The Allied Democratic Forces have been training in six different camps in Eastern Zaire in present day Democratic Republic of Congo, says Brig Geoffrey K Taban, now a diplomat based Kinshasa, The Daily Monitor reports. Military sources say the rebel outfit has used different locations in Lhume, Mulamba, Njijo, Irengeti, Mutwanga opposite Semuliki, and Wicha, all in DRC, to build their bases, train and make attacks.
Towards the end of October 1996, ADF had been armed and camped at Lugetse near Lhume where from senior Zairean officers addressed them. It is alleged that the government of former Zaire president Joseph Mobutu, funded them, together with
However earlier, Jamilu Mukulu had visited Buhira Tactical Camp in the then Zaire following disagreements amongst his rebel ranks. Perpetrators of the confusion in the camps were tried and six of them were sentenced to death by firing squad. Reports indicated those executed included Mustafa Mutebi, Magala, Bruhan Sebunza, Mbalubu, and Hassan Gregory.
On November 13, 1996 about 6am, the Allied Democratic Forces attacked Mpondwe, Karambi and Bwera in Kasese District.
The rebels used a force of about 630 men armed with rifles supplied by the Zaire government and Sudan Khartoum government.
Another group of rebels composed of the sick, women and children was left back in Buhira camp in Congo,’ but later came following the fighters with supplies.
The commanders included; Kabanda Abudal Yusuf who was the operation commander, Kasangaki, Rujema, Waswa and Kasaigura.
The rebels’ mission was to cut off Kasese District and establish a base from where they could get their supplies. The rebel targeted Kasese Airfield which would act as a spring board for future attack.
In the build up to the Kasese invasion, the ADF structure had been divided into two main wings; the political and military wings.
Military sources add that by the time of the invasion, the rebels had not sufficiently trained so they were not prepared to attack at that time.
However, there were other circumstances that forced them out of their safe havens.
At the time, Banyamulenge (ADF-LC) were fighting to topple Joseph Mobutu in North Kivu Province Eastern Congo. The Ugandan rebels feared that they would lose ground (their camps in Eastern Congo) to the advancing Banyamulenge, if they did nothing about the situation. This prompted them to attack prematurely.
The rebels used their entire fighting prowess but made a mistake of using conventional warfare.
When in 1998, ADF attacked Kichwamba Technical College, Kiburara Seminary, Katojo Prison, Kyondo Village and Kilembe, many people were killed and others taken by force into rebel activities.
In Katojo Prison in Fort Portal, around 300 prisoners including the late sheikh Sentamu Abdul Karim, late sheikh Hassan Kirya, late Bahiga among others were released.
The invading rebels were repulsed by the UPDF and by November 17 1996, and killed 122 and arrested 11 rebels. The captives had been recruited from Central Uganda and Busoga region.
The army recovered 96 SMG guns, five RPG pipes, 2 LMGs, 20 Hand Held Grenade, 22 Pieces of 40mm MGL (Multiple Grenade Launchers) and 2 Pieces of 60m m MTR from Bwera and Mpondwe.
As ADF retreated from Mpondwe, Bwera, Kisinga, Mukulu allegedly ordered for planting of Anti-Personnel Mines to delay advancing UPDF troops and deny or instill fear into civilians who would want to access their gardens deep into the mountains. This maimed and injured innocent people and many lost their lives. The attack during the period led to the death of 22 innocent civilians plus 42 causalities.
According to the statistics reviewed by the study team when they visited Anti Mines Network-Rwenzori (AMNET -R), the effects were adverse in the three districts of Kasese, Bundibugyo and Kabarole with both injured and or killed victims which were caused by Un Exploded Ordinances (UXOs). The most adversely affected sub-counties were found to be those of Ihandiro, Bugoye, Kisinga, Kitholu, Kyarumba, Kyondo, Mahango, Kilembe, Maliba, Muhokya, Nyakiyumbu and Mukunyu. Overall, a total of 116 victims had been registered by the time of the study including 80 injured persons and 36 killed.
As ADF retreated, over 400 civilians were abducted by the retreating rebels. Some of the abductees were used by the rebels to carry their supplies from Congo to hide outs inside Uganda on Rwenzori mountain ranges.
After the defeat of the attack, some of the rebels crossed back to Congo for re-organization. They camped in Lhume, Huhira, Lutgese, Lusaka and Muambire near the common border. Other rebels scattered in Kasese and spread to Kabarole and Bushenyi in small groups of 6 -10. They would occasionally attack civilians ambushing, and planting landmines. The rebels also would abduct civilians and take them for training, while others would be used as guides.
The rebels established their bases in Rwenzori Mountains in strategic areas of Ngwegwe, Burangwa in Kitholhu Sub-county, Kahindangoma in Kisinga Sub county Kyabithondo in Mukunyu Sub-county and Kambasa. They planted landmines along the routes going to their camps as means of defence and early warning system.
Spread to Kabarole, Bushenyi and Bundibugyo
Due to pressure on the ADF rebels by UPDF in Kasese District, the rebels moving in small groups spread to Bushenyi, Mbarara, Kabarole and Bundibugyo and later to Kibaale district.
Their main activities were, to abduct people and use them as guides loot food stuffs and drugs, loot livestock, planting landmines, killing civilians and ambushing UPDF soldiers.
Account of the UPDF general who ordered first attack on ADF
Brig Geoffrey K Taban, now the military attaché to Uganda’s embassy in Democratic Republic of Congo was the acting commander of the First Division based in Lubiri in Kampala when the army got wind of ADF activities in Buseruka in Hoima. President Museveni ordered him to carry out an operation to wipe ADF out. He spoke with Mike Ssegawa about the attack when he was in Kampala recently.
The military got intelligence that ADF was training in Buseruka. There were strange people buying food stuffs such as maize, posho and beans in huge numbers.
This information mainly came from special branch police whose role was to gather information to feed other security agencies including the military. The army also had its own information on the developments.
We wanted to know where they were taking these food stuffs.
The President got information on the activities and there was a young man who was grazing cattle in the area who had seen people training. The president also got collaborating information from this young man.
In the area, there was a cave in the lower plains in Hoima. The people training had asked the herdsman to supply them with milk. The boy became our contact and he guided our people to the exact location.
He was taken to Masindi where Kashaka was a commander.
And when Mzee (President Museveni) rang me to prepare a force of two companies (about 300 soldiers). We readied a well-prepared force for the operation under the late Lt Col Emmanuel Ruuija.
The herdsboy was the guide and was picked from Hoima. The forces found Mukulu’s men on parade. Going down from the uphill to the valley was not easy, because the rebels would see you from their camp below.
When our forces attacked, many rebels were put out of action, some were captured, and Mukulu escaped with some men via Lake Albert into DRC.
The forces captured some ammunition including guns, but also, Korans, and pamphlets in Arabic with ADF doctrine.
I wasn’t with the force that attacked but I came later on the ground with Hon Crispus Kiyonga, Hon Henry Kajura and Lt Col Kashaka.
After inspection, we went to Hoima to brief Omukama Solomon Gafabusa on what was happening.
After Mukulu crossed to DRC with some rebels, we could not pursue them there so they regrouped and joined forced with NALU. They started recruiting from Busoga and Kyazanga in present day Lwengo.
ADF has however become weak over the years. FARDC, the DRC army and MONUSCO, in 2014 launched operations in their hiding areas, particularly the Virunga forests. The operations were a big blow to ADF, which disorganized their command. Mukulu had his headquarter there called Madina camp, which according to DRC forces, he wanted to use it to cut off an area from Congo to create his own country called Mafina, and use it as a base to topple the government in Uganda. But the operations weakened them and may be that is why he ran to Tanzania where he was captured. There are still remnants of the force operating in small groups, and they steal from locals, kill and abduct people to join them.
ADF victim lives with marks of cruelty
It is now close to 19 years since the Allied Democratic forces (ADF) attacked Kasese District on November 13, 1996.
As years go by, fresh memories keep in the minds of those who witnessed the attacks and they still live with the effects of the war.
Students of St John’s Seminary at Kiburara were abducted and some killed and at Uganda Martyrs Secondary in Kyondo Sub-County, more than 10 people in the same family were buried there.
Rebecca Biira recalls what she went through months after the attack in the district.
“It was on the morning of May 19, 1997 when I escorted my mother Agnes Biira to the garden in Katooke Village, Bugoye Sub-county,” Biira narrates.
Biira, 29, recalls that she was 11 years and in Primary Two at Maghoma when she stepped on a land mine that cost her both legs.
She adds, “On that fateful day, I first went to the nearby Kyasalibwa Catholic church to pray as my mother was in the garden digging. After prayers, I stepped outside the church, I stepped on something at the doorway that blasted and immediately my legs were cut off. I shouted at the top of my voice. My mother came running only to find blood oozing from my body. I was rushed to Kagando hospital where I spent three months on treatment,” Biira narrates her ordeal.
Biira, who now crawls on her knees without a wheel chair is thankful to God for having enabled her to make ends meet despite several challenges she has passed through since then.
Born in a family of other 10 children and 16 other step brothers and sisters, Biira is the sixth and the only educated child in the whole family, leaving her with no option but to carry the burden of responsibility of the family after her father’s death.
“I was carried on my mother’s back from 11 years to and from school, morning and evening, after the incident because I had no wheel chair. Our friends, relatives and fellow pupils used to laugh at my mother for suffering with a lame person for education advising her to abandon me at home; that my future had gone”, Biira painfully recounts and with agony on her face.
“I recall the time I was chased from school, because I had no wheel chair. I had given up with education since I had no alternative but two days, I saw a white man carrying the wheel chair to me which I still use, it enabled me to complete my Senior Four and got a certificate in medical records at Mulago hospital”, she says.
Biira, a jolly lady who interacts freely with people who approach her for a conversation, is not bothered by what people say as she goes about her work daily.
She is employed by Kasese Municipal Council as a medical records assistant at Kasese municipal council health centre III, earning a salary of Shs400,000 per month. She uses this to maintain herself and her family in the village.
“I pay Shs600,000 every term for my brother and sister at Mutanywana and Rwenzori high schools. I look after my mother’s needs and myself including my relatives who were discouraging my mother not to take me to school. I need to go for a diploma but I have no money since I have so many responsibilities,” she said.
“I have to move for 2kms from Bugoye trading centre, my home area. Being a mountainous place, I at times miss duty when it rains since I cannot push my wheel chair from where I reside to my work place. I am still traumatised as many do not wish me well,” Biira says.