Allied Democratic Forces

Lord's Resistance Army Allied Democratic Forces insurgency National Army for the Liberation of Uganda

Allied Democratic Forces
Participant in Allied Democratic Forces insurgency and Kivu conflict
Flag of ADF.png
Flag of the ADF
LeadersJamil Mukulu (POW)
Musa Baluku[3]
Dusman Sabuni [4][5]
Size500 (in 2018)[6]
AlliesAPC (armed wing of RCD/K-ML)[7]
 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (suspected)[8]
Al-Shabaab (suspected)
Lord's Resistance Army[9]
Opponent(s) Uganda
 Democratic Republic of Congo
Battles and war(s)Allied Democratic Forces insurgency, Kivu conflict

The Allied Democratic Forces (French: Forces démocratiques alliées; abbreviated ADF) is a rebel group in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), considered a terrorist organisation by the Ugandan government.[10][11] It was originally based in western Uganda but has expanded into the neighbouring DRC.

Since the late 1990s, the ADF has operated in the DRC's North Kivu province near the border with Uganda. While repeated military offensives against the ADF have severely affected it, the ADF has been able to regenerate because its recruitment and financial networks have remained intact.[12] Some of the attacks it has been blamed for also appear to have been committed by other rebel groups as well as the Congolese Armed Forces.



The ADF was formed as merger of several rebel factions, including the Allied Democratic Movement, the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU), the Uganda Muslim Liberation Army, and militant members of the Tablighi Jamaat movement.[13][14] The main figure of the group was Jamil Mukulu, a former Catholic who converted to Islam. The members were largely from central Uganda, in particular Iganga, Masaka, and Kampala, and portray themselves as religious crusaders. Beyond this vaguely stated religious ideology and statements that the government discriminates against Tablighis, the ADF has given few coherent rationales for their insurgency. The ADF chose western Uganda apparently for three reasons: terrain that is ideal for a rural insurgency, proximity to the DRC where the rebels could set up bases and recruit fighters, and the presence of some Ugandan ethnic groups unfriendly to the government that could offer assistance. It received support from the government of Sudan, which was engaged in disputes with the government of Uganda.[10][15]

Further activity

Since the 2000s, the ADF has shown no commitment to its original goal of creating an Islamic state except to use it as a narrative to unite its members. By the late 2000s, its leaders had ceased making public proclamations, avoided media and harshly punished runaways. With their methods, the leadership managed to minimize any interactions that might reveal its objectives and activities. This also worked to their advantage, allowing them to survive despite repeated military attacks. While in-depth research explores the group's early years in Uganda, there has been hardly any in-depth academic analysis on its activities since it resurfaced in the Congo in 2010. Per Kristof Titeca, the lack of knowledge has also been exploited by some political players to craft the narratives for their own objectives.[16]

Beni killings

A report of The Congo Research Group at New York University, released in September 2017, indicted the Congolese Army commanders of orchestrating the massacres in Beni from 2014 to 2016. It cited multiple witnesses saying that army commanders, including the former top general in the zone, supported and in some cases organized the killings. Sources told it that during some massacres, soldiers secured the perimeter so that victims could not escape. It stated that the first massacres were orchestrated in 2013 by former leaders of the rebel group Popular Congolese Army (APC), which fought in the Congo War of 1998-2003 to create a new rebellion and undermine confidence in the central government of DRC. These rebels were working with ADF per the report. However, when the massacres began, the army commanders co-opted many of the networks of the local militias to weaken their rivals.[17]



2007 to 2008

During March 2007, the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) engaged incursive ADF groups in multiple firefights, killing at least 46 in Bundibugyo and Mubende districts. The biggest battle occurred on 27 March, when the UPDF faced an estimated 60 ADF troops and killed 34, including three senior commanders. The UPDF claimed to have retrieved numerous weapons as well as documents that tied the ADF to the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).[18]

On 13 April 2007, the UPDF and ADF engaged in an intense battle inside the Semuliki National Park, near the upscale Semliki Lodge tourist destination.[19]

Ceasefire and amnesty talks between the government of Uganda and the ADF were held in Nairobi starting in May 2008. Negotiations were complicated by the fragmentation of the ADF's leadership.[20] Non-combatant dependents of the ADF were repatriated to Uganda by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). At least 48 ADF fighters surrendered and were given amnesty.[21] As the threat from the LRA in the DRC waned, the UPDF put increasing focus on the ADF as a reason for UPDF personnel to remain in the DRC.[22]

2013 resurgence and current situation

2011 to 2013 - Several hundreds of people were kidnapped in Beni, some by ADF and some by other armed groups.[16]

In April 2013, it was reported that ADF started a recruitment campaign in Kampala and other parts of the country.[23] Citing a defector from ADF, reported that approximately ten new recruits joined ADF forces every day.[23]

In July 2013, the ADF renewed its fighting in the Congolese district of Beni. According to the UN Radio Okapi, the ADF together with the NALU fought a pitched battle with the Military of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), briefly taking the towns of Mamundioma and Totolito.[24] On 11 July, the ADF attacked the town of Kamango, triggering the flight of over 60,000 refugees across the border into the Ugandan district of Bundibugyo.[25]

Early in September 2013, regional leaders under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) asked the recently formed combative United Nations Force Intervention Brigade under the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to attack positions of foreign negative forces operating in the DRC, including the ADF.[26] In late September 2013, 3 people were killed and 30 abducted during an ADF attack in the Watalinga Sector, North Kivu, DRC.[26] Omar Kavota, the vice president and spokesman of the local civil society in North Kivu, condemned the abductions. According to the civil society, the abductees also included eight minors.

In January 2014, the FARDC launched a major offensive against ADF forces in Beni. By April, Mukulu and other senior leaders of the group fled their headquarters camp from approaching FARDC forces. The remaining ADF fighters– alongside women and children – retreated into the forest, where their numbers were significantly reduced in the following months as a result of starvation, desertion, and continued FARDC attacks.[12][27]

October to December 2014 - 250 people were killed for which ADF was solely blamed by the DRC government and MONUSCO. The Congo Research Group however stated that FARDC soldiers, former members of RCD–K/ML as well as members of communal militias were also involved.[16][28]

December 2014 to January 2015 - Three Muslim clerics were killed by unknown assailants. Six alleged ADF members were arrested. However, the government did not show any evidence for ADF links.[16]

March 30, 2015 - An Ugandan government spokesman had initially blamed ADF and then al-Shabaab for assassination of government prosecutor Joan Kagezi, without offering evidence in either case.[16]

In late April 2015, the ADF's leader, Jamil Mukulu, was arrested in Tanzania.[29] In July 2015, he was extradited to Uganda.[30] The ADF has since been led by "Sheikh" Musa Baluku.

As of November 2015, the number of attacks on Congolese forces continued, with weekly attacks of varying size taking place and killing more than 400 people in 2015, especially in the territories of Beni[31] (North Kivu) and Irumu[32] (Ituri).

The ADF have been blamed for the 2016 Beni massacre and also for an attack in North Kivu on December 7, 2017, which killed 15 UN peacekeepers, all Tanzanians, as well as 5 Congolese soldiers.[33]

Foreign involvement

The DRC government, citing civil society groups in North Kivu, says that Al-Shabaab fighters from Somalia are collaborating with the ADF.[34] Uganda has claimed that there is a link between them with al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda. In-depth reports have denied this link, stating that there is contact but not real integration. MONUSCO has also accused it of having extensive links to international terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, al-Shabab, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, Boko Haram and Taliban.[35] The Washington Post and World Policy Institute however have considered MONUSCO's single source as dubious.[35][36]

An Islamic State financier (Waleed Ahmed Zein) is also said to have paid the group at least once according to a report of the New York University’s Congo Research Group.[37]


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  5. ^ "Rebels are killing Tourism". Africa Intelligence. 20 November 1999. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  6. ^ "They Killed people Until They Got Tired". Vice News. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  7. ^ "THE BENI KILLINGS: OUR FINDINGS". Congo Research Group.
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  14. ^ Prunier, 87. See Kirsten Alnaes, "Songs of the Rwenzururu Rebellion," in P.H. Gulliver, ed., Tradition and Transition in East Africa (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969)
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  17. ^ Ross, Aaron. "Locked in power struggle, Congo army and militia massacred hundreds: report". Reuters.
  18. ^ Wikileaks Cable: Government Demands Action Against Ugandan Rebels In Congo. Embassy Kampala (Uganda): Wikileaks. 3 April 2007. Archived from the original on 14 November 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  19. ^ Wikileaks Cable: Uganda: Adf Clash With Updf Near Tourist Lodge. Embassy Kampala (Uganda): Wikileaks. 17 April 2007. Archived from the original on 14 November 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  20. ^ Wikileaks Cable: Nugandan Government Negotiations With Allied Democratic Forces. Embassy Kampala (Uganda): Wikileaks. 16 May 2008. Archived from the original on 16 December 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  21. ^ Wikileaks Cable: Uganda: 2009 Country Reports On Terrorism. Embassy Kampala (Uganda): Wikileaks. 21 December 2009. Archived from the original on 16 December 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
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  32. ^ "Ituri: 2 blessés graves après une attaque attribuée aux rebelles des ADF". Radio Okapi. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
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