“He bought us clothes, food and put a suggestion box in our camp for us to express our concerns freely. He was good to us. He makes mistakes like any other human being,” Aidah Najjati, a former rebel fighter, speaks about the arrested rebel leader of the Allied Democratic Forces, Jamil Mukulu.
Najjati also knows Mukulu as a very strict boss when it came to enforcing discipline and justice within the rebel camps. She remembers one incident when a fighter tried to rape a woman in the camp at gun-point and the suspect was publicly executed after the woman complained to the rebel leader.
That is another side of Mukulu, who was arrested in Tanzania in March and extradited to Uganda last month. He is now facing a litany of charges, including terrorism.
Until March 19, Mukulu had lived elusively and had been using eight pseudo names with the same number of passports to evade Interpol arrest warrants issued against him about a decade ago.
His aliases include Jamil Alirabaki, Mazengo David Amos, Lwanga Thomas Musisi, Nicholas Lumu, Philipp Nyanzi, Yafesi, Abdullah Jjungu, Petanguli Kalemire and Denis Kityo Musoke.
On the day of his arrest, he was seeking passports for his children and he passed as David Amos Mazengo from Dodoma, which alias aroused suspicion of an immigration officer who hails from Dodoma.
According to sources close to ADF, he used these names as and when they fit the purpose to use as he travelled regionally and internationally. He commanded cells in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, where he was operating a car importation business.
According to security sources, his arrest was kept a secret by Tanzania and subsequently by Uganda until official teams were dispatched to Tanzania from mid-April to May 3, to confirm the arrest.
Born on April 17, 1964 to Lutakome Sserwada and Aisha Nakiyemba of Ntoke Village, Kayunga District, Mukulu was a Christian cleric before converting to Islam.
Little is known about his lower level education but he has a diploma in Business management from Nairobi and certificate in Arabic, from Saudi Arabia. With a formidable background in Islamic theology gained in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Sudan, he consolidated himself as a strong and radical figure in the Muslim community in 1991, says Hussein Lutwaama, a friend and ADF defector.
“He came back from Saudi Arabia a more devoted Muslim and ready to die for Islam. He talked about defending Islam all the time,” says Lutwaama.
Following disagreements between Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) and the Tabliq Sect to which Mukulu belonged, he felt government was favouring the rival group and unfairly interfering in the affairs of Muslims.
The disagreement was over who should control the Nakasero Mosque and when Supreme Court ruled in favour of UMSC, the Tabliq interpreted this decision as state interference in Muslim affairs, and adopted a more radical agenda. From then on, the institution of an Islamic state became his main objective.
In 1991, the Tabliqs attacked UMSC headquarters in Old Kampala and killed a number of people including policemen and police dogs, an attack that forced government to use force against the attackers.
The then commander of Military Police, Maj James Kazini (RIP), commanded an operation, and a good number of Tabliqs, including Jamil Mukulu, were arrested.
While in Luzira, according to Lutwaama, the group decided to form an armed rebellion-the Uganda Muslim Freedom Fighters (UMFF). Consequently, members who would be released from Luzira would sneak to Buseruka gorge, incognito, where a training and operations camp was established over time.
“They started attacking security installations in Hoima, robbing property and kidnapping. In 1994, the UPDF attacked this base and routed with hundreds getting captured,” says a military intelligence report in 1998.
The remnants of the attack fled to DR Congo over Lake Albert in Canoes and took refuge in Beni, where they were hosted by relatives of Yusuf Abdallah Kabanda, the then group’s commander.
According to the same intelligence report, the then Congolese president Mubuto Sese Seko advised the remnants to join with the National Army for Liberation of Uganda (NALU), a Ugandan armed movement in DR Congo led by Amon Bazira that was fighting for recognition of Rwenzururu as a semi-autonomous unit.
The late Bazira was later killed in Kenya. The Ugandan External Security Organisation (ESO) operatives were accused of killing the rebel leader.
After Bazira’s death, the two groups merged and formed the ADF in 1995. It was at that time that Jamil Mukulu was released from Luzira. He escaped through Kenya and joined the group in DR Congo and later became the group’s leader and commander.
Mukulu and his commanders attacked civilians in western Uganda between 1996 and 2001, where more than 1,000 people were killed and more than 150,000 people displaced, UNHCR report of 2002 says.
In 2002, government gave a blanket amnesty to the rebels and some of them took the advantage to abandon the rebellion but Mukulu described the defectors as “abananfuusi” (weaklings) and declared a fatwa (an Islamic religious ruling, a scholarly opinion on a matter of Islamic law).
The socio-economic impact of the ADF/NALU rebellion on the Rwenzori mountain region was disastrous. Economic activities came to a standstill. According to officials, in the Kasese District in the period of ADF action, tax revenues dropped by 75 per cent.
Local farmers were faced with continuous insecurity and the threat of being hit by landmines or being abducted or killed by ADF rebels.
In February 1998, 30 students were abducted from the Mitandi Seventh Day Adventist College in Kasese. In June 1998, between 50 and 80 students were burnt to death and more than 60 others abducted when ADF attacked the Kichwamba Technical College in Kabarole District. The same month, 100 school children were abducted from a school in Hoima District.
It is these activities and more, which made Mukulu a wanted man.
Mukulu’s alleged criminal record
1991 Attacking Uganda Muslim Supreme Council
1992-1994 Commanding an insurgent group in Buseruka-Hoima, which group killed a policeman, took their guns, looted people’s property and established an illegal military training camp.
1996 Attacking on Mpondwe and Bwera.
1997 Attacks on Kichwamba, Kiburara, Kotojo prisons, Kyondo village and Kilembe and abducted people.
1998-2001 He commanded terrorist attacks in urban centers especially Jinja, Kampala and on highways where lives were lost and other got injured. Notable bombs attacks were at Nile Grill, Slow Boat, Nakulabye, Fairway Hotel, Ben Kiwanuka, Street, Kabaka-Njagala, Makindye Isabbela Pub, Queen Tower Kabalagala Valentine’s Day attacks; and Improvised Explosive Devices detonation in commuter vehicles.