Kampala- A new report by an American-funded research project says more than 1,000 people have been killed by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the Beni area in eastern DR Congo since 2014.
Congo Research Group says of the 1,000 deaths, 315 of the killings took place between June and September 2018, a figure that is far more than in any other part of the volatile eastern DR Congo during the same period.
The research funded by the American Bridegway Foundation also gives a detailed account of how the rebel group recruits, trains and exposes role played by the women and children and the group’s increased hostility against local communities in DR Congo.
“Beni territory in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has suffered from some of the most brutal violence in the country’s recent history,” the report says.
The report is based on the videos released by the ADF, interviews with former combatants and members of the Congolese and Ugandan security services, and publicly available information. Between 2016 and 2017, ADF posted 35 videos on Telegram, Facebook and Youtube.
“The videos depict a variety of scenes, including the aftermath of ADF attacks and propaganda messages tailored for recruitment, soccer games and martial arts demonstrations, the indoctrination of children, and surgery of wounded combatants,” the report states.
The eldest son of Jamil Mukulu, the former ADF boss and one of the wives of the current boss, Musa Baluku were identified in the videos by the former combatants interviewed by the Congo Research Group. Lack of prominent defections, its strict internal discipline and lack of public communications, has made it difficult to understand the ADF’s motives, base of support and internal structure, the report says.
It is not clear whether the rebel group has links with international jihadist groups but it’s been making attempts to align itself as one.
According to the report, ADF is calling itself Madina at Tauheed Wau Mujahedeen (MTM), which translates as “The city of monotheism and holy warriors”, presenting a flag similar to that used by Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and Boko Haram in West Africa in an attempt to be on the same footing.
On Monday, the Internal Security Organisation issued a terror alert, warning that ISIS, an Afghani Rashidi Abdul Tawab and a woman who are ISIS members, were planning to enter Uganda and carry out a terrorist attack.
Quoting the UN figures, the Congo Research Group puts the number of the fighters between 400 and 450 including women and children but last year the Uganda People’s Defence Forces put the number at 1,000.
“By 2016, defectors reported that there were 200-300 ADF members, including civilians, in its Madina camp alone, and in mid-2018, the United Nations estimated their total strength at around 400 to 450, including women and children, while defectors have placed it considerably higher,” the report says.
The report also quotes a Ugandan official whose claims tally with those of an unnamed US official that the arrested Kenyan national and an ISIS financial facilitator called Waleed Ahmed Zein was in touch with ADF.
“Sources close to the US government also confirmed that Zein had sent money to the ADF. It is, however, unclear how closely the ADF is currently in touch with those networks, and how much money or other material support has actually arrived via these channels,” the report states.
In 2014, the UN investigators also discovered that about $14,970 was sent to the ADF agents in the eastern Congo through Western Union from United Kingdom.
Life among the ADF is deeply patriarchal, and many of the ADF combatants are married to multiple women.
“While women are reportedly allowed to turn down requests of marriage – all of which must pass through the camp leadership – they can only do so several times and say that they felt forced to marry men,” the report says.
Women also serve in a wide variety of functions with the ADF, as guards, cooks, teachers, and nurses.
“There are few women in the military leadership, although the wives of ADF commanders have positions of authority within the camps, and some combatants say a woman named ‘Maman Sarah’ is in-charge of policing women in the group,” it adds.
The ADF command structure has remained the same even after the arrest of Mr Mukulu.
“Since the arrest of Jamil Mukulu in April 2015 the group has been led by Musa Seka Baluku. The command structure is remarkably similar to how it was described to UN investigators in 2014. Hood Lukwago remains army commander, and almost all of the senior officers named by a defector in 2018 with close knowledge of the senior command, and corroborated by Ugandan intelligence officers, were listed four year ago as senior ADF leaders, although they have been shuffled between positions,” the report says.
The ADF has two groups, one is operating in southern Beni territory, in the flood plain of the Semuliki River around Mwalika and the other is in the East of Beni-Eringeti.
“According to several ex-combatants, the Mwalika camp is the transit point for new recruits and is an important relay point for supplies coming from Uganda and local markets there”, the report says, adding: “Few of the killings of civilians since 2014 have taken place in this southern sector, suggesting that the ADF is intent on keeping a low profile here and maintaining good relations with local communities,” the report says.