United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres this week highlighted the threat of cross-border terrorism in Africa, warning that the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Allied Democratic Forces insurgent group is now linked to Islamist militias across the continent.
Guterres, who made the comments on Monday, September 3 during a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, said the “threat of terrorism has to be seen on a continental scale.”
He described the DRC as a linchpin for stability, and noted the country’s long struggle with an Islamist-rooted militia, the Allied Democratic Forces, in its east.
The ADF was founded in 1995 at Bunia in the DRC, by members of the Uganda Muslim Freedom Fighters who had been driven out of Uganda. The group is now connected to other African jihadist groups, Guterres maintained.
“In my opinion the ADF today is part of a network that starts in Libya and stretches to the Sahel, to the Lake Chad region, and which is present in Mozambique,” he said in an interview with Radio France Internationale.
He said he did not know whether there was a “formal link” between the ADF and Islamic State – which has claimed several attacks in eastern DRC – but pointed to what he called “real links” between the ADF and Mozambique militants.
In April, ISIS formally recognized its Central Africa Province in Democratic Republic of Congo, when its centrally controlled media outlets began to attribute attacks to ISCAP, and during his first video appearance in five years, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was seen viewing a document entitled “Wilayat Central Africa.”
There was earlier evidence that ISIS had ties to the Allied Democratic Forces, which mainly operates in the border area of North Kivu province, but it is unclear if the new ISIS affiliate is the ADF, a splinter group, or a different organization.
The U.N. has some 16,000 troops in the DRC in its MONUSCO peacekeeping mission, one of the world’s largest. Its mandate is due to expire on December 31.
“Abandoning the DRC would be suicidal, not just for the Congolese but also for the international community,” Guterres warned.
He said the he wanted a strategic review of MONUSCO to make it more effective. “It’s not a question of the number of soldiers, it’s a matter of strategy,” he said, adding that he also wanted to increase cooperation mechanisms with the DRC armed forces.
With reporting from AFP