In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Ugandan army has been conducting a joint operation with the FARDC for more than three months in the eastern part of the country to fight the ADF, the deadliest armed group in the region.
With our special correspondent in Tchabi, Lucie Mouillaud
In the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, many villages, regularly attacked by the rebels, are now almost completely depleted of their population. This is the case with Tchabi, a town in southern Ituri, which is crossed by Ugandan army convoys where some residents hope to see their old quarter reborn.
In the middle of the desolate houses in this village of Tchabi, a dozen men are digging the foundation for a new building. “We are rebuilding the office of the Tchabi Principality, which has ceased operations for at least nine months. They want to resume administrative operations,” said Jacques.
Like the rest of the residents, Jacques left his home last year to take refuge in Bunia, after many attacks by suspected ADF. He is one of the first groups to return to the village a few days earlier. “This principality has 26 villages. Only one has begun to recover its population. We do not feel 100% safe yet. There are still ADF mounts about twenty kilometers from Tchabi “, he adds.
Residents hope that the new military presence in the area will enable people to return. Over the past month, Ugandan army convoys have passed through Tchabi regularly.
“The road between Haibale, Tchabi and Kainama is our second approach to the ADF. The joint forces must camp at Kainama, a little further away, to ward off the ADF, which has been terrorizing the population for a long time,” said Commander Peter Mugisa, spokesman for the operation.
The Ugandan soldiers, whose operations in northern Kivu began on November 30, have also been intervening in Ituri province since early February.
“The purpose of the operation is to destroy the ADF’s capacity”
No new report has been communicated by the Ugandans on the number of ADFs captured or killed since the start of their operations in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on 30 November. In the military base of Kainama, a city in the province of North Kivu, near Ituri, Major General Kayanja Muhanga, in charge of the Ugandan army’s operation, provides an update on the progress of interventions against the ADF.
RFI: What is the first assessment of your operations against ADF in the region?
Kayanja Muhanga: We drove them out of camps they had occupied for decades, in what in French is called the death triangle. This death triangle corresponds to the road from Kamango to Mukakati to Oicha, Eringeti and Boga. We are now moving, as the enemy has moved north [en Ituri] and crossed the road between Eringeti and Boga, towards Mambasa and Komanda. It is for this reason that we opened the second sector of the operation, where we are now. There are also some enemy groups in the south, in the Rwenzori region, and we have to deal with them in this sector as well.
Is the purpose of this intervention to keep the ADF as far away as possible from the Ugandan border?
Of course, the goal of the operation is to destroy ADF’s capacity and the strategic goal is of course to create a safe environment to be able to carry out peaceful exchanges between our two countries.
Is there not a risk of shifting the problem instead of solving it?
No, because we do not just want to push them away. Our goal is to destroy their camps and kill them. Our plan, with our allies, the FARDC, is for the Congolese army to block the enemy as they move north. We operate with FARDC, they follow us in mobile operations and when the enemy moves north, in areas where FARDC is already deployed, they will be able to block them. For example, the rebels cross the road between Eringeti, Irumu and Bunia. So FARDC is there. Their job is to stop them while our mobile forces follow and chase the ADF.
More than three months after the start of the operation, the ADF continues to attack villages in the UPDF’s intervention sectors. The latest example is Kikura, the night between 27 and 28 February, just a few kilometers from the Ugandan border. How do you explain that?
Yes, we had a number of attacks south of Nobili, in the Luanoli sector, but our joint forces on the ground responded. So far, we have found twelve rifles from ADF. We killed over twenty enemies in this area and captured three of them. We also killed a commander in the sector where they carried out attacks.