving as the group’s army commander in charge of field operations. With dozens of camps spread across Eringeti in North Kivu, the group’s top leadership live in the biggest of them all (called Camp Whisper) which is also host to their biggest mosque. The name ‘Whisper’ presumably refers to the harsh concealment measures enforced at the camp with people forced to communicate in whispers alone. The ADF refer to the entire area in which their camps are found as Medina. Medina is the second holiest site in the Islamic religion, exceeded only by Mecca. According to sources with inside knowledge on ADF/MTM operations, the change in name is partly to attract funding and support from other jihadist movements around the world.
“Medina, according to the Quran, is where the Prophet Mohamed fled to and reorganized his followers before launching a final assault on Mecca, having earlier been rejected and chased from Mecca itself,” explained a source with deep knowledge of ADF/MTM history. The ADF/MTM hope to reorganize in DRC before launching a campaign to conquer Uganda, which they regard as Mecca. “After conquering Uganda they shall declare a Caliphate much in the same way as ISIS attempted to do in Iraq and Syria,” added the source.
Other Prominent ADF Leaders
The ADF is currently predominantly led by Ugandans. Apart from Musa Baluku and Hood Lukwago, other prominent commanders include Kibuye Kajaju, widely known as the ‘Judge’ in the ADF/MTM power structure.
Richard Mugisa, another ADF/MTM commander is son to the now imprisoned Jamil Mukulu, one of the ADF/MTM camps has been named after him – Camp Richard. Others are Amigo Kibirige, commander of Camp Mwalika, an ADF rear base south of Beni that acts as a medical aid post and training area for new recruits from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and DRC.
UPDF Operations in DRC
In December 2008, the UPDF launched military operations against the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who were holed up in bases in North-Eastern DRC in the Garamba National Park. Codenamed ‘Operation Lightening Thunder’ it was meant to punish rebel leader Joseph Kony for failing to sign the final peace agreement with the government of Uganda in the South Sudan capital Juba. The LRA rebels were routed from their bases, fleeing into the Central African Republic under hot pursuit by the UPDF, who eventually only pulled out in May this year after the rag-tag group was deemed no longer a threat to Uganda’s security. The operation was headed by the late Brig. Patrick Kankiriho, deputized by now Major General Muhoozi Kainerugaba (Senior Presidential Advisor for Special Operations).
From 1998 to 2003, UPDF, under ‘Operation Safe Haven’ commanded by the late Major General James Kazini, conducted intense military operations against ADF bases in the Rwenzori Mountains, leaving a vastly weakened rebel movement who have since regrouped and are now posing a grave security threat to the entire great lakes region.