Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni on Thursday accused Joseph Kabila, the former leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo, of giving sanctuary to armed rebels and allowing them to use proceeds of exploiting minerals and timber to build their strength.
For years, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), formed in 1995 in Uganda to counter Museveni’s administration, has been carrying out killings of both civilians and security personnel from its base in the jungles of the mineral-rich neighbouring DRC. In 2019, it pledged allegiance to ISIL (ISIS).
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Museveni referred to the attack in a speech late on Thursday, saying the ADF had expanded and set up big camps in eastern DRC under Kabila’s government.
“The Congo government of [Joseph] Kabila, supported by some regional and international actors, gave them free tenancy in North Kivu and Ituri,” Museveni said, referring to Congolese provinces.
“They were mining gold, selling timber, harvesting people’s cocoa, collecting taxes, extorting money from people, etc. They were modestly growing and with money.”
Kabila was the DRC’s president from 2001 to 2019.
In response, Barbara Nzimbi, the former president’s spokesperson told Al Jazeera on Monday that “The gratuitous false accusations of President Museveni who is one of the main destabilisers in the region are simply ridiculous and aim to distract the Congolese people and divide them.
“Joseph Kabila left power without leaving a single active armed group,” she added. “He managed to bequeath a peaceful DRC to his successor.”
The ADF, which the US has designated a “terrorist” group, is considered the deadliest of dozens of armed militias that roam mineral-rich eastern DRC. In March, Washington announced a reward of up to $5m for information leading to the capture of the ADF leader Musa Baluku.
Over the years, the group was backed by subsequent governments of the DRC that were keen on subverting Rwandan and Ugandan influence in the country. But in 2013, the ADF began attacking Congolese military targets, leading the army to fight back.
In 2021, Uganda, with permission from DRC’s President Felix Tshisekedi, launched a military operation with the Congolese army to try to defeat the insurgents.
That operation, Museveni said, had successfully broken up most ADF camps and the rebels had split up into small groups that were hard to detect, occasionally slipping into Uganda to carry out attacks on civilians.
“We quickly degraded their strength and they have now … fled to beyond our limit of exploitation line,” he said on Thursday.
A UN group of experts, however, said last month the ADF was expanding operations in the DRC with funding from ISIL despite joint operations against them by the Ugandan and Congolese militaries.