Uganda rebels seen regrouping
Kampala - A former Ugandan rebel group is regrouping and could pose a security threat along the western border, an area where international companies are preparing to produce oil, a senior military official said on Friday.
In the late 1990s, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) waged an insurgency from its bases in the Rwenzori Mountains and across the frontier in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo jungle. At its peak, it was blamed for a series of deadly blasts in the capital Kampala.
A government offensive that ended in 2001 killed many of ADF's top commanders, quelled the uprising and pushed its remnants deeper into eastern Congo.
"ADF was never annihilated and we have intelligence reports that show these elements are once again regrouping, however for now we're still monitoring their activities," said Ugandan army spokesperson Felix Kulaigye.
He said ADF were re-grouping inside Congolese territory, adding however that reports ADF now had a 2000-strong force appeared exaggerated. Uganda discovered commercial hydrocarbon deposits in the Albertine Rift basin on the border with Congo in 2006.
British exploration firm Tullow Oil and Heritage Oil have found up to two billion barrels of oil there. Industry sources believe reserves could be four times that.
Political analyst Andrew Mwenda said he has seen the intelligence reports but doubted ADF would pose a threat to the booming oil sector in east Africa's third largest economy.
"I don't think even if they conducted any attacks around the oil fields they would disrupt exploration because investors are not scared by isolated incidents. No investor can think ADF to be a significant challenge for the army," Mwenda said.
ADF originally fought to establish an Islamic state in Uganda and Kulaigye said they continued to recruit young extremist Muslims.
Other commentators said although Uganda's army had a history of corruption scandals and had previously exaggerated troop numbers to garner a greater slice of the national budget, the ADF renaissance was credible.
"ADF lost long ago its capacity to dislodge the Ugandan government and they have turned themselves into more or less a mercenary force in Congo," said analyst Angelo Izama.
Kulaigye said intelligence showed ADF had established three operational camps on the Congolese side of the Rwenzori mountains.
"We're not about to enter Congo again to fight ADF. But I think at some point Uganda's foreign affairs ministry will have to take it up with their Congolese counterparts," Kulaigye said.