Beni territory in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has suffered from some of the most brutal violence in the country’s recent history. However, the massacres around Beni, which began in October 2014 and have killed more than 1,000 people, have been shrouded in mystery. No group has officially claimed responsibility for the killings; research by Congo Research Group (CRG) and the UN Group of Experts suggests that many actors, including the Congolese government, have been involved.
One important group has been the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebellion. Since the late 1990s, the group has carried out brutal massacres, kidnappings, and lootings in the area, often in collaboration with other local militias and leaders, and is one of the deadliest armed groups in the Kivus. Given the lack of prominent defections, its strict internal discipline, and lack of public communications, it has been difficult to understand its motives, internal structure, and bases of support. This report, for which the Bridgeway Foundation provided support, gives a rare glimpse into the organization.
Between 2016 and 2017, a member of the ADF posted at least 35 videos on private social media channels – Telegram, Facebook, and YouTube. Based on events either mentioned or carried out within the videos, we can infer that they were probably recorded some time during 2016 and 2017. The videos portray ADF attacks, medical care for their wounded, martial arts exhibitions, indoctrination of children, and propaganda messages.
Women and children play an important role in the organization. In two videos, they can be seen as playing active roles in attacks, pillaging and bearing arms. Several older videos, recorded before the recent uptick in violence, feature at least 70-80 children being indoctrinated and undergoing military training. Women also feature prominently in several videos, as combatants, reading from the Quran and tending to wounded combatants.