The rebel Allied Democratic Front (ADF) claimed yesterday that its overall commander Jamil Mukulu had been seriously injured and his deputy Yusuf Kabanda killed by an unidentified gunman in eastern DR Congo.
However, the head of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, Brig. James Mugira, told Daily Monitor last night that he had spoken to Congolese authorities but they were not aware of the attack.
A man, who identified himself as Ashraf Lukwago, and who said he is the operations commander for the DR Congo-based rebels, said their top command was attacked in Ruchuru, North Kivu, during a meeting to prepare for peace talks with the Uganda government.
Mr Lukwago claimed two men stormed the meeting and started shooting. According to Mr Lukwago, Kabanda was buried immediately. “We had been in contact with the Amnesty Commission chairman Justice (Peter) Onega and we were trying to link to Ambassador Wapakhabulo (Uganda’s High Commissioner) in Nairobi to facilitate our peace negotiations with the government, so we were in a meeting when we were attacked and Kabanda was killed. Mukulu was shot in the stomach but he is alive,” Lukwago said.
Mr Lukwago said they suspected Uganda People’s Defence Forces soldiers knew about the meeting and were behind the attack.
However, Brig. Mugira said Lukwago’s claims were probably a hoax by the rebels to get attention from the International Organisation for Migrations (IOM).
IOM is an intergovernmental organisation established in 1951. It is committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society. The IOM has been trying to link the ADF and the Amnesty Commission for peace talks and their repatriation to Uganda.
Brig. Mugira said Lukwago made Ugandan delegations travel to Kisangani twice for peace talks last year and the rebels never showed up.
“That same Lukwago made our delegations travel to DR Congo for talks but it was just hot air,” he said.
Quoting one of Kabanda’s wives, Brig. Mugira said the rebel leader had died some years ago. “I don’t know whether he has resurrected,” he said. Justice Onega said he knew Lukwago and confirmed they had been in contact over peace talks between the government and the ADF but was not aware of the Ruchuru meeting.
“I am sorry I do not know about the meeting in Ruchuru but I know Ashraf Lukwago. He has been in contact with me about peace talks with government,” he said.
Defence and army spokesman Felix Kulayigye said ADF has been lying about their interest in peace talks. “The aspect of the attack I am not aware. On the issue of peace talks, those people sent us on a wild goose chase. We even dispatched a team late last year and they did not turn up,” Lt. Col. Kulayigye said.
But he added that if it was indeed true that the ADF top command had been attacked, then it could only have been by the Congolese themselves because the rebels were attacking them.
Col. Kulayigye also said it was possible that the ADF were trying to create ‘a deception’ to get attention. On June 27, the Congolese forces launched an operation codenamed Operation Rwenzori to flush out the ADF rebels. A few days after the operation, the ADF reportedly started attacking and killing people in DR Congo.
Brig. Mugira and the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima had a meeting on Tuesday with UN officials from the DRC and Central African Republic over the Lords’ Resistance Army and ADF.
The ADF launched their first attack in 1996 at the Mpondwe border post in Kasese before retreating back into the Congo. Over the next six years, they fought in many parts of western Ugandan mainly Kasese, Bundibugyo, Kabarole, Kamwenge and Bushenyi before being defeated in 2002. They retreated to their rear bases inside the DR Congo where pockets of them are still believed to operate.
The ADF are accused of orchestrating brutal attacks against civilians with an attack on Uganda Technical College Kichwamba in Kabarole District in 1998 in which at least 80 students were burnt to cinders in their dormitories.