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Monday, May 4, 2015


The capture of Jamil Mukulu signals the demise of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels, currently holed up somewhere in eastern Congo and hopefully brings to a close a sad chapter in our country’s history.

When President Yoweri Museveni came to power in 1986 at the head of the rebel National Resistance Army (NRA) neighbouring states were understandably jittery.

"Regional leaders warned that the NRA would export its peculiar brand of revolution --- it was up to that point the only rebel army that had taken power on the continent through a protracted struggle...

In hindsight their fears seem to have come true with rebel movements in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan taking power. But the unintended consequence was also that the NRA came up against its own rebellions arguably spurred by their own success.

People in the NRA would take exception to these rebel movements – LRA and ADF being seen as their proteges, arguing that they have no popular ideology and have resorted to terror.

The LRA and ADF at their best have been hired guns, fighting proxy wars for Uganda’s enemies and at worst have been terror machines that have no attempt to win the people’s favour and cause disaffection towards government. This has lead people to dismiss their claims to be fighting Kampala.

Sympathisers of these two groups argue that they each have political programs, but it is hard to imagine that these can have been missed by the general public.

The LRA and ADF are an offshoot of the end of the cold war, when east-west ideological difference have given way to religious fundamentalism and the outright commercialisation of war.

For both parties 9/11 meant the world changed for them with terror being identified as a global phenomenon and triggering an international response against it.

"The greater international cooperation in intelligence, data collection and processing, as well as new legislation that has given governments all around the world greater leeway to pry into the private lives of their citizens  and the massive investments in the defence industry means such freelance movements would find their operations increasingly constricted....

The ultimate prize would be Jospeh Kony but Mukulu’s arrest in Tanzania, is a sign of how the world is changing for outlaws, especially those who do not provide any geo-political advantage to major players.

No longer will they be able to oppose one government while seek succour with another, their movement in and out of their theatre of operation, unfettered and unhampered.

With a joint UN force – including Tanzanian troops, siding with Uganda and ganging up against the ADF in eastern Congo it was only a matter of time before Mukulu was isolated, exposed and arrested.
With this increasing attention the only hope for the leaders of these outfits is surrender or fall off the radar and wait out the decade-long war on terror. Mukulu run out of time.

It is likely that others will rise to take over from Mukulu, but one can expect that their tenures will be short lived and end very badly.

However Mukulu’s capture and the imminent collapse of the group he has led for two decades does not take away from the underlying grievances that were used to justify and recruit for the ADF.

Youth unemployment and general poverty are the breeding ground for much civil unrest – see South Africa and Burundi. These disgruntled youth are easy to mobilise – even if they do not believe in the cause, with promises of wealth.

After more than a decade of the war against terror we are learning that it is all very well to depose the leaders we do not like and dismantle their apparatus of tyranny, but it is another thing to then generate economic growth for the benefit of the “liberated” people.

Failure here means we may continue in a perpetual vicious cycle of violence.

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