The Ugandan military forces will maintain a high level of alertness, strengthen its defence capabilities and a maintain an “offensive spirit” in the wake of the growing security threat posed by the energized rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), multiple defence officials said Friday afternoon.
This came after armed ADF militants put up and sustained a stiff resistance against a joint force of UN peacekeepers and Congolese troops in the Northern part of Beni, killing seven blue helmets.
In a previous battle, ADF took out 10 Tanzanian peacekeepers.
This week, according to United Nations, several Congolese soldiers were killed while peacekeepers were taken out of the battlefield with sustained injuries.
Uganda has since preserved a heavy deployment of Special Forces, regular units, armoured combat vehicles and intensified intelligence gathering operations along the border.
Ugandan Defence Spokesperson Brig Richard Karemire told ChimpReports on Friday afternoon that “UPDF will remain alert on our border and ready as always to protect lives and property of our people.”
Since Monday, intense fighting has been raging in Beni, North Kivu, about 94 kilometers from the Ugandan border, alarming the international community.
According to a UN statement, 6 Malawian and 1 Tanzanian peacekeepers were killed “during joint operations carried out by MONUSCO and FARDC (Congolese forces) against ADF,” adding, “Initial reports indicate that additional peacekeepers were wounded, and another one is missing.”
It further indicated that several FARDC and an unknown number of ADF fighters were also reportedly killed or wounded during the operation.
Officials say one of the most intense fighting occurred on November 10, 2018 in Boyikine, Beni, lasting almost the entire day.
Unshaken, the ADF fighters exchanged fire with FARDC till around 11:00pm.
This has raised concerns about the sustainable source of ammunition and heavy weaponry for ADF to take on a better equipped UN Force.
While ADF has previously overran FARDC military bases hence looting guns and ammunitions from armouries, their ability to sustain conventional warfare has left many puzzled.
During the heated battle in Boyikine, FARDC soldiers chased a soldier they said was at the rank of a Colonel from a neighboring country.
“That Colonel and his men were killing people,” said a FARCDC officer.
“We chased one of them. We wanted to kill him. He even left his shoe behind.”
We couldn’t independently verify the nationality of the alleged Colonel.
As of Friday, officials said, there was mounting evidence of collaboration between ADF and external groups in terms of supply of logistics, training and sharing intelligence.
In December 2017, UPDF carried out long range and aerial bombardments of ADF camps in DRC, killing hundreds of fighters.
The group’s ability to regroup and mount such an attack on a well-equipped UN force in less than a year appears to feed into the fears that ADF is being propped up by external funders.
Currently, ADF and its allies control major roads, social services and vital buildings in Beni.
The rebels are literally in charge of business in the town as they levy tax on traded goods.
The United Nations is hesitant to admit this embarrassing situation considering the body spends more than $1bn per annum on the DRC mission.
A ChimpReports investigation shows ADF militants last month managed to push UN Forces and FARDC out of Beni, creating a vacuum which has been partly occupied by the foreign militants.
In an attempt to save face following the humiliating defeat in Beni, UN forces a few days ago mounted an attack to reclaim the Town only to be met with hardened combatants and mortars.
In New York, Uganda’s Envoy to United Nations, Adonia Ayebare, wondered: “How long can this continue?”
He said it was high time the stakeholders reexamined the “whole strategy” against ADF.
“The solution is effective cooperation between Uganda and DRC forces,” said Amb Ayebare on Twitter.
Speaking to ChimpReports, Ayebare said “killing peacekeepers is a war crime.”
He said the ADF attacks “vindicates Uganda’s position that ADF is a threat to regional peace and security.”
Asked how serious the rebels threat was to Uganda, Brig Karemire responded: “The ADF activities have been in the areas North of Beni, far away from our common border with DRC.”
Pressed to speak on reports that ADF were gaining unprecedented battlefield experience which could embolden them to attack Uganda, Brig Karemire said: “The ADF will never out match UPDF capability and therefore pose no significant threat to national security. Our people should rest assured of security.”
In the mid 1990s, ADF, whose strength is now estimated at 2,000 attacked Uganda from DRC only to be pushed back by the UPDF.
ADF’s Supreme leader, Jamil Mukulu remains behind bars at Luzira Prison on charges of terrorism, murder and kidnap.
Brig Karemire said “UPDF maintains a defensive posture but with an offensive spirit while maintaining a constructive engagement with FARDC leadership on how to eliminate this common enemy.”