Congo and Uganda to launch joint operation against rebel ADF

Democratic Republic of Congo military personnel (FARDC) patrol against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU) rebels near Beni in North-Kivu province, December 31, 2013. The Democratic Republic of Congo is struggling to emerge from decades of violence and instability, particularly in its east, in which millions of people have died, mostly from hunger and disease. A 21,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) is stationed in the country. REUTERS
Democratic Republic of Congo military personnel (FARDC) patrol against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU) rebels near Beni in North-Kivu province, December 31, 2013.  REUTERS

Congo and Uganda are planning a joint military operation against a Congo-based Ugandan rebel group blamed for an attack that killed 15 United Nations peacekeepers, army officials from the two countries said on Wednesday.

Fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) are suspected of being behind the December 8 assault on a base manned by Tanzanian U.N. troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled eastern borderlands.

Five Congolese soldiers were also killed in the attack and another 53 peacekeepers wounded.

“The commanders of the ADF are Ugandan citizens. A mechanism will be outlined so the two armies can share intelligence and carry out a coordinated operation,” said General Marcel Mbangu Mashita, a senior Congolese army commander in the east, Reuters reports.

Under the plan, Ugandan troops will not cross over into Congolese territory but instead be concentrated along the border.

MONUSCO has pledged to track down those responsible for the attack at its base despite not being involved in the bilateral talks between the Congolese and Ugandan officials.

Rival militia groups control parts of eastern Congo, long after the official end of a 1998-2003 war in which millions of people died, mostly from hunger and disease.

Congo and Uganda were enemies during that conflict and, in the years since, relations between the two countries have at times been strained.

Increased militia violence this year in the center and east comes as Congo faces a political crisis linked to President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down when his mandate expired last December.

The ADF is an Islamist group that has long been active along the border and has been blamed for a wave of massacres there over the past two years.

Since its leader Jamil Mukulu was arrested in 2015, it has been headed by Musa Baluku.

General Mashita said previous Congolese operations had succeeded in eliminating around a third of the ADF’s top commanders, but added that its ranks had been bolstered by escaped prisoners after a major prison break in June.