How war against ADF was planned

Uganda in a joint operation with Congolese Forces are taking aim at ADF insurgents bases in the DR Congo. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Ground troops were are closing in on the bombed sites for close combat with ADF fighter.

In September 2020, President Museveni as the Commander-in-Chief of Uganda’s armed forces, rotated then Maj Gen Paul Lokech and Col Paul Muwonge out of South Sudan and assigned them more delicate and demanding roles.

First Son Muhoozi Kainerugaba, a lieutenant general, was recalled from the shadows and deployed as the Chief of UPDF Land Forces, signalling the strategic underpinnings of the top-line command rearrangement.

Whereas Maj Gen Lokech went to fix what Gen Museveni considered a problematic Uganda Police Force as its second-in-command, Col Muwonge on the other hand headed to eastern DRC.

His task was cut out: lead intelligence gathering and analysis the operations of the Allied Democratic Front (ADF) and other subversive elements holed up in eastern DRC that borders Uganda.

Col Muwonge is Uganda military’s expert on DRC and the nascent terror network of the Islamic State in Great Lakes Region known, alternately in global security circles as the Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP).

These 2020 deployments, highly placed security sources say, was the foundation for what yesterday culminated into the surprise UPDF air strikes on bases of ADF in Beni and Ituri territories of North Kivu.

The planning of the operation, code-named Shujaa (Hero), has been in the works for months, Defence and Military Spokesperson Brig Flavia Byekwaso confirmed last night.

Sources familiar with the process told this newspaper that the preparations were at various stages affected by opposition by a neighbouring country that allegedly piled pressure, alongside the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc), on Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi not to allow Uganda launch an attack on its soil.

Yet, separately, Kinshasa had at hand a deal with Uganda to surface hundreds of kilometres of roads in remote parts of eastern DR Congo, opening the hamlets there to better trade opportunities, security response and modern infrastructure.

To break the impasse with President Tshisekedi, the Ugandan leader reached to an unlikely name; a one Falid Kaliisa, whom he tapped as a special envoy to persuade Mr Tshisekedi. Mr Kaliisa, who reportedly attended many of the counter-ADF preparatory meetings, succeeded.

President Tshisekedi in principle agreed to the proposal for Uganda to attack ADF bases inside his country, but the pressure by political opponents at home, a regional neighbour and the SADC bloc, where DR Congo is a member, weighed down his options.

In addition, Uganda accelerated diplomatic charm offensive to placate sceptical African leaders and the international community by tendering assurances that, unlike its 1996-2003 invasion and plunder of the then Zaire, no mischief would happen this time.

With these uncertainties, the greenlight for UPDF to deploy in Congo kept blinking, resulting in a fluid target date for the operation. In the intervening period, Col Muwonge’s team assembled intelligence, which they forwarded to inform the decisions of commanders in Kampala, and Uganda and Congo militaries began sharing classified security briefings.

The information included the strength and precise location of the targets --- in this case ADF’s older lair in Eringeti forest in Beni where its commander Musa Baluku is believed to camp, and the newer base in Irumu forest in Ituri territory.

Highly placed security sources said the briefing flagged ADF’s recruitment of Ugandan children, mainly from Mayuge and Kyazanga, and its spreading terror cell and the risk posed to Uganda’s national security.

Uganda, another source said, delayed to stem the recruitment and did little to infiltrate ADF network yet the movement of cash, IED-making trainers from Syria and Somaliland as well as businesses of the group were known.

After piles of intelligence, Uganda identified 10 potential targets, and aimed to first strike on them at the start of June. The maps and location coordinates were given to army pilots who were placed on standby Class 1, pending Kinshasa’s nod, which did not happen and there was another attempt on June 24. This too was unsuccessful.

UPDF’s Mountain Brigade commander, Maj Gen Kayanja Muhanga, met Congolese counterparts in Congo’s Beni town.  A follow-up meeting happened in Fort Portal, Uganda, and a Ugandan contingent concluded reconnaissance inside DR Congo, but the planned operation again lulled.

By June, both Maj Gen Kayanja and Lt Gen Muhoozi had taken active lead to concretise initial plans for the offensive against ADF, a United States-designated terrorist group. 

Many other operation dates were considered until last Saturday when, amid reported DR Congo government consent, an order to strike the group’s bases early Sunday morning during President Museveni’s three-day visit to Tanzania, was abruptly aborted. No reason was given.

And hours after he returned, the mission was activated, and four Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30 multirole interdiction jets lifted from Old Entebbe Airport, striking, according to security sources, multiple ADF targets “accurately” in two return raids.

By yesterday afternoon, the ground troops were reported to be closing in on the bombed sites for close combat with ADF fighter.

Profiles of commanders
Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba

Born on April 24, 1974 in Tanzania to President Yoweri Museveni, who was then a rebel leader, and his wife, who were then in exile in Tanzania, Lt Gen Muhoozi studied in Kenya and Tanzania schools during his pre-primary levels until his father took power in 1986.

Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba and Maj Gen Kayanja Muhanga. PHOTO/FILE

He returned to Uganda after his father became President and continued his studies at Kampala Parents School where he sat his Primary Leaving Examination.

He joined King’s College Budo for his O-Level and St Mary’s College Kisubi for A-Level.

He went to United Kingdom where he studied political science for his under degree. Upon return, Muhoozi, whose military number is RO 8643, joined the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) allegedly as a Local Defence Unit personnel after In 1999, he officially joined regular army as a cadet officer. He is alleged to have enlisted several young students at tertiary institutions to join the UPDF.

A year later, he went to Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the UK where he graduated as a cadet officer and he returned to Uganda where he was passed-out as a second lieutenant with UPDF soldiers who trained at the School of Infantry in Jinja Town on August 25.

Upon his return, he was deployed in the Presidential Protection Unit, an elite military unit that later became Presidential Guards Brigade (PGB) and then Special Forces Command, where he sent most of his military career.

In May 2001, at a state event at Kololo Independence Ground, the then Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi made a public declaration when he promoted Muhoozi to the rank of Major even when he was still a lieutenant. However, the army didn’t recognise the rank.
He did intelligence work in the unit, which earned him a promotion from the rank of Lieutenant to Captain in November 2001.

The then army spokesman, Lt Col Phinehas Katirima, told New Vision that he had been given that rank on loan to enable him attain minimum qualifications to be admitted for further military studies in Egypt. Capt Muhoozi was to revert to his Lieutenant rank upon completion of his studies, but it was regularised instead.

The following year, the army sent him to Egypt where he did a company command course. It is there that he got connections with many senior military officers and diplomats including the current President of Egypt Abdel Fattah Al-sisi.
     In 2003, he returned after one year and again redeployed in PPU, which was renamed Presidential Guards Brigade and reorganised.

In one of his tweets, he said he ended up fighting Lord Resistance Army rebels in Teso Sub-region under the motorised battalion, which he commanded.

He recalled a moment when their convoy was ambushed by the LRA rebels and one of the vehicles hit with an RPG which almost killed them. He said they retaliated and LRA rebels feared to attempt any other ambush against them again.

Two years later, he returned to the military training school at Kasenyi where he studied advanced skills in infantry. The group would later end up fighting Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels in western Uganda. He was promoted to a Major.

In 2007, he left for the Command and General Staff College in Leavenworth, US, for an advanced military course. He graduated in 2008. In 2010, then a Lt Colonel, he was appointed Commander of Special Forces, which had just been renamed from PGB.

The next year he was promoted to a Colonel then sent to South African National Defence College. After the course, he was promoted to a Brigadier and returned to his position in the Special Forces Command.

He was later promoted to the rank of Lt General. He was removed as the Commander of SFC and appointed Special Presidential Advisor on Special Operations.

In July 2021, he was appointed by President Museveni the Commander of Lands Forces.

Maj Gen Kayanja Muhanga
Maj Gen Kayanja Muhanga was born in 1965.  He studied in western Uganda up to A-Level when he joined the rebels of the National Resistance Army led by Yoweri Museveni. After Museveni captured power, he returned to military school where he graduated as a cadet officer. He was deployed in the Directorate of Military Intelligence where he operated for years.

The military leadership transferred him to Joint Anti-Terrorism TaskForce that fought ADF rebels that had started operating in urban areas where they often hurled grenades in public places.

He grew in ranks. The public picked interest in him when he was deployed in Somalia as a Commander of the Battle Group Eight, where he had successfully operations. He returned to Uganda and was appointed the head of Military Police.  In 2014, when war broke out in South Sudan, he was deployed there and successfully prevented the rebel takeover of Juba Capital.

He also defeated them in other towns hundreds of miles away from Juba. It is alleged that South Sudanese generals couldn’t believe that an officer of his rank could command such an operation. President Museveni promoted him to the rank of Brigadier General.

After the South Sudan operation, he was sent back to Somalia as the Contingent Commander. After returning from his tour duty in Somalia, he served as the Commander of 2nd UPDF Division. He went for further training in the South African Defence College for a year. He was later appointed the Commander of Mountain Division in the Rwenzori Sub-region.

In 2021, during the General Election, President Museveni appointed him as the overall Operations Commander for Kampala Metropolitan area.

In April, he was promoted to the rank of Major General- Compiled by Andrew Bagala