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Uganda president says ex-Congo leader gave sanctuary to Islamist rebels

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UGANDA’S President Yoweri has accused a former leader from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, of giving sanctuary to Islamist fighters and allowing them to exploit minerals and timber and use the proceeds to build their strength.

A former Uganda-based rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS) in 2019, has been operating in the jungles of the east of neighbouring Congo for years, carrying out killings of both civilians and security personnel.

Last month, fighters from the group crossed the border into Uganda, stormed a secondary school and massacred 42 people, mostly students. Some were burned alive.

Museveni referred to the attack in a speech late on Thursday and said the ADF had been able to expand and set up big camps in eastern Congo under Kabila’s government.

“The Congo government of H.E. Kabila, supported by some regional and international actors, gave them free tenancy in North Kivu and Ituri,” Museveni said, referring to Congolese provinces.

“They were mining gold, selling timber, harvesting people’s cocoa, collecting taxes, extorting money from people, etc. They were modestly growing and with money.”

Kabila was Congo’s president from 2001 to 2019.

In 2021, Uganda, with permission from Congo’s incumbent leader Felix Tshisekedi, launched a military operation with the Congolese army to try to defeat the insurgents.

That operation, Museveni said, had successfully broken up most ADF camps and the rebels had split up into small groups that were hard to detect, occasionally slipping into Uganda to carry out attacks on civilians.

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“We quickly degraded their strength and they have now … fled to beyond our limit of exploitation line,” he said.

A U.N. group of experts, however, said last month the ADF was expanding operations in Congo with funding from IS despite the joint operations against them by the combined Ugandan and Congolese militaries.