Senior Congolese and Ugandan military officials met on Monday to discuss plans to target Ugandan Islamist rebels blamed for a spate of attacks including a massacre of 21 villagers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
The ADF-NALU rebels have stepped up attacks in the chaotic central African region this year and been identified by the U.N. mission in Congo (MINUSMA) as one of the main obstacles to peace in the country.
U.N.-backed government forces scored a rare victory in November against Tutsi-dominated M23 rebels, but sporadic violence by ADF-NALU points to the unrelenting challenge of pacifying Congo’s mineral-rich east.
Officials said Uganda’s chief of defence forces, General Katumba Wamala, met Congolese counterpart Didier Etumba in the town of Beni in Congo’s North Kivu province, where Kinshasa was launching military operations against the rebels.
Although the Ugandan government has said that ADF-NALU is allied to elements of Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab movement, Kampala will stop short of directly participating in military operations in Congo, a Ugandan army spokesman said.
“Rather, we have had discussions to the effect that we’ll only help in sharing intelligence with FARDC (Congolese army) and also deal with any fleeing ADF elements who might want to enter Uganda,” Paddy Ankunda told Reuters.
After the defeat of the M23 rebels, the United Nations said it would use its 3,000-strong Special Intervention Brigade and other troops to help Congo’s army hunt down other armed groups.
ADF-NALU is reported to have up to 1,400 fighters and has kidnapped about 300 Congolese civilians over the past year, according to the U.N. Intervention Brigade.
Congolese officials hold the group responsible for the killing of at least 21 people, including women and a baby, in villages not far from Beni in December.