ADF series: The rebel group becomes active

David Birungi(L) and Johnson Rugafu, two of the 10 Kichwamba students receive treatment for fire burns at Buhinga Hospital in Fort Portal. ADF rebels attacked the school in 1998

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Tension in the Muslim community is at its peak after the attack on the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, and the political ground is fertile for rebellion, according to a group of people at least. We continue the ADF series with how these events led to the ADF rebel group

The events that followed the attack by Tabliqs on the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council heightened the tensions in the Muslim fraternity, but also consolidated the resolve of Jamil Mukulu and his colleagues in the Salaf Foundation to take their rebellion to another level.

A source says, in 1994, with ideas of an Islamic state at the back of their minds as per the plans they hatched while in Luzira prison, Mukulu and his colleagues intensified their activities to form a more militant group with the view of overthrowing the NRM/A government, which at the time was in advanced stages of writing a new constitution.

Salaf had influential Sheikhs Muzafar Mulinde, Mukulu himself, Obed Ssenyondo, Swaib Kigozi alias Kasangati, Ismail Buikwe, Kayiza and Mugonjwa among others. According to, “Salaf is to adhere to the Koran and the authentic Sunnah as understood by the Salaf as-Saalih. The word Salaf is a shortened version of the word ‘Salaf as-Saalih’, which means the ‘righteous predecessors”. However, it is the members of the sect that were critical in the formation of the Uganda Muslim Freedom Fighters (UMFF), according to security sources.

The head of the UMFF became Jamilu Mukulu. They found a suitable training ground in Buseruka in Hoima District at Kayera Gorge.

However, the military had sniffed their plans and on February 25, 1995, the army’s 1st Battalion attacked and overran the UMFF camp killing about 93 rebels.

Mukulu and 40 of his fighters escaped through confluence of Lake Albert into Zaire, present day Democratic Republic of Congo.

Formation of ADF
When UMFF was flushed out of Buseruka Sub-county, Hoima District and entered DRC, they found other small rebel movements that got some support from then Zaire president Mobutu Seseko.

It is alleged that Mobutu advised all anti-Uganda armed groups to form an umbrella organisation that would foster their interests and through which he could extend his support. The union of groups that operated unabated in DRC including NALU, UMFF, EX FAR, Interahamwe, gave birth to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

NALU (National Army for the Liberation of Uganda) was composed of mainly remnants of the Rwenzururu movement, who took up arms against Obote’s regime. Amon Mbazira, a former Obote minister together with former Amin’s soldiers formed NALU with logistical and other assistance from the late Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda. The group was weakened when in April 1994, Habyarima died in the plane crash as he returned from Arusha, Tanzania where he had made a peace deal with rebels of Rwanda Patriotic Front commanded by Paul Kagame.

UMFF on the other hand, was composed of the ex- Luzira prison convicts who had stormed the UMSC with the aim of installing a new Islamic leadership at UMSC. Its defacto leader was Jamilu Mukulu. The former Forces Armées Rwandaises (ex-FAR) included former soldiers of Habyarimana and the Interahamwe were remnants of the Hutu extremists that were responsible for the 1994 Rwanda genocide. The ADF formation got full blessing and assistance from Mobutu. The rebel group arrived from Uganda in 1995.

ADF, right from inception was a group of experienced extremist killers organised in command structure ready for rebellion.
In mid-1995 the Salaf Foundation set up a National Executive which was to be assisted by various district coordinators.

The national structure was composed of the amir, defense ministry which comprised of chief of staff and tactical commander, in-charge purchase of arms and acquisition, director of intelligence, in-charge of discipline, director of planning and chief advisor, records and security, in-charge morale and prayers (Dawa), hit squad and the financial controller.

The leaders working at Salaf headquarters (Mengo, Kampala) carried out recruitment exercise of youth from various parts of the country hitting a number of 1,350 recruits.

The recruiters would do their work based on both ideological and material base, and the methods also varied from direct approach, persuasion and coercion.

Most recruits, however, were innocent youth who had been promised jobs, money and others were deceived that they were going to study abroad.

Movement of recruits
From the districts of origin, the recruits would be gathered at Mengo mosque and at Nakivubo Green’s mosque where they were received by guides.

Then the guides boarded them on buses to Kasese, western Uganda - alighting at Kikorongo junction, from where they proceeded to Uganda Congo border on market days. At Kasindi, a Congolese immigration officer received them and handed them over to ADF guides, who eventually took them to the camps.

The attack on Old Kampala and its influence on the ADF

Before the court ruling in 1990, the Tabliqs had attempted to attack Sheikh Rajab Kakooza accusing him of “poor management of Muslim properties, and ill health,” which was reportedly due to an organised motor accident and of being “illiterate”.

“By this period, some people had politicised the events and it is during this period that the Justice Forum (Jeema) was founded, which is why it is dominated by youthful Muslims,” opines Hajj Nsereko Mutumba. Sheikh Jamil Mukulu had also sought to bring a new social order based on Shari’a (Islamic laws) only.

What followed was the attack on Old Kampala by the Tabliq.
“Bullets started firing from the Tabliq group and a police officer plus many police dogs were killed, and many others injured,” Muzamir Luswaata observes.

However, he opines that no single Muslim was killed although hundreds were injured, information Daily Monitor could not independently verify.

At this moment, Sheikh Mukulu had passed a Fatwa that whoever finds Muhammad Sheikh Kamoga “must” bring only his head claiming he had betrayed their (Tabliqs’) Jihad and that government had “bought” him, says Hajj Mutumba.

“Sheikh Kamoga had to flee the country for his dear life. He went into exile with his brother Murta Bukenya [they are both currently under detention for the alleged murder of fellow Sheikhs in the country],” he adds.

“Mobile and military police had to be called on under the command of the late James Kazini to quell the fracas,” says Sheikh Siliman Afaris, one of the victims of the skirmish.
According to accounts provided by most of the narrators, all areas near Aga Khan mosque were put under siege by the Tabliqs.
“I thought that had been taken over by rebels. As I ran for my life moments later, I realised that many people had fled and closed their shops,” recounts Sheikh Afaris, who operated a spare parts shop on Namirembe Road.

After the intervention of Kazini’s forces, most of the Tabliqs were arrested and detained; some such as Mukulu, were released after three years of detention.

After his release, Mukulu, reunited with some of the former detainees and formed a more radical group. “They started preaching hate messages against the Museveni group,” Hajj Nsereko says.

According to Sheikh Luswaata, Mukulu at one point said, “Sheikh Abdukarim Ssentamu [the late] was like a dog with gold in its mouth.” This, according to Sheikh Luswaata, meant that Sheikh Ssentamu, a revered Muslim cleric, was like a useless item that has some goodness in it, and you only have to get out the goodness and leave it at peace.

“That was the level of extremism Sheikh Mukulu had reached. Mukulu started fearing for his life and fled Uganda to Sudan for safety as government had started tracing all his movements, since he proved a threat to the government and other people’s lives,” says Hajj Nsereko.

It is said that before he fled the country, he had started recruiting young Tabliqs into rebellion, activities said to have been taking place in Kyazanga, Masaka District.
While in Sudan, it is said Sheikh Mukulu teamed up with Hassan al-Turabi, who had the ideology of Islamising the whole of Africa and thus the rebel group of the Allied democratic Forces (ADF) in 1995.

The rebel group now

Attempts at neutralising ADF-NALU in 2005 and in 2010 were unsuccessful. The International Crisis Group (ICG) in a 2012 report, said, “This Congolese-Ugandan armed group has shown remarkable resilience attributable to its geostrategic position, its successful integration into the cross-border economy and corruption in the security forces”.

ADF-NALU as of 2014 comprises between 800-1,400 combatants, excluding women and children in its ranks.

Based in the north western Rwenzori Mountain region, along the border with Uganda, the militia is a “tightly controlled organisation”, sustained on illegal logging and gold mining as well as a “network of car and motorcycle taxis operating between Butembo, Beni and Oicha”, and “money transfers from London, Kenya and Uganda, which are collected through Congolese intermediaries in Beni and Butembo”, according to a UN group of experts report. Butembo, Beni and Oicha are in North Kivu Province.

ADF-NALU has several training camps in eastern DRC and equipment such as mortars, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, according to the UN experts report. The militia has been boosting its numbers through recruitment and kidnappings.

ADF Series
We traced the origin of Islam in Uganda and how tension started among the Muslim community.
The attack on UMSC and the foundation of the ADF
How the Allied Democratic Forces came into place and recruited members

How UPDF flashed ADF from Kasese.