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Executive Summary: THE IMPACT OF INCREASING ADF ATTACKS IN DRC AND UGANDA

Deepika Uppala, Leslie Acebo, AFRICOM Team

Week of Monday, November 22, 2021


Joint MONUSCO-FARDC Operation against ADF in 2014[1]


On November 14, 2021, the Uganda-based Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) executed two suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, killing three civilians and injuring 33 more as part of a series of attacks since June 2021.[2] Support and funds from regional rebel groups and foreign Islamist extremist groups, and integration with local communities in the Central African region likely make the ADF resilient to counterterrorism operations. ADF’s affiliation with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will almost certainly increase religious conflict between Christians and Muslims in Central Africa, exacerbate tensions between Central African countries, disrupt national economies, and increase humanitarian crises in the region. Disrupting ADF’s revenue sources by preventing illicit mineral exploitation and smuggling will likely limit the group's operations in DRC. However, due to its resilience and adaptability, the ADF is unlikely to be eliminated from Central Africa by counterterrorism operations undertaken by the Congolese Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), the US, and the Ugandan army.


Since its establishment, the ADF has endured various counterterrorism operations due to financial assistance from rebel groups in Central Africa and extremist groups from countries like Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.[3] The ADF’s relationship with foreign donors and its affiliation with ISIS and other rebel groups has likely provided them with the financial support to acquire more weapons such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), AK47s, and machetes. These affiliations have very likely enabled the ADF to continue operating in the DRC-Uganda border region and withstand counterterrorism efforts. The ADF’s affiliation with ISIS has almost certainly facilitated an increase in suicide bombings and attacks in both DRC and Uganda since June 2021. More funding will likely allow the ADF to better train their operatives and increase the frequency and intensity of attacks. Integration of the ADF with local communities that have similar cultures and languages and obtaining support from other rebel groups in the region has increased ADF’s resilience against counterterrorism operations.[4] The ADF will likely leverage its integration with local populations in the Central African region and recruit soldiers from Muslim communities. The decentralized structure of the organization ensures the passing of information among cells on a need-to-know basis, almost certainly protecting members and operations of other cells during counterterrorism operations, making the group more resilient. The ADF will likely continue to show resilience due to continued funding and adaptable warfare tactics to evade counterterrorism activities by FARDC, or the Ugandan military forces.


Since early 2021, the ADF has attacked villages, conducted human rights abuses, and abducted the survivors of attacks in DRC.[5] Following its affiliation with ISIS in 2018, the ADF has incorporated ISIS’ rhetoric of targeting Christians and has increased its attacks in DRC, executing DRC’s first suicide bombing in Beni in 2021.[6] The targeting of Christians by the ADF will almost certainly increase religious conflicts between Muslims and Christians in Central Africa. Christians will likely retaliate by attacking local Muslim populations or joining Christian extremist organizations like the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Muslims in the region will likely respond by joining the ADF, targeting Christians and other non-Muslim communities, initiating a cycle of religious violence. Like ISIS, the ADF will likely target other sects of Islam. Religious and sectarian conflict will likely spread throughout eastern DRC and into neighboring countries such as Uganda and Rwanda and very likely damage the improving bilateral relations of DRC with these countries.


To fund their activities, the ADF and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU) smuggle conflict minerals such as tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold from North Kivu in eastern DRC.[7] ADF and NALU’s smuggling activities almost certainly affect DRC’s economy by aiding the outflow of unrecorded capital. Minerals, lumber, charcoal, gold, and wildlife products such as ivory are smuggled out of the eastern DRC's conflict zones by terrorist organizations funding the armed conflict in DRC.[8] Disrupting the ADF’s revenue source by preventing the smuggling of these goods will likely hinder the group’s activities and reduce the violence in the region. However, without appropriate government security of the mines in DRC, it is likely that smuggling will continue to fund the ongoing conflict. Increased security of the mines will likely enable DRC to reduce and prevent the illegal outflow of the country's wealth through terrorist groups. Strategic counterterrorism operations and joint exercises between the Congolese and Ugandan armies will almost certainly reduce illicit financial flows, formalize the mining industry, and help the population out of poverty.


In August 2021, DRC approved US special forces to assist the Congolese army in fighting the ADF.[9] As of December 2021, the Ugandan and Congolese governments have initiated a cross-border campaign to eradicate the ADF following the twin suicide bombings in Uganda.[10] Historically, the group has retaliated against counterterrorism activities by attacking civilians.[11] With the support of the US and Ugandan forces, the Congolese army will likely be able to disrupt ADF’s operations in DRC and Uganda. The cooperation will almost certainly enhance the counterterrorism capabilities of the Congolese military and improve its operational capacity in regional peacekeeping operations in Central Africa. The partnership will likely reduce the risk of the conflict spilling over in surrounding countries like Rwanda and facilitate regional stability. The partnership should emphasize the protection of civilians and train the Ugandan and DRC militaries in such counterterrorism operations. However, while such counterterrorism operations will likely disrupt the ADF’s activities, the ADF is unlikely to be eliminated from the region due to the group’s high resilience and adaptive nature.


The AFRICOM Team will continue to monitor and analyze the evolving current political, economic, and social situation in DRC and the Central African region. Through its Worldwide Analysis of Terrorism, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H.) Officers, CTG continuously tracks the latest activities of ADF and counterterrorism activities in the region to provide current, fact-based analysis. The AFRICOM Team will utilize Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) to ensure optimal recommendations can be provided to key stakeholders. Collaboration with other CTG Teams will assist in creating well-rounded, up-to-date analyses regarding the African continent.

 

[1]Joint MONUSCO-FARDC Operation against ADF in 2014” by Russavia licensed under Wikimedia Commons

[2] 2 Explosions Rock Uganda's Capital Kampala Killing 3, Times of India, November 2021, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/2-explosions-rock-ugandas-capital-kampala-killing-3/articleshow/87742462.cms

[3] Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), Encyclopedia, n.d, https://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/legal-and-political-magazines/allied-democratic-forces-adf

[4] Eastern Congo: The ADF-NALU’s Lost Rebellion, International Crisis Group, December 2012, https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/central-africa/democratic-republic-congo/eastern-congo-adf-nalu-s-lost-rebellion

[5] DRC: Attacks by ADF armed group may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, July 2020, https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26041&LangID=E

[6] Targeting infidel 'crusaders': DR Congo's dreaded ADF militia, France24, August 2021, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210707-targeting-infidel-crusaders-dr-congo-s-dreaded-adf-militia

[7] Is the illegal trade in Congolese minerals financing terror?, Institute for Security Studies, March 2016, https://issafrica.org/iss-today/is-the-illegal-trade-in-congolese-minerals-financing-terror

[8] Ibid

[9] DR Congo Accepts US Military Help Against ADF Militia, VOA, August 2021, https://www.voanews.com/a/africa_dr-congo-accepts-us-military-help-against-adf-militia/6209612.html

[10] Ugandan mission in DR Congo opens old wounds, sparks new anxieties, France 24, December 2021, https://www.france24.com/en/africa/20211202-ugandan-mission-in-dr-congo-opens-old-wounds-sparks-new-anxieties

[11] DRC: Attacks by ADF armed group may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, July 2020, https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26041&LangID=E


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