Yes, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his government have reason to worry over the incursion committed by Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) to destabilize Uganda through terrorism.
Why? Because one of the lines being pursued by intelligence as per evidence being gathered is whether it is actually true that Rwanda is providing training and logistical support to ADF.
Some sources within the Ugandan security suggest that Rwanda that closed her border with Uganda in March 2019 after accusing the Kampala administration for supporting Rwandan dissidents including the Rwanda National Congress and the FDLR, is manning a training camp of elements prepared to destabilize Uganda.
Since the closure of the border, relations between the two neighbouring East African countries have soured resulting into indiscriminate arrest, torture and deportation of hundreds Rwandans in Uganda by the military there. And Rwanda has responded by shooting at traders from Uganda that illegally cross into Rwanda.
It is alleged by Ugandan security that Rwanda has been training some of the ADF recruits in information technology and making of explosives, and that some of these recruits are allegedly housed in safe houses guarded by Rwanda’s National Intelligence and Security Services personnel.
The latest bomb blasts in Kampala over the weekend, the machete murders in Masaka in August and September and the attempted assassination of former Army Commander and Minister for Transport and Works Gen Katumba Wamala have consolidated this theory and it is a matter of time before Ugandan forces retaliate.
The First Son and commander of Land Forces Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba and his father President Yoweri Museveni say they are more than ready to “crush the pigs” and their collaborators that are causing havoc. These days Museveni refers to terrorists as pigs.
Although, as of now there is no concrete evidence to suggest that Rwanda is actually bankrolling the ADF terrorist operations against Uganda, there has been attempt in Kampala to link the Kigali Administration to all criminality in Uganda on the basis that the RPF government is looking for ways to destabilize and eventually collapse the NRM government.
However, Rwanda believes intelligence malfunction in Uganda is likely to lead to unnecessary and deadly confrontations that would have otherwise been avoidable if Kampala focused their investigations on crime rather than politicize the investigations.
Ugandan security believes that the amount of money invested in ADF operations and the courage and commitment the terrorists have so far exhibited proves their sponsor is determined to disorganize Kampala.
Col. Charles Oluka, the Director General of Internal Security Organization in Uganda, says his intelligence agency has stopped 47 bombs from exploding although he doesn’t give the period within which they neutralized the bombs.
Uganda police claim they are tracking over $500,000 wired for ADF operations in Uganda. Police spokesperson Fred Enanga claims the money is laundered through fuel stations and real estate. He also said they have recovered suicide vests and suicide belts among the bomb materials arrested with suspects.
By this measure, this means Ugandan authorities expect better organized and massive hard-hitting terror operations.
The two bombs that separately exploded during the weekend—one bomb killed a waitress and injured several bar patrons at a hang out place in Komamboga, a suburb in Kampala on Saturday night and another bomb exploded on Monday evening allegedly killing the carrier, an ADF operative Isaac Matovu—have put security on high alert.
The second incident happened in Mpigi District about 35km from the capital city along the Kampala-Masaka highway at around 5pm.
But these bombs happened after the United Kingdom (UK) had warned that terrorists would attack Uganda just three days earlier although police downplayed the warning insisting that such warning would not add value to their preparedness.
Uganda police even disregarded claims by the Islamic State that it was responsible. Yet it is public knowledge that ADF has since dissolved and is now operating as Islamic State.
Islamic State recently incorporated most African terror groups into their ranks including the ADF that is based in eastern DR Congo.
As al-Qaeda and ISIS have experienced setbacks in the Middle East, the relative success of their African affiliates has seen them shift their focus to Africa.
In September 2020, Musa Baluku, who served as a senior ADF Islamic legal official before consolidating power following Jamil Mukulu’s 2015 arrest, stated in one propaganda video that the ADF had ceased to exist and had incorporated itself into the Islamic State’s Central Africa Province, marking the ADF’s most explicit attempt to align with the Islamic State.
Baluku also leads a senior advisory council that unites the ADF’s executive and judiciary organs, on which he serves as the “supreme judge.” In a report dated June 10, the UN experts said Baluku pledged allegiance to the IS in July 2019.
According to the Bridgeway Foundation, a US NGO that works on preventing mass atrocities, Baluku turned to the IS in 2017 when the ADF ran short of money. The cash crunch weakened morale and virtually ended its operations.
Following the 2015 arrest of Jamil Mukulu, the ADF has released increasing amounts of propaganda that reflects ideological alignment with the Islamic State, declaring that the ADF no longer existed and was part of the “Central Africa Province” operation.
On March 10, 2021 the US State Department branded the ADF a “foreign terrorist organization” known as “ISIS-DRC” or “Madina at Tauheed Wau Mujahedeen.”
The Islamic State is also affiliated to jihadist groups in the Sahel and northern Mozambique — two other poor, remote African regions with struggling governments.
The DRC’s Catholic Church says the ADF is suspected of killing 6,000 people since 2013, while the Kivu Security Tracker blames ADF for more than 1,200 deaths in North Kivu province’s Beni area since 2017.
Under the leadership of Seka Musa Baluku, ISIS-DRC killed over 849 civilians in 2020 alone.
Therefore, ADF or ISIS-DRC is a transnational terror group that has capacity to destabilize the entire Great Lakes region.
ADF mayhem in Uganda
President Yoweri Museveni and his security apparatus accuse the ADF of assassinating about a dozen Muslim clerics since 2012. Police in most of the cases linked the incidents to the ADF and promised investigations.
Then before Lt. Gen. Paul Lokech, the ex-deputy Inspector General of Police, died of a blood clot recently, he revealed that the killer gun used in the attempted assassination of Gen Katumba Wamala was linked to the murder of the late Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kawesi and Sheik Major Mohammed Kiggundu, a former ADF commander who defected to UPDF.
Kaweesi, together with his driver Godfrey Wambewa and bodyguard Kenneth Erau, were shot dead on March 17, 2017, a few metres away from Kaweesi’s home in Kulambiro, Kampala as they went to work about 9.30am.
Maj. Kiggundu and bodyguard Sgt. Steven Mukasa were shot dead at Masanafu, a Kampala suburb on November 26, 2016 on Saturday at about 7:30 am. The two were driving to the city in a UPDF pick-up truck.
Earlier, on March 30, 2015, Joan Kagezi, Senior Principal State Attorney in Uganda, who headed the Directorate of Public Prosecution’s war crimes and anti-terrorism division that was prosecuting suspects of the 2010 Kampala suicide bombing which killed 76 people was also shot and killed on her way from work while heading home.
Then Ibrahim Abiriga, a controversial and staunch NRM loyalist parliamentarian and his personal body guard were also gunned down on June 7, 2018 in a similar manner.
In all the assassinations, the shooters rode on motorcycles and fired in motion exhibiting a lot of professionalism. And ADF has never denied having ordered the killings.
ADF is also suspected to have masterminded the murders in Masaka region in August and September 2021 that left more than two dozen people killed with machetes. Between 2016 and 2018, the same mysterious killings occurred in the same area. In 2009, 66 people were killed in Masaka by suspected rebels. And in 2010, suspected rebel movements were reported in Masaka.
How does Rwanda come in?
So far, police is trying very hard to dismiss connections between Islamic State from the terror attacks. Police also says they are targeting collaborators. This is signaling involvement of politics in the investigations. The argument of involvement of politics in terror was prominent in the Masaka murders.
Just before Uganda’s recent general elections, President Museveni and several security officials claimed that there was a foreign country that wanted to destabilize Uganda by disrupting elections.
In fact, a number of senior security operatives suggested that this country was providing logistical support to people power, a group associated with Bobi Wine aka Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi, a former presidential candidate.
Later, there was a narrative that People Power wanted to make it difficult for President Museveni to complete his first anniversary of his current five-year term of office.
Coincidentally, in the course of Masaka killings,two Members of Parliament belonging to Bobi Wine’s political party, National Unity Platform, were arrested and charged as perpetrators of the murders.
Hon Muhammad Ssegirinya and Hon Alan Ssewanya were arrested as masterminds of the machete killings in Masaka.
This imports the question; is People Power working in cohorts with ADF and ultimately Rwanda?
Uganda is also investigating infiltration of Rwandan agents together with ADF recruits that disguised as refugees and entered the country through Ntoroko and Bundibugyo. It is believed that the purging of Rwandans by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence is to avert operations planned by ADF.
But Rwanda says Uganda is toeing on false intelligence. Why? Because Rwanda is already involved in fighting ADF and its sister organization in Mozambique.
A few weeks ago, the Rwanda National Police (RNP) paraded 13 suspects linked to ADF arrested in September for planning to conduct terrorist attacks in Kigali.
According to the RNP spokesperson, CP John Bosco Kabera the ADF suspects confessed that they wanted to carry out terror attacks as revenge for Rwanda’s intervention in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique.
Rwanda, at the request of Mozambique, on July 9, deployed 1,000 troops to Cabo Delgado to contain the terror group there that had killed more than 2,500 people, displaced close to a million others, and destroyed property and infrastructure, including schools and health centres, in the vast Province.
Apparently, the Islamic terror group Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamaa (ASWJ) spontaneously sprang up in northern Mozambique in 2017 and overwhelmed the Mozambican army.
ASWJ, has become significantly more dangerous and sophisticated since it first started up in 2017. In the early stages of the insurgency, attackers grouped in small packs of a few fighters to attack remote police outposts or villages, often brandishing blunt weapons.
By early 2020, the insurgents had taken significant stockpiles of weapons from government security forces and were able to mount attacks on district capitals, including the port of Mocimboa da Praia. Government forces fled the city in August.The attack forced French energy giant Total to shut down its natural gas plant there.
However, the 1,000 Rwandan soldiers deployed to the area in July were able to retake Mocímboa da Praia, which the militants had held for over a year, with relative ease.
So Rwanda is asking; why should Uganda even think of accusing them of supporting ADF yet they are already at the front-line against the same group/s?
Secondly, ADF has been sanctioned by the United States. The ADF was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the UN in 2014 for its violence and atrocities.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury also sanctioned six ADF members, including the leader Seka Musa Baluku, in 2019 under the Global Magnitsky sanctions program for their roles in serious human rights abuse, with subsequent UN sanctions listing for Baluku in early 2020.
Therefore, can Rwanda risk breaching US sanctions?
Thirdly, Rwanda is fighting a sister organization of ADF in Mozambique, so would Rwanda fight one terrorist group but finance the other?
Work together or we sink
Rwanda is proposing that they work together with Uganda and the DR Congo to contain ADF because the terrorist group has become a regional problem.
Or else with the intervention of ISIS, the ADF is likely to grow into unmanageable capacity just like the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) has become a problem to Mozambique.
Crisis Group has shown in the past how ISIS was able to strengthen and shape the tactics of the Boko Haram faction that became ISWAP by deploying a limited amount of resources, training and instruction, although any influence ISIS possessed did not transform the movement’s overwhelmingly local aspirations.
There is little to suggest that ISIS has gained anything like that level of sway over either the ADF or ASWJ, much less the ability to exert command and control over them.
A recent study on the ADF by George Washington University, which some U.S. officials privately endorse, provides evidence that ISIS has given financial assistance to the DRC group, and that there have been communications between the two organizations.
Specifically, the report details financial transactions between Waleed Ahmed Zein, an ISIS financial operative who was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury in September 2018, and his alleged ADF contacts.
It additionally details cases where ISIS disseminated propaganda about ADF attacks and presents ISIS-published photos of ADF leader Seka Musa Baluku, who according to the study has pledged allegiance to the global ISIS leadership, preaching to his recruits.
The study also states, however, that it has found “no evidence of direct command and control orders” from ISIS to the ADF.
The December 2020 UN report states that even if ISIS claimed 46 purported ADF attacks in 2020, compared to 29 in 2019, many of the claims inaccurately described the attacks’ locations and dates, leading the authors to conclude that ISIS had “limited knowledge and control” of these operations.
In the meantime, sources close to the ADF say one ADF faction appears to have rejected ISIS and may even be turning against Baluku’s group.