A former member of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militant group, which has carried out recent terrorist attacks in the Ugandan capital, says the Islamic-State alliance is using fear to lure its recruits.
“The group is governed by Sharia. If you steal, you lose your hand. If you rape a child you will die. changed to protect his name, he told the BBC.
He laughs horribly every time we talk – he seems to be getting away from the hardships he does.
The young man was drafted and spent two years as a fighter, witnessing amputation and beheading – sometimes by his friends.
The fear that this brought, as well as Islamic ideology and the establishment of links with the Islamic State (IS) group, have made the ADF a threat to Uganda again.
For years, the Ugandan government has said that the ADF is a total failure, but that does not seem to be the case.
Violence since October, including two suicide bombers in central Kampala, has killed at least eight people, including three terrorists, and injured more than 40 others.
The ADF was founded in the 1990s by Jamil Mukulu whose followers were Ugandans who did not like the government’s treatment of Muslims.
It was driven and evacuated west of the Rwenzori Mountains, where militants have been attacking villages and burning schools in the early 2000s.
The rest fled to the border, east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Initially, ADF militants there worked with local people to set up businesses, which made them popular with people around the town of Beni, according to a 2011 UN report.
But this changed when he started attacking the local Christians.
They were deceived into gangs
After this Peter living in Uganda decided to go to DR Congo in search of work. Someone had told him that there was money to be made there.
He only realized the real reason he was being dragged across the border when armed men came out of the jungle as they made their way deeper into DR Congo and ordered him to strike.
After being shot, Peter was enrolled in the ADF – even though the organization calls itself Madina in Tauheed Wau Mujahedeen (MTM), meaning City of Monotheism and Holy Warriors.
“I don’t have a moment to understand what’s going on. We took several modes of transport, including boats, before arriving at the training camp,” he told the BBC.
“When you arrive, they read the rules to you: if you try to escape you will be beheaded, if you refuse education you will be beheaded.”
Peter says MTM pledged allegiance to IS during the time of Abu Bakr Baghdadi.
He was also identified in 2014, announcing the establishment of a “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria – and led the group until 2019 when he committed suicide during the US war.
“We can do nothing, like attacking the battlefield, without receiving instructions from above,” says Peter.
“All soldiers know that their one leader is the leader of IS. They are Allah’s army.”
‘Fearless’ fighting children
Arranging the escape plan was difficult because it was impossible to work with anyone without fear of reprisals, he says.
In time, however, most of them volunteered for the job, viewing the AK-47 as “part of their body,” according to Peter.
Some of the most dedicated fighters were children between the ages of 10 and 15, he said.
“They are quick to dedicate themselves to the mission, they are not afraid, because they believe in the teachings of Janaah. [heaven]. Most are Congolese children, who were evicted from their homes during the genocide in the villages, “he said.
A study by the UN Joint Human Rights Office shows that between January 2019 and June 2020, 1,066 civilians were killed and 59 children were employed by the ADF in North Kivu and Ituri in DR Congo.
ADF was transformed into a global ideology with Musa Baluku, a Ugandan in his mid-40s receiving leadership.
His captors were arrested in 2015 in Tanzania, located near DR Congo and Uganda, and sent to Uganda for trial.
“Although Mukulu established the ADF with the aim of returning to Uganda to establish an Islamic state that would be jealous of terrorists with similar ideologies around the world, Baluku wanted the ADF to be part of a global military force,” a recent report said. of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism states.
In a video released on Mujahideen TV last year, Baluku declared: “There is no ADF. If Allah permits, ADF ceases to exist forever.
“Right now, we are a province, Central Africa Province, which is one of the many states that make up the Islamic State.”
Under its leadership, the agency is said to have secured funding opportunities through IS funding channels.
In addition, between 2016 and 2017, ADF posted more than 30 videos on IS social networking sites, featuring the MTM logo and indicating that it was now part of a global terrorist group.
When the Kangbayi prison in Beni was attacked in October 2020 and more than 1,000 prisoners were released, ADF and IS said they were in the lead.
Baluku, who was added to the UN Security Council sanctions list in August 2020, appears to have attracted militants from the Great Lakes region and beyond.
“The group’s goal is not just in Uganda,” says Peter.
“Their aim is for Islam to rule the world. There are Tanzanian, Kenyan, Rwandan, Burundian, Somali, and even Arab fighters,” the former warrior said.
Forgiveness for fighters
What is not clear about the recent terrorist attacks is whether the suicide bombers crossed the border or whether they were hired, trained and armed within Uganda.
The elders say they can make it through the country all over the world – from Rwenzori to Kampala, and as far as he can.
In the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks, the government has arrested more than 100 people and killed at least seven suspects.
It is also trying to persuade criminals to stop living a violent life.
Peter finally fled a few months ago and received pardon through the Amnesty Commission of Uganda, one of 23 ADF soldiers who had apologized since 2019.
She received a small renewal fund worth about $ 100 (£ 75).
But she has not received any psychological treatment or resuscitation and is struggling to find a stable job.
Matters like these make it difficult for government officials to crack down on extremist groups.