By Daniel Levine-Spound
On November 30, 2021, the Congolese army (FARDC) and the Ugandan military (UPDF) launched joint operations in the Beni territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group that originated in Uganda but has operated in eastern Congo since the mid-nineties and is responsible for at least 2,000 civilian deaths since 2017. The offensive comes in the wake of a series of suicide attacks in Kampala, the Ugandan capital. Some regional governments have attributed the attacks to the ADF, which maintains nebulous (and contested) ties to the Islamic State (ISIS). The Congolese government’s initial position towards Ugandan operations was ambiguous—government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya notably claimed prior to the offensive that there would only be “concerted actions” and information-sharing between the two countries. However, the DRC government has since publicly embraced “joint operations” by the UPDF and the FARDC.
For the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), UPDC-FARDC operations raise critical legal, operational, and reputational challenges. There is a chance that the joint offensive could result in reduced ADF operations, and by association reduced violence against civilians. However, there is also an important possibility that the UPDF-FARDC offensive will lead to increased threats to civilians, either through ADF reprisal attacks against community members or as a direct result of the offensive itself.