KAMPALA, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said the financial cost of fighting the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels in the jungles of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was high, urging the outfit to surrender.
Museveni, in a televised address late on Tuesday, said the resources spent on the joint operation with the Congolese troops to fight the rebels would have been used to fund other development issues.
"This is the money which we should be using for your [citizen's] development. But we can't ignore these criminals who are killing people," he added.
Uganda and the Congolese troops in November 2021 launched a military operation dubbed "Operation Shujaa" to wipe out the ADF, after they launched twin bombings in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, leaving six people dead and 33 others injured.
Museveni said despite the cost of the war, Uganda will continue to pursue the rebels as long as the Congolese government allows the Uganda military to operate in eastern DRC.
The president gave an account of the operation, noting that the rebel group, also a branch of the Islamic State in Central Africa, has been decimated, urging the remaining elements to surrender or face death.
"Now, I'm calling on the ADF to stop wasting time because there's no way they can survive. They don't know much about warfare; they don't know the capacity of the army. They have seen this, even yesterday we attacked them, and they will all perish," Museveni said.
He said there were some ADF remnants who crossed into Uganda to launch attacks with the thought of diverting the Ugandan troops in the DRC to return home. Uganda will not be diverted from fighting them in the DRC, Museveni said.
During the address, four former ADF abductees, two of which were Burundians, one Congolese and another Uganda, gave harrowing tales of how they were recruited and treated in the ADF camps. They narrated their separate escape and rescue accounts from the rebel outfit following attacks from the Ugandan military.
"These are some of the children who were either lured into ADF or kidnapped. They are telling you the story of how the UPDF (Uganda Peoples' Defense Forces) is attacking those bandits and liberating these young people," the president said.
Mariam Nansubuga, 21, one of the escapees, narrated how her father helped recruit her into the rebel outfit at the age of seven.
"We were four girls and five boys. While in Congo, they trained us, and they married me off when I was eight years of age. We suffered a lot. I escaped in April last year and I was rescued by the UPDF," she said, with tears in her eyes.
Museveni said that out of the rebel cell that crossed into Uganda, totaling about 10 members, six have been killed, while one is in the courts of law and the other three are unaccounted for.
The cell was responsible for the killing of two tourists at a national park in western Uganda and for the killing of at least 40 people, mostly students, last year.
"Now recently, the ADF in their stupidity think that if they send some small groups into Uganda to kill people, then the UPDF in Congo will come back to Uganda, but that will not happen," he added.
In October 2023, Uganda announced an amnesty offer for individuals who were recruited into the ranks of the ADF and wished to surrender and cease fighting. Uganda's Amnesty Commission on Tuesday said the government had pardoned and granted amnesty to 75 former ADF fighters.
Nathan Twinomugisha, the chief legal officer of Amnesty Commission, told Xinhua by telephone that the group includes 24 Ugandans, 48 Congolese, two Burundians and one Tanzanian who have been undergoing rehabilitation from September to December. ■