At least fifteen civilians were killed in Bulongo, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, overnight from Sunday to Monday. A situation that worries even the United States.
At least fifteen civilians were massacred this weekend in the village of Mutilipi, in Bulongo, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kasali bin Kapepela, director of the Association of Organizations, said on Monday morning. non-governmental organizations in Kivu. He assures us that this massacre is probably the work of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia.
The massacres have become more frequent since the armed forces of the DRC launched an offensive in October 2019, forcing the ADF to divide into many smaller but above all more mobile units, according to experts. And according to the Kivu Security Tracker, at least 1 civilians have been killed by the ADF since 219.
Is the Islamic State really absent from southern Africa?
The organization in question, the ADF militia, was added to the list of terrorist organizations last Thursday by the United States State Department. According to the Washington statement, this militia is affiliated with the Islamic State, the Biden administration having put forward a link between the ADF and Ansar Al-Sunna from Mozambique and Kivu in the DRC. The Kivu conflict has been particularly publicized since the assassination of the Italian ambassador last month.
However, the armed group has not responded to Washington's accusations or claimed responsibility for the attacks, including yesterday's. In addition, if we are to believe the ACLED observatory, the observatory specializing in anti-terrorism and certainly the most precise in Africa, the Islamic State is in reality not present in southern Africa.
After the attack on Mutilipi, twelve bodies were found, of which at least four were women. Some victims were beheaded, he said. A family of three from the village where the tragedy took place is still missing.
Local people gathered to protest the attack. A young man was killed by a stray bullet and another was seriously injured when police opened fire to disperse the crowd, said Jean-Paul Muhindo Katembo, a senior local official.
Neither the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, nor the NGOs attributed the recent escalation of violence to the Islamic State organization, before the United States released this paving stone in the pond.
A source from North Kivu tells Journal de d'Afrique that, despite the ADF militia leaders' obedience to Wahhabism, most of its members are local criminals, many of whom are not even Muslims. "It is no secret that the Kivu militias are fighting especially over the mining resources of the north and that the army, as well as Baluku (head of the ADF), are only two among many others to loot. North Kivu ”, indicates this anonymous source.
United States classifies ADF as terrorist organization
The ADF militia is not the only armed group in Kivu. Recent estimates shared by the US State Department indicate that more than 122 militias are present in the four eastern border provinces of the DRC, Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu and Tanganyika.
In its report, the US State Department accuses the ADF of belonging to the Islamic State. It is based on "counter-espionage in Mozambique and the DRC, Department of Strategic Intelligence".
But this way of classifying the ADF in the terrorism category is not trivial: according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), “although it is a seemingly simple and measured political response to the brutality of ADF and its international terrorist links, this designation risks hampering humanitarian efforts and the potential disarmament, demobilization and reintegration activities of its members, ”said John Hamre, president of CSIS, an independent institution traditionally consulted by the United States for strategic planning of counterterrorism efforts since the 1960s.
Michael Gonzales, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs at the US State Department, also notes that the United States is already supporting the Congolese army against violent extremists by strengthening civil-military operations and capabilities, engineering military, strategic communications and English language laboratories with the aim of empowering civilian leaders to promote structural reform and professionalization of the military.
"The Biden-Harris administration is certainly emphasizing the terrorist threat in Africa, some of the efforts we are making right now are part of a more comprehensive strategy," he said.
The ADF on the list of terrorist organizations: what consequences?
Placement on the list of terrorist organizations prevents members of the groups concerned from traveling to the United States, freezes financial assets on American soil and in allied countries, and criminalizes providing support or resources to those groups. movements.
The leader of the ADF is Musa Baluku, a renowned leader in Congo. He leads this group initially founded by Ugandan rebels.
John Godfrey, acting coordinator of the fight against terrorism and member of the World Coalition against the Islamic State, also a former American diplomat in Saudi Arabia, refused to discuss the classified information used to permanently bind these African groups (ADF in DRC or even ASWJ in Mozambique) to ISIS. "But the evidence is indisputable," he says. "And in the Congo, the United States is confident that the ADF will establish a link with the headquarters of the Islamic State."