Congolese armed forces known by the acronym, FARDC, have forcefully reopened the Mbau-Kamango road in North Kivu, Eastern DRC, as it plans massive military operations against the terrorist, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
The road was closed two years ago to protect civilians from ADF which operates in the areas of Mbau, Eringeti and Kamango – also known as the “death triangle.”
Sokola 1 operations spokesperson, Mak Hakuzah said the reopening of the critical road was aimed at “facilitating impending operations” in areas controlled by ADF.
He added: “Our soldiers have been attacked by ADF who lay ambushes along this road.”
The number of violent incident linked to ADF tripled in 2018, to 132 from 38 in 2017.
Fatalities doubled to 415 over the same period.
This includes the killing of peacekeepers from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), as well as civilians along the DRC/Uganda border.
In all, the deaths of 700 civilians have been attributed to the ADF since 2014.
President Museveni last year revealed that the recent high profile murders including that of Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi, several Muslim clerics and prosecutor Joan Kagezi “have been linked to the ADF.”
The Congolese armed forces have in recent months conducted military operations against Rwanda National Congress (RNC) rebels in South Kivu and FDLR in the North.
It remains unclear if the attacks on ADF will be effective considering the rebels usually abandon their camps weeks before such operations only to regroup and return to their bases later.
The Congolese forces usually employ long range artillery to shell the rebels’ positions. The ground forces rarely enter forests to flush out the militants.
Hazukay warned civilians against using the reopened road, saying it remained dangerous.
“Civilians should not attempt to use this road at the moment,” he observed on Monday night.
Al Qaeda links
According to the African Centre for Strategic Studies, recent reports suggest ADF is attempting to forge ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Its flag incorporates a new name, Madina at Tauheed Wau Mujahedeen (“City of Monotheism and Holy Warriors”). Documents and videos seized during MONUSCO operations suggest that it is currently focusing on establishing a caliphate in the region.
The movement in recent years has also vigorously enforced strict Islamic law in its strongholds in the DRC and sought to radicalize and increase its recruitment of Congolese Muslims.
The growing prominence of ISIS-inspired narratives in ADF propaganda videos coincide with efforts by the ADF to return to its Salafi roots so that it could exploit Jihadi-Salafi networks in East Africa.
These efforts increased after its dramatic loss of territory in the wake of a series of military offensives by Ugandan, Congolese, and UN forces and the capture of its charismatic leader, Jamil Mukulu, in Tanzania in 2015.
He is currently being held in Uganda on charges of mass murder, terrorism, and crimes against humanity at the Special War Crimes Division of the Ugandan High Court.