November 16, 2021 Kampala Bombings: 'Initial' Intelligence Analysis

    Analyst: Evarist Chahali

    What happened?

    Six people including three suicide bombers were killed and 33 others injured in twin bomb blasts in the Ugandan capital Kampala on Tuesday.

    Any statement(s) from Ugandan authorities?

    Fred Enanga, police spokesperson told reporters that three suicide bombers detonated themselves at a checkpoint at the Central Police Station and on the parliamentary avenue.

    Later, President Yoweri Museveni tweeted

    Any claim to responsibility?

    Related incidents?

    It was reported on October 8 that ISIS had claimed first attack ever in Uganda, taking credit for IED blast on police in Kampala.

    Another incident occurred on October 4 this year, when Ugandan security operatives shot dead a suspected terrorist Hamid Nsubunga, is said to be the second suspect who attempted to set off a bomb at the burial of the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Lt Gen Paul Lokech, in Pader District in August.

    His suspected accomplice, whom the police said had bomb-making devices, was arrested on August 27, 2021.

    In 2010, 74 people were killed in bomb blasts that went off at venues in Kampala where football fans were watching the screening of the World Cup final. The masterminds of the attacks, from the Islamist militant group al-Shabab, are serving life sentences.

    Risk advisory

    Yesterday’s incident, together with Nsubunga’s foiled suicide plot on October 4, and IED explosion at a police station in Kawempe, near Komamboga, on October 8, which ISCAP have claimed responsibility, takes the tally to three in this month. That should raise concern as it might be an early indication that ADF-turned-ISCAP have escalated their terror campaign against Uganda.

    It is worth noting that ADF, which has been operating in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, had its origins in Uganda. It was formed in the 1990s and primarily concerned itself with domestic grievances within Uganda. After re-emerging in DR Congo, its activity has taken on a more global jihadist dimension, with attacks increasingly being claimed in the name of the Islamic State (IS) group.

    Also, the jihadist threat against Uganda stretches the East African nation’s defence and intelligence capabilities as it has been in conflict against its neighbour Rwanda since March 2019.

    Soldiers of the Rwanda Defence Force (left) and Uganda People’s Defence Forces (right). (Photos: Spc.Angelica Gardner, MSgt. Carlotta Holley)

    Tensions between Uganda and Rwanda also have direct implications for stability in the Great Lakes region more generally, with Burundi becoming a key flashpoint of the rivalry between Kampala and Kigali.

    The regionalisation of ISCAP, which is exemplified by Nsubuga’s attempted operation in Uganda, will validate Rwandan president Paul Kagame’s assertions that ISCAP is a regional threat because it has members from all over East Africa, including Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, and Mozambique.

    The hostility between the two countries could distracts and diminishes regional capacity to combat the ISCAP insurgency.

    Rwanda recently asserted that "ADF are a terrorist group based in eastern DRC and are part of ISCAP (Islamic State in Central Africa Province) …They are linked to the group in Cabo Delgado because they are all affiliated to ISCAP."

    Therefore, co-operation rather than hostility between Kampala and Kigali is what is needed in dealing with the terror threat.

    Beyond Uganda

    Tanzania:

    Security expert Jasmine Opperman reported that on October 20/21, insurgents attacked Kilimahewa village in Tanzania, raising.

    She also noted that on October 1/2, insurgents attacked village of Kiwengulo (Across the Rovuma from western Palma district). They looted food supplies, killing a civilian woman who identified one of the insurgents as being from the area. “Will the insurgency expand into Tanzania?” she enquired

    Kenya:

    Last month, Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) reportedthat at least 15 al-Shabaab militants were killed after their vehicle ran over an IED they had earlier planted at Sarira area between Kiunga and Ishakani in Lamu East close to the Kenya-Somalia border on Sunday morning.

    DRC:

    On October 21, at least 16 civilians were killed in an attack on three villages in the DRC. The attacks were suspected to be perpetrated by the ISCAP, which is also known as Central Africa Wilayah and Wilayat Wasat Ifriqiya, ISIS-DRC, and Madina at Tauheed Wau Mujahedeen, among other names.

    In an examination of ADF, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies notes that the group has executed attacks against hard targets such as prisons as well as security and international forces. ADF has also conducted numerous and significant attacks against civilians, at times in concert with other armed actors in DRC.

    Specifically, the ADF participated in mass killings near Beni beginning in 2013 that left more than 800 people dead and 180,000 displaced—however, these killings were likely initiated by another armed group in coordination with the ADF and others.

    Rwanda:

    On October 1, Rwandan police said they had arrested 13 people suspected of plotting "terrorist" attacks in the capital Kigali and paraded them before the media.

    The suspects were arrested with bomb-making materials including explosives, wires, nails and phones, Rwandan National Police said in a statement.

    "Investigations have revealed that the terror cell worked with Allied Democratic Forces (ADF)," it said, referring to a suspected jihadist group active in the east of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    What are terrorism experts saying?

    Jasmine Opperman, a leading expert of terrorism and extremism, highlighted utmost concern about Southern Africa having low-risk resilience when it comes to the unknown threat of terrorism.

    "Countering terrorism will require a security architecture acting in cohesion in which inter-departmental expertise understand,and work in solid cohesion. The concern, already evident in Cabo Delgado, is political will and an end-objective that requires patience and endurance. There is no final victory in this "war" - regional leaders need to understand the need for a strategy in enabling risk resilience " she proposed.

    Caleb Weiss, Senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation and Long War Journal's research analyst focused on jihadism and political violence in Africa noted that the suicide bombers were all Ugandans.

    "Today’s suicide bombings in #Kampala #Uganda follow a failed one late last month near Masaka, and two additional bombings in Kampala also last month. All have either been claimed by or pinned on the Islamic State’s Central Africa Province (aka the ADF)," he tweeted.

    Weiss suggested that the failed suicide bombing and how relatively minor the recent past bomb incidents  were last month, they were trial and error runs building up to be able to do today’s attacks.

    Ryan O'Farrell identified that ISIS now handles all public attack claims for ADF, and they have issued claims for 114 ADF attacks in Congo and 2 ADF attacks in Uganda so far in 2021.

    "Recent bombings by the ADF have been deadly but relatively limited in their power - Oct 25 bus bomb killed only the bomber. Scary bit is that they’ve clearly got enough people for repeated attacks in a short time frame - and now apparently have better bomb-making skills," he tweeted.

    "A dangerous fusion of domestic militancy and global extremism is threatening Uganda's security," wrote BBC Senior Africa Correspondent, Anne Soy. She challenged regional intelligence and security agencies to work more closely together to combat the threat, and the public will have to be more vigilant.

    What some of counter-terrorism strategies could Uganda adopt?

    Maxim Worcester's proposals in his "Combating Terrorism in Africa" thesis offer a way forward for Kampala.

    The fight against terrorism is not a job which can be undertaken by one single agency, it requires team work and input from a wide range of national and international organisations including law enforcement agencies, the military, the intelligence services, the financial sector, the diplomatic service and health organisations. The key to success is Organisation, Cooperation and Coordination.
    Strategies designed to decapitate networks through removing key figures in the movement are unlikely to force real changes, particularly in terms of Islamic extremism as the ideology of the movement has been disseminated and absorbed to the extent that there is little dependence on individuals to spearhead and focus it.
    A pre requisite for success is good governance. This is central to the effective administration of a state’s resources, the rule of law, and the development of a strong civil society. Only if such a structure is in place can the war against terror, which is fuelled by dissatisfaction and ignorance, be won.

    It is of interest to note that those countries which have good governance are successful in fighting terrorism. Whilst the threat of terrorism remains in Western Europe, it has been countered effectively by a multitude of interlocking measures and international cooperation.

    Uganda is a divided nation. Fighting terrorism requires cooperation and solidatity regardless of ideological differences. Just as the terrorists are trying to win “hearts and minds” of potential recruits, the Museveni government will have to seek unity among Ugandans as a nation in war against terror.

    Although terror attacks tend to aim at citizen doubting ability of their government to protect them, one unintended consequence is bringing the nation together against common enemy. This could be a rare opportunity for the East African nation to heal from wounds incured from the January elections.

    Knowing what will happen in advance is obviously part of the solution. The security services have to uncover attacks before they take place. However, this only works if such services are well trained and resourced.

    Using terror threats as excuse to suppress civil liberties, which is a not unusual in majority of African countries, would only have detrimental effects in the fight against terrorism.

    Furthermore, it is important for the Ugandan government to address

    Push factors: The conditions conducive to violent extremism and the structural context from which it emerges. These include lack of socio-economic opportunities; marginalization and discrimination; poor governance, violations of human rights and the Rule of Law; prolonged and unresolved conflicts; and radicalization in prisons.

    Pull factors: The individual motivations and processes, which play a key role in transforming ideas and grievances into violent extremist action. These include individual backgrounds and motivations; collective grievances and victimization stemming from domination, oppression, subjugation, or foreign intervention; distortion and misuse of beliefs, political ideologies and ethnic and cultural differences; and leadership and social networks.

    More specifically, the Great Lakes region governments need to address five primary drivers that are considered to be conducive to violent extremism, namely:

    (1) Lack of socio-economic opportunities;

    (2) Marginalization and discrimination;

    (3) Poor governance, violations of human rights and the rule of law;

    (4) Prolonged and unresolved conflicts, and;

    (5) Radicalization in prisons.

    Futher analyses coming soon

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    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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