A group of 48 former members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) has been granted amnesty, as announced during an event held at the Ministry of Defence headquarters in Mbuya, Kampala.
This decision, made by the Amnesty Commission, involves individuals aged 15 years and older who are now exempt from facing prosecution for any war-related offenses they may have committed.
The Amnesty Commission distributed certificates to these individuals, signifying their cleared status. This action followed statements by Brig. Gen. Felix Kulayigye, the army spokesperson, who informed the media that, with the assistance of the Bridgeway Foundation and the Amnesty Commission, successful rehabilitation of these individuals had taken place.
They will now be reintegrated into their respective families and communities.
Kulayigye further explained that the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) had collaboratively engaged with the Amnesty Commission to achieve disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, and settlement efforts.
He emphasized that a joint effort with the Bridgeway Foundation had facilitated the rehabilitation of former ADF combatants, captives, abductees, and defectors. This included both Ugandans and Congolese, totaling 48 individuals.
The army spokesperson provided details on the composition of the group, noting that 23 individuals were apprehended during an attempted infiltration in Ntoroko district in December 2022, while others were rescued or captured.
The group consisted of 25 Ugandan male adults, five Ugandan female children, 12 Ugandan male children, two Congolese male adults, two Congolese female adults, eight Congolese female children, and 10 Congolese male children.
Furthermore, Kulayigye condemned the exploitation of children in combat operations and highlighted that captured combatants included six Ugandans and 17 Congolese aged between 12 and 18.
Defectors and reporters comprised 22 Ugandans and three Congolese, with ages ranging from nine to 52. He also expressed that such exploitation was detrimental to the innocence and well-being of the children involved.
Bulama Bukarti, the vice-president of the Bridgeway Foundation, provided context on the ADF’s activities, revealing that over the past five years, the group had caused the deaths of 4,650 civilians and executed 10 attacks outside Uganda and the DRC.
The group’s operational area had expanded significantly during this time frame.
Bukarti highlighted that the ADF’s activities intensified in 2018 after aligning with the Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria, which provided the group with added legitimacy and funding sources.
Efforts to address the ADF threat included encouraging defections, dismantling the group’s ideology, and supporting Operation Shujaa.
Nathan Twino, Chief Legal Advisor of the Amnesty Commission, welcomed the former combatants and encouraged their communities to do the same.
He emphasized that the amnesty certificates given to individuals aged 15 and above were granted with a single warning against returning to rebellion.