Eastern Congo: The ADF-NALU’s Lost Rebellion
Eastern Congo: The ADF-NALU’s Lost Rebellion
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Tensions dans la région des Grands-Lacs | Turmoil in the Great Lakes
Tensions dans la région des Grands-Lacs | Turmoil in the Great Lakes
Briefing 93 / Africa

Eastern Congo: The ADF-NALU’s Lost Rebellion

The fight against entrenched armed groups in eastern Congo such as the ADF-Nalu needs to switch from a military to an intelligence-based approach.

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The Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (Forces démocratiques alliées-Armée nationale de libération de l’Ouganda, ADF-Nalu) is one of the oldest but least known armed groups in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the only one in the area to be considered an east African Islamist terrorist organisation. Although it does not represent the same destabilising threat as the 23 March Movement (M23), it has managed to fend off the Congolese army since 2010. Created in the DRC in 1995 and located in the mountainous DRC-Uganda border area, this Congolese-Ugandan armed group has shown remarkable resilience because of its geostrategic position, its successful integration into the cross-border economy and corruption in the security forces. Before countenancing any further military intervention against the ADF-Nalu, it would be wise to separate legend from fact and weaken its socio-economic means of support while at the same time offering a demobilisation and reintegration program to its combatants. 

An alliance of several armed groups supported by external actors (Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire and Hassan al-Turabi’s Sudan), the ADF-Nalu fought the Ugandan government led by Yoweri Museveni, but never managed to gain a foothold in that country. A Ugandan movement in origin, it put down roots in eastern Congo, especially in the remote mountainous border areas. It became integrated into local communities, participated in cross-border trade and established relations with various armed groups in eastern Congo and with Congolese and Ugandan civilian and military authorities. The way the ADF-Nalu blended into this grey area allowed the group to survive without winning a battle for more than fifteen years and to resist several attempts to neutralise it. 

The efforts of its leader, Jamil Mukulu, a Christian converted to Islam, have turned the ADF-Nalu from a purely Congolese-Ugandan problem into a regional problem, because of the links it has formed with radical east African Islamist groups. However, little is known about these links and allegations of the groups’ allegiance to Islamism seem rather superficial.

The fight against armed groups in eastern Congo continues to be viewed through a military lens, but it would be wise to avoid another ineffective military operation. The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), the UN, the DRC and Uganda should adopt a different approach that seeks to:

  • Formulate an intelligence-based strategy to neutralise the ADF-Nalu’s cross-border economic and logistical networks. The officers of the Joint Verification Mechanism deployed by the ICGLR in 2012 should work with the UN group of experts to produce a detailed study of these networks and use it to define an appropriate strategy for undermining the armed group’s economic and logistical base. 
     
  • Include the leaders of ADF-Nalu’s support networks, inside and outside the DRC, on the list of individuals subject to UN sanctions for their support of armed groups. Congolese and Ugandan military personnel colluding with these networks should be punished by the authorities of their country.
     
  • Rotate on a regular basis Congolese and Ugandan officers deployed in this region.
     
  • Introduce a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) program for Congolese and Ugandan combatants who after investigation are found not to be responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. MONUSCO should appeal to donors to fund the program for Congolese ADF-Nalu combatants. 
     
  • Authorise villagers in the Erengeti and Oïcha areas to resume work on their farms, which was suspended by the military authorities.

Nairobi/Brussels, 19 December 2012

Video / Africa

Tensions dans la région des Grands-Lacs | Turmoil in the Great Lakes

English version below / English subtitles available

FRANÇAIS: Depuis 25 ans, l'est de la République démocratique du Congo est devenu une zone de non-droit où opère une multitude de groupes armés locaux ou originaires des pays voisins. Les civils sont les premières victimes des violences dans cette région riche en ressources naturelles. 

Depuis fin 2021, avec l'accord de Kinshasa, l’Ouganda maintient une présence militaire dans l’est de la RDC pour combattre les Forces démocratiques alliées, un groupe armé aux origines ougandaises. Cette présence n’a toutefois pas permis d’endiguer les attaques. Dans le même temps, un groupe armé congolais que l’on croyait moribond, le Mouvement du 23 Mars, a refait surface sur fond de tensions entre les pays des Grands Lacs.

Pour amorcer une sortie des cycles de violence dans la région, notre analyste pour la RDC, Onesphore Sematumba, nous explique que le gouvernement congolais devrait à la fois tenter de mettre en place une diplomatie régionale pour apaiser les tensions entre pays des Grands Lacs et se concentrer sur l'adoption de mesures visant à résoudre les causes profondes de la violence dans l’est de la RDC.

ENGLISH: For the past 25 years, the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been a lawless zone where a multitude of local and foreign armed groups operate. Those who bear the biggest brunt of the violence in this resource-rich region are the civilians.

Since the end of 2021, Uganda has had a military presence in the eastern DRC, as requested by Kinshasa, to fight the Allied Democratic Forces, an armed group originating from Uganda. However, this intervention has not been able to put an end to the attacks. Meanwhile, a Congolese armed group thought to be no longer active, the March 23 Movement, has resurfaced against a backdrop of tensions between the Great Lakes countries.

Our DRC analyst, Onesphore Sematumba, explains that in order to break out of this cycle of violence, the Congolese government should attempt to implement regional diplomacy to ease tensions between Great Lakes countries, while simultaneously placing greater emphasis on measures to address the root causes of the violence in eastern DRC.

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