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LRA, ADF on American terrorist list

[Uganda] Western Uganda, IDP children.
IDP children in western Uganda, where ADF activity has displaced tens of thousands of people (IRIN)

The US on Wednesday included the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) on its "Terrorist Exclusion List" designed to protect the safety of the country and its citizens under the new US Patriot Act.

In designating these groups, the US was strengthening its ability to exclude supporters of terrorism from the country or to deport them if they are found within its borders, said State Department spokesman Philip T Reeker.

Wednesday's version of the Terrorist Exclusion List would by no means be the last and Washington would continue to expand it as it identified and confirmed additional bodies providing support to terrorists, he added.

Reeker did not expand on the significance of the listing for the LRA and ADF, but said "the campaign against terrorism will be a long one, using all the tools of statecraft."

The US-led coalition again terror has concentrated its military "war on terror" against Saudi Arabian radical Usama bin Laden, suspected to have masterminded the 11 September terrorist attacks on new York and Washington, and the Taliban Islamic Movement of Afghanistan, which gave him refuge. There has been speculation in the American and British media, however, that it will soon broaden its focus of attack on terrorist groupings.

The LRA, led by Joseph Kony, has been fighting a guerilla-style war against Ugandan government forces since the late 1980s, ostensibly in a desire to have Uganda ruled according to the Ten Commandments of the Bible.

The ADF, operating from the Rwenzori Mountains in western Uganda and from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is a combination of rebels from the Tabliq Muslim sect and remnants of the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU).

Operating from rear bases in Sudan (and supported, at least until recently, by Sudan), the LRA has undertaken a campaign of terror in northern Uganda since the early 1990s - brutalising, killing, and looting the people of northern Uganda, abducting their children to act as fighters, sex slaves and porters for looted goods, and destroying their homes.

However, it has become increasingly isolated in recent months, as Ugandan-Sudanese relations have improved, including through the exchange of envoys by Kampala and Khartoum, according to humanitarian sources.

Reported splits between LRA commanders, with the LRA command in southern Sudan largely cut off from several units operating in northern Uganda, had further weakened the rebel movement but also meant that LRA soldiers on the Uganda side were having to loot villages and abduct adolescents for forced labour as their supply lines dried up, they said.

The independent Monitor newspaper in Uganda on Thursday reported that the LRA had killed two people and set 99 thatched houses on fire in two separate raids for internally-displaced people (IDPs) in Attiak and Attiak-Pawel, Gulu District, northern Uganda, at the weekend.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) claimed last week that the Sudanese government, rather than halting assistance to the LRA as it promised under the terms of a reconciliation agreement with Uganda, had reorganised, rearmed and shifted Joseph Kony's LRA rebels from Jabalayn to Torit near the Uganda border.

The LRA, along with remnants of the ADF [usually active in western and southwestern Uganda] were camped at Heliu, near Torit, according to SPLM/A spokesman Edward Lino Abyei. "They [the LRA and ADF] live in the same barracks with the mujahidin [Sudanese Islamic militias] and this is where they receive intensive fundamentalist Islamic orientation," he added.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni reminded the new Sudanese charge d'affaires in Kampala, Hasan Siraj-al-Din, during a recent meeting in Kampala that Uganda would greatly appreciate Khartoum relocating Kony from southern to northern Sudan, as had been agreed on by the two countries, Radio Uganda reported on 2 December.

Museveni told Siraj-al-Din that he wanted to see people in camps in Acholiland [Gulu, Kitgum and Pader districts], northern Uganda, resettled in their villages but that this could not be done with Kony in southern Sudan, it stated. The Sudanese envoy promised that he would deliver Uganda's message to his government in Khartoum, the report added.

The ADF, which has adopted radical Islam as an ideology, was born from a core group of puritanical Muslims from the Tabliq sect, whose members portray themselves as "Muslim evangelists". In Uganda, the Tabliqs claimed Muslims were being marginalised by the government. It emerged as a security threat in western and southwestern Uganda in November 1996, according to security and human rights sources.

Together with the obscure and largely defunct NALU, the Tabliqs moved to western Uganda to start a rebellion against the government under the ADF umbrella. They set up rear bases in neighbouring Congo where they began recruiting and training fighters with the promise of money and education. The ADF has few links and little support in western Uganda, and its leaders come from areas in central Uganda with strong Islamic ties, such as Iganga, Masaka and Kampala itself.

It also links up with the ex-Forces Armees Rwandaises (ex-FAR) and Rwandan Hutu Interahamwe militias operating from eastern DRC, and also cited in Wednesday's US terrorist listing, and is particularly active in the Bundibugyo area of western Uganda.

The ADF, in common with the LRA, has frequently committed atrocities against civilian populations, driving them from their homes and farms in the mountains into lowland towns, as well as attacking camps for these internally-displaced people (IDPs), and abducting men, women and children. The group significantly heightened its activities in 1998 - repeatedly attacking civilian targets, trading centers and Ugandan army forces, and causing hundreds of deaths.

Despite a significant offensive, "Operation Mountain Sweep", by the Ugandan army over the past few years, the ADP remain a force to be reckoned with, in terms of their ability to disrupt public life and cause mayhem if not to threaten the government, according to humanitarian sources.

The Sudanese envoy to the United Nations (UN), Elfatih Erwa, recently protested in a letter to the UN Security Council at what he called Uganda's "opportunistic and shameful exploitation of the issues of terrorism" to link Sudan with supporting the ADF, and linking the ADF in turn with the Islamic terrorist al-Qa'idah network.

In a letter dated 20 November and published by the UN on 27 November, he said Uganda was trying to take advantage of the US-led war on international terrorism to attract attention and gain favours for itself from Washington.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported in November that a lull in rebel movement and activity since June this year presented the Ugandan authorities and development partners with a valuable opportunity to consolidate peace and development.

However, after a nine-month period of peace in 1999, it warned, many aid agencies had pulled out or reoriented their programmes from relief to recovery, only to see thousands of Ugandans fleeing back to protected villages when rebel groups resumed their attacks.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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