Metamorphosis of a Terrorist Outfit: From ADF Under a Moderate Cleric with Political Ambition Jamil Mukulu to ISCAP Led by a Violent Extremist Musa Baluku
Since the late 1990s, the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) has carried out brutal massacres, kidnappings, and lootings in the area, often in collaboration with other local militias and leaders, and is one of the deadliest armed groups in the Kivus. Given the lack of prominent defections, its strict internal discipline, and lack of public communications, it has been difficult to understand its motives, internal structure, and bases of support. This report gives a rare glimpse into the organization.
Between 2016 and 2017, a member of the ADF posted at least 35 videos on private social media channels – Telegram, Facebook, and YouTube. Based on events either mentioned or carried out within the videos, we can infer that they were probably recorded some time during 2016 and 2017. The videos portray ADF attacks, medical care for their wounded, martial arts exhibitions, indoctrination of children, and propaganda messages.
The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) became the Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP) in 2018.
In short, ADF mainstream headed by Musa Seka Baluku following the April 2015 arrest in Tanzania of the group’s co-founder Jamil Mukulu, is now an affiliate of the Islamic State and focused on establishing a caliphate in eastern Africa, according to multiple security and intelligence agencies.
And that presents Uganda, the group’s birth place, a new security conundrum distinct from the conventional warfare of known frontline or geographic concentration that can be shelled with motor, overwhelmed with air firepower or encircled with pincer movement.
Baluku, an Islamic scholar of sorts, held a high reputation as the group’s most senior cleric and in that capacity presided over its Sharia courts, dispensing punishment and favours, justice and rewards. Thus, he built his own power base of loyal fighters.
When Tanzanian forces seized Jamil Mukulu, born David Steven, and turned him over to Uganda to face trial on a plethora of capital offences, Baluku became a natural successor.
Once in-charge, and unlike incarcerated Mukulu who held political ambitions that moderated his beliefs and somewhat his violence, Baluku manifestly disposed to violent extremism.
This, according to highly-placed security sources, explains why he lurched ADF into Islamic State’s embrace when Mukulu spurned similar offers from the Sudan government under Omar al-Bashir and Somalia’s al-Shabaab.
From inside Luzira Maximum Security Prison in Kampala, Mukulu reportedly found a clandestine method to exercise residual command and control over ADF until Baluku reportedly married his daughter Sophie, and allegedly killed her alongside one of Mukulu’s sons.
The purging instilled fear, eroded tribal fights within the rank and file and tightened Baluku’s stranglehold over the mainstream ADF, which is reported to be recruiting on one-on-one basis in his Kasese home district, Isingiro and other western-flank districts straddling north to West Nile border with DRC’s Ituri province.
In a March 2021 report for George Washington University’s Program on Extremism titled, Islamic State in Congo, Tara Candland et al note that ADF’s dealings with IS may have started in 2017 before its formalisation in 2018 upon which IS’s central media units broadcast an April 2019 attack in DR Congo as the works of their Central Africa Province.
“There is no ADF anymore. Allah willing, ADF ceased to exist a long time ago. [...] Currently, we are a province, the Central Africa Province which is one province among the numerous provinces that make up the Islamic State that is under the Caliph and Leader of all Muslims...Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi,” the authors write, quoting ADF leader Baluku’s comments in a Mujahideen Television video released in September 2020.
And in March, this year, the United States confirmed that the Ugandan rebel band had subsumed under the global IS terror network, posing a threat to Uganda and other countries in the Great Lakes Region. That danger was manifest when Rwanda, Uganda’s southwestern neighbour that shares border with DR Congo, announced that its security forces on October 1 arrested 13 suspects assembling IEDs and “investigations have revealed that the terror cell worked with Allied Democratic Forces (ADF)”.
The group’s atrocities in DRC, whose eastern enclave is less governed, have risen since Baluku assumed full command and control amid an expanding territorial reach of its sleeper cells.
A day after the Komamboga explosion, Islamic State’s media posted that “ISCAP DR-Congo cell in Uganda has conducted a second terror attack in Kawempe area of the capital Kampala”.
A 20-year-old waitress, identified posthumously as Emily Nyinaneza, succumbed to injuries of Saturday’s blast at Uncle Sam’s and Ronnie’s Pork joints in Kampala’s Kawempe Division, although the terror group said its attack had claimed two lives.
Earlier, ISCAP claimed responsibility of an October 8, 2021 explosion as its first attack on the Ugandan soil, noting that it targeted a “crusader Uganda police” and injured its personnel besides damaging the post.
Uganda Police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad raced to the scene soon after the attack, but the Force afterwards remained wishy-washy about the incident.
Then the United Kingdom issued a “very likely” terror attack alert on October 14, which Uganda Police downplayed. It declined to raise the terror alert level days before the October 23 blast at the pork eateries near the more popular Digida hangout patronised by soldiers, police and covert operatives, among others.
Yet, about a fortnight ago, joint Ugandan security forces had in various sting operations rounded up a dozen men from Paidha in Zombo, the western Kasese District and Njeru in eastern Uganda, whom they have detained and are interrogating over alleged ADF links.
Inside the ADF-turned-ISCAP
Musa Baluku – Amir of ADF
Musa Baluku became the Amir of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in 2015 and is considered by most to be the final decision-maker within the ADF in Congo. He is a historical member—part of the first generation of ADF members who joined in the 1990s—and was with the group when it moved from Uganda to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the late 1990s. He has occupied various roles, one of the most important being the ADF’s chief Islamic judge who is responsible for deciding punishments according to the Sharia law, for ADF members who break the group’s rules. He is also referred to by the acronym of ‘PC,’ which is derived from the country’s army NRA (later UPDF) which had a political commissar to educate and teach the party ideology to the masses and within the army. Being a political commissar entails leading daily preaching in the camps. He openly preaches about the virtues of dying for jihad and that cohabitating with polytheists or infidels is a sin. He is notoriously violent, presiding over beheadings, crucifixions, and death by firing squad.
He has consolidated power within the group since Jamil Mukulu, the former leader of the ADF, was arrested in Tanzania in 2015 and has continued Mukulu’s campaign of violence against the civilian population that neighbors the group’s jungle camps. One notable difference in his leadership style is that he has allowed members of the ADF to post messages to social media in an attempt to increase foreign recruitment. Musa is a Ugandan of the Mukonjo tribe, which differs from most ADF commanders who hail from the Busoga region of Uganda and are therefore from the Musoga tribe. He was formerly an imam at Malakaz, a Tabligh mosque in Kampala. He has taken both Ugandan and Congolese women as a wives. Within the group he is most often referred to as a sheik and resides in the main camp, known as Medina. Medina refers to the area and all camps within Eringeti areas north of the road Mbau-kamango.
Lukwago Rashid Swaibu Hood – Army Commander
Alias: Huudu, Pierro, London
Hood Lukwago is considered to be the commander of ADF army and the second most senior ADF member behind Baluku. Like Baluku, Lukwago is a historical member and is part of the group that moved from Uganda to DRC. Jamil Mukulu appointed Lukwago as the army commander around 2004, meaning that he is ultimately in charge of ADF fighters’ operational deployments.
Lukwago is part of the Muganda tribe from the central region of Uganda and formerly from Bwaise in Kampala. He appeared in historical footage with Jamil Mukulu when the latter visited the camp in 2007.
Kayiira Muhammad is an ADF historical and deputy commander of the group. He is currently the chief of combat operations. Previously, he was Abdallah Kabanda’s second-in-command when Kabanda was Amir of the ADF. Kayiira has in the past been in charge of ADF finances and administration, including responsibilities for camp security, feeding, the allotment of wives, and organising patrols. He is also responsible for some of the group’s early attacks against civilians. He reportedly approved looting along the Kasindi-Beni highway in 2003 and has given orders to kill civilians who were suspected of collaborating with the Congolese army, the FARDC. He trained new recruits to use the ADF’s DShK 12.7MM AAC, also known as a 50 caliber anti-aircraft machine gun.
Kayiira is well educated, having completed at least high school in Uganda. He is a Muganda who hails from Mbale, in the Eastern region of Uganda, and has a wife and family in the bush camps in DRC. Although he was reported to have been killed by the FARDC in February of 2018, subsequent reporting on the group indicates that Kayiira is still alive.
Musa Kibuye Barau
Musa Kibuye Barau is a field commander in charge of Canada camp, eponymously named for Barau’s alias. The ADF uses Canada camp as a transit point for recruits who are being trafficked from the group’s southern base, Mwalika, to the northern bases around Eringeti. Previously, Barau was in charge of the training camp in Mwalika. He was also responsible for training Congolese civilians, among others, who had been forcefully conscripted into the ADF and would ensure that abductees did not escape. He is a historical member of the ADF. One of his first positions was in the armory, and he helped hide the ADF’s munitions in the Rwenzori mountains while the group was based there in the 1990s. Consequently, Barau was one of the three leaders sent in 2002 and again in 2006 to retrieve munitions. He led a particularly deadly ambush in 1999 near the Lhume town against Ugandan troops that killed dozens and wounded dozens more. He also oversaw the ADF’s poaching campaign in Virunga National Park in the early 2000s, when the group would kill buffalo and elephants and sell the ivory to fund their group.
Barau is a Muganda from Uganda and has a family in the ADF camps. He also acts as a judge who presides over court martials.
Nasser Abdu Hamid Diiru
Nasser Abdu Hamad Diiru, commonly known as Kikute, is the current second-in-command at Camp Mwalika. As recently as 2016, he was the chief of combat operations. Before being transferred to Mwalika, he was briefly stationed at Camp Braida, named for the ADF logistician. During Sukola I and II, Hamid saw direct action on the battlefield when the FARDC launched an offensive operation against the ADF’s jungle camps. Hamid is a historical member of the group and served previously in the armory before being a battalion commander at Mwalika from 2004 to 2005.
Hamid is a Muganda from the Buganda part of Uganda.
Alias: Simba Amigo, Mzee Amigo, Marine, Robert
Amigo Kibirige is the overall commander of Camp Mwalika, sometimes referred to as Amigo camp, the southern ADF base that is used as a training camp for foreign recruits and medical headquarters for sick and wounded fighters. His primary responsibilities in the camp are coordinating transportation of foreign recruits to the camp, organizing and receiving support from external networks, and acquiring supplies for the group. Amigo is a historical member and spent 1998 to 1999 in the group’s base in the Rwenzori mountains, near Mutwanga, where he was in charge of gathering food for Kabanda’s family. He remained close to Kabanda after completing that assignment and stayed with him at the ADF’s tactical headquarters until at least 2004, where he helped loot food from villages.
In 2007, Amigo was chosen to participate in a special forces training led by Kasadha, Werasson, and Katusha. The participants trained to become commandos, proficient in advanced military techniques and administrative skills. Jamil Mukulu reportedly attended their graduation ceremony. Subsequently, Amigo participated in various operations, including leading an operation—ordered by Kayiira—to loot along the Beni-Kasindi highway. He also reportedly participated in the deadly attack against civilians in Kamango town in 2013.
Amigo was born with a physical deficiency, causing his left shoulder to protrude much higher than his right. He has had at last three wives while in the ADF, with his current wife being an ADF historical member. He is well liked within the organization. Amigo is from the Masaka region of Uganda, but he is believed to be of Rwandan origin.
Alias: Fezza, Feeza, Mulalo
Elias Sugujja, notoriously known in Beni and Butembo territories as Fezza, is a field commander who has reportedly led or taken part in multiple deadly attacks against the civilian population. He currently heads a mobile camp in the Mayangosi forest along the Kasindi-Beni highway, where he is charged with creating insecurity along the highway to drive away civilians and FARDC when the ADF needs to transit between its southern camps and those in Eringeti. In 2013, Elias led an attack against a group of FARDC soldiers who were escorting civilians along the Kamango road. Under his command, the ADF killed a number of the soldiers and civilians—including by beheading—and burned the armored UN vehicles they were using for transportation. In addition to these attacks, Elias is quick to mete out punishm`ent against any perceived offense from civilians. He has been known to order canings for civilians who did not demonstrate enough deference to the ADF, and he had given orders to kill civilians who were suspected of collaborating with the FARDC. He also reportedly ordered the hanging of a group of pygmies that he found on ADF territory. Elias has also served as the chief of combat and operations, and he worked with the artillery before becoming a commander.
Elias is willing to go to the frontline with his soldiers and allows them to loot whatever they can carry. Consequently, he is quite popular amongst the group’s rank and file. He has had at least two wives in the bush, and had twins with his first wife. He is Ugandan and a historical member of the group.
Dr. Amisi Kasadha
Alias: Kalume, Muzamir Kiribaki
Amisi Kasadha is in charge of the medical wing of the ADF and is a senior instructor for fighters based in the northern ADF camps. He was one of the three instructors that administered the special forces training in 2007. Kasadha is a historical member of the group, joining when the ADF occupied camps in the Rwenzori mountains. During that period, he acted as a division intelligence officer and subsequently served as director of military intelligence from 2004 to 2008, covering both internal and external security matters. He has also been the group’s deputy army commander and has been a political commissar since his time in the Rwenzoris.
Allegedly, Kasadha has a history of attacking civilians. In 2002, he headed a group that was in charge of looting near Beni. In 2003, he is believed to have beheaded civilians who wandered near the ADF camps in Eringeti to prevent them from informing the FARDC of the group’s position. In 2006, he reportedly hanged civilians in the Eringeti region when the civilians returned to their houses after the ADF drove them out.
Kasadha can be seen in an ADF video from 2007 instructing fighters in mock ambush tactics and patrol formations. He is a Musoga from the Busoga region of Uganda. He has had multiple wives in the bush—at least three of which were abductees—and has at least two children. He is reportedly very close to Baluku.
Alias: Richard Muzei
Richard Mugisha is a battlefield commander and the stepson of former ADF leader, Jamil Mukulu. He is reportedly the commander of Camp Bango, one of three camps that makes up the group’s headquarters in the Medina complex. Richard remained behind in DRC in 2014 after his father fled the camps due to an FARDC offensive. He was reportedly a contender for leadership of the ADF after his father was captured in 2015, but Musa Baluku was able to consolidate power before Richard could assume control. Nevertheless, Richard remains influential within the group. Richard allegedly participated in the 2014 hit on FARDC Colonel Mamadou, which was ordered by Jamil himself. In 2007, Richard participated in the commando special force training with Amigo and other important ADF members. He also filmed ADF propaganda footage, where he can be seen standing next to Mukulu. He joined the group in 2003 or 2004.
Richard, who is of Rwandese origin, is a talented artist and is social and well liked. He completed elementary school in the United Kingdom and is well educated. He has two wives and multiple children with both. He is tall and one of the more moderate Muslims in the group. He was reportedly beheaded after defying orders and trying to assume power from Musa Baluku.
Benjamin is in charge of intelligence, finances, and supplies within the ADF. Benjamin is the son of Bwambale Kisokeranio, the leader of the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU), a Ugandan rebel group based in DRC that was fighting against the Ugandan government. NALU eventually merged with the ADF, until the former brokered a peace agreement with the Ugandan government. Although other NALU members took advantage of the agreement to return home, Benjamin, who grew up in the bush, decided to stay behind with the ADF and converted to Islam.
Benjamin acted as a go-between for the ADF/NALU and their benefactors in Sudan. He reportedly worked with Hassan al Turabi, an influential hardline politician in Sudan, and helped facilitate the first transfer of weapons from Sudan to the ADF in the mid-1990s. While in Sudan, he also received training in improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Eventually, however, the Sudanese government withdrew its support, and Benjamin transitioned to being one of Jamil Mukulu’s guards and helping with the ADF’s finances. He was often the one trusted with communicating Jamil’s orders to the rest of the group and was trusted with helping to bring two of Jamil’s sons from Kenya to the ADF camps.
Benjamin, a Mukonjo from the Kasese district of Uganda, has a sister in Kampala who helped the ADF transport recruits across the border to their DRC bases. He is considered a historical, although by an unconventional route. He has two wives and several children. Benjamin acts as judge in the ADF courts alongside Baluku and other top members.
Katembo, better known as Rafiki, is a military drills instructor. He is a highly skilled fighter and tactician, which has earned him influence within the ADF. He is the son of a former NALU leader, Kihalasu, who left the group in 2007 when Jamil gave permission for anyone who wanted to walk away from the fighting. Although Katembo started as part of the group that looted food, he took advantage of being in the main camp to observe and master the military training given there, which allowed him to advance within the group. He was made an instructor in 2006 when the ADF saw an influx of new recruits, and has spent most of his time since in the camps rather than being sent out on missions.
Although Katembo was born in Congo and grew up in the bush, he is from the Mukonjo tribe and his family is from Kasese district in Uganda. His family was Christian, but Katembo and his sister converted to Islam in the late 1990s when he was a young teenager. Consequently, he and his sister decided to stay with the ADF after their family left. He has a wife in the bush. He is described as short and shy but friendly.
Ssebuliba, known more commonly as Werasson, is a tactical instructor who is well-versed in military drills. He was second-in-command to Amigo at Mwalika camp until March 2018 when he was recalled to Medina, presumably to train soldiers there. He is a historical member, recruited in the mid-1990s. During his early years in the group, he was part of Yusufu Kabanda’s Presidential Guard Brigade and remained at the tactical headquarters—then called Gbadolite after Mobutu’s extravagant jungle palace—with Kabanda. He was one of the three instructors that administered the special forces training in 2007.
Werasson is seen as a loyal soldier to Baluku, being easy to control and therefore highly trusted. Nevertheless, he prefers to spend most of his time with the youth rather than the leaders, including the abductees and recruits from Congo. Consequently, Werasson speaks Kinande, the language spoken by the Nande community in Congo. This is a rare skill, as Luganda is the main language in the camps, followed by Swahili. He walks with a limp from being shot in the left leg during an ambush on December 26, 2005, and is described as tall and slim, with high shoulders and sunken eyes. He is a Muganda from the Masaka district of Uganda, but one of his parents is reportedly Rwandan. He is married to a Congolese abductee and has at last one son by a previous wife. He is close friends with Kayiira.
Braida is responsible for gathering food for the ADF from villages. This means that he must keep an inventory of what type of food is in which villages so that he knows exactly where to lead troops when they need something. In the beginning, the ADF would buy the food from civilians, but they turned to looting when their funds began to run low. In his current role, Braida reportedly helps to identify civilians who do not show ADF soldiers the proper respect or who are suspected FARDC or UN collaborators, which he then reports so that ADF fighters can be sent to kill them. He currently heads a small camp in Mapubu.
Braida is a Musoga from Busoga region in Uganda. He is married to a Congolese women who was lured into joining the group in early 2000s and has at least a son and a daughter. He is considered one of the more radical members of the group.
Jamil Ibrahim Muzanganda is the head of the armory, a role he has held since the 1990s. This means that Muzanganda is responsible for keeping track of hidden weapons that the ADF has deposited in various locations. Therefore, he is not allowed to participate in fighting and is kept well protected within the camps, for fear that the group will lose its weapons caches. Nevertheless, Muzaganda excels as a sharpshooter and was in charge of firearms training in 2007 when Jamil declared that everyone, including Jamil himself, had to improve their aim. He was part of the group that was trained as commandos in 2007. As with Werasson, he sustained a leg injury during the ambush on December 26, 2005.
Muzanganda was a successful businessman who imported cars from Japan before joining the ADF in the early 1990s. Although already a practicing Muslim, he would pretend to be a pastor during his first few years with the group in order to help Christian recruits feel more at ease. The ADF was fairly discreet about its members’ Muslim faith until 2000, which allowed it to attract Christian followers as well. Muzanganda is a Muganda from Kampala. He is based at Camp Medina.
Alias: Mzee Butambala
Muhammad Butambala is a political commissar and a member of the Supreme Court, alongside Baluku, Benjamin, and a few other influential leaders. He is reportedly a skilled interrogator who ruthlessly cross-examine witnesses. Butambala is based in Camp Medina and rarely participates in military missions. It is believed that he helped to draft the ADF’s rules and regulations in 2007, alongside Jamil, Baluku, Kayiira, Hood, and others.
Butambala joined the ADF in the early 1990s, and his wife is also a historical. Butambala is an older man among the group—perhaps in his fifties—and is considered one of the more radical adherents of Islam who permits no deviations in his interpretation of the Quran. He is a Muganda from Butambala district in Uganda.
Toyo is the leader of small, mobile camp that in charged with patrolling and causing terror along the Eringeti-Oicha highway. Previously, he was responsible for ambushing civilians and FARDC units in the area around the historical Medina camp, until the FARDC Sukola II campaign forced them to relocate. Toyo was born in Rugetsi, DRC. He was abducted from the Mutwanga region of DRC in the late 1990s, when he was seven or eight years old, and then taken to the Rwenzoris for training. Toyo was made Kayiira’s bodyguard when the ADF left the Rwenzori camps in 2002 and became one of Baluku’s bodyguards in 2006.
Toyo is a nickname derived from “Toyota,” so given because he moves fast and reliably and can reach any destination. He is married Katembo’s sister, Kabugho. He was reportedly crucified in the early 2010s by using ropes to tie him to a tree. The charge against him was trying to have sex with a woman other than his wife. He survived for three to four days, after which Jamil ordered him cut down and said that Allah had accepted his repentance.
Alias: Katusha, Tiger
Jaberi Ansa is a field commander, member of the artillery, and the chief instructor of the ADF. Rather than being based at the Mwalika training camp, however, he generally oversees the instruction of fighters after they have finished the basic training and have moved to Medina. He was one of the three instructors that administered the special forces training in 2007. Jaberi was temporarily appointed army commander by Jamil Mukulu in 2013 when Hood did not follow a briefing that Jamil gave.
Jaberi is known by the nom de guerre Katusha, which references a Russian-made rocket from which he sustained an injury from when fighting UPDF in 1996. He can be seen in footage from 2007 leading ADF fighters in ambush and infiltration techniques. Jaberi is a Muganda from Buganda region of Uganda. He is married with at least two children and is described as jolly and well liked. He may have been killed in action, but these reports remain unconfirmed.
Alias: PC Waswa
Waswa is a political commissar and a judge on the lower courts who helps to mediate minor internal disputes. He serves as a doctor when more qualified practitioners are not available. Waswa received three to four months of medical training in 2006 when Mutebi—the ADF member in charge of education—brought a group of Ugandan doctors into the camps to train select ADF members.
A practicing Muslim, he joined the group willingly in the early 1990s. Before joining, Waswa was a businessman who imported goods from Tanzania and used those skills to coordinate the transportation of goods and to negotiate local agreements. Notably, Waswa negotiated the relationship between the ADF and the Supreme Chief of the Nande tribe, Sulaiman. With Sulaiman’s help, Waswa also brokered a peace agreement between the ADF and the APC, a faction of the Congolese military that controlled North Kivu and was trying to overthrow the central government. The agreement lasted from 2002 to 2005, allowing the ADF to move freely and to transport goods through the Butembo-Beni area.
In the early 2000’s, Waswa sustained injuries in a motorcycle accident and was subsequently diagnosed with bone tuberculosis. He received treatment in Goma, during the time that Jamil decreed that all ADF members in Goma had to return to the camps. He reportedly walks with a cane and is no longer sent to fight. Waswa is a Muganda from the Masaka region of Uganda. He is married to a Congolese abductee and does not have any children.