Countries in the Great Lakes Region will at the end of January set up a military intelligence base in Kasese, Uganda, to monitor “negative forces” in eastern Congo.
The Joint Follow-up Mechanisms (JFM) comprising 12 military intelligence officers from all the countries of the Great Lakes Region will be based at the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda to monitor the Ugandan rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which has been accused of recruiting from the entire region after forging links with terror groups Al Shabaab and Boko Haram.
The executive secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) Zachary Muburi-Muita told The EastAfrican that efforts to get rid of negative forces in eastern DRC have suffered because of lack of permanent intelligence and monitoring.
The JFM was launched at an ICGLR defence ministers’ meeting in Kampala last year. It was supposed to be inaugurated in December, but was pushed to January because of the festive season.
Mr Muita said that the Islamic-leaning ADF is regrouping by recruiting young men from mosques with the promise of being taken to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
“These negative forces are being sustained by illegal exploitation of mineral resources through international links and are also enjoying political support from some governments in the region, who use them as proxies,” he said.
The United Nations peacekeepers and the Intervention Force comprising troops from Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa have been unable to neutralise these groups.
Initially, ADF comprised Ugandans and Congolese, but recent arrests have revealed that there are recruits from other countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda.
Towards the end of last year, the group increased its attacks on civilians around Beni in eastern DRC.
Other negative forces in eastern DRC are the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the M23 who were defeated in 2014. The M23, who say they are no longer a military force, are demanding that the issues that led them to take up arms be addressed, with new reports that some of their commanders have gone back to the bush.
Mr Muita said that the ICGLR is also concerned that about 80,000 South Sudanese refugees in DRC — some of whom are former fighters of Dr Riek Machar — could become a new front to fight the government of President Salva Kiir.
“While they have been disarmed by the UN and placed in camps, they still retain the skills to use weapons and there is a danger that they could become the latest addition to negative forces in DRC. We want to stay ahead of them by continuously monitoring their movements,” said Mr Muita.