Worrying report of terrorist groups gaining financial muscle in Uganda
Financial flows attributed to terror groups in East Africa clocked $100 million last year
By BERNARD BUSUULWA
Findings contained in Uganda’s final National Risk Assessment report of increased capacity among terrorist organisations to execute bigger attacks are a worrying sign.
It also catalogues significant weaknesses of regional governments struggling to tackle illicit financial flows.
The report captures key areas of exposure to money laundering and terrorism financing detected in the economy in line with international compliance standards set by the Financial Action Taskforce based in Paris, France. The assessment is supposed to be carried out after every five years.
Terrorism funding refers to money generated by terrorist organisations to finance terror activities, particularly recruitment and training of fighters, maintenance of local cells that accommodate militants, propaganda campaigns and terror attacks such as the World Trade Centre bombings in New York City in September 2011.
More cash received by terrorist groups implies higher capacity to conduct multiple, deadly attacks in countries involving several collaborators, observers say.
The report states that terrorists fund their war chests mainly from extortion schemes, wildlife crimes, piracy, trade, donations from non-profit organisations and foreign remittances, among others.
Some of the major terrorist groups names in the region are the Somalia-based Al Shabaab, the Ugandan Democratic Republic of Congo-based Allied Democratic Force (ADF) and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) also originally Uganda-based but now reportedly operating in the Central African Republic.
The LRA is led by Joseph Kony. Whereas Al Shabaab is based in Somalia and is responsible for several terror attacks in that country, this group has also planned and executed a number of attacks, especially in Kenya and the neighbouring countries.
Al Shabaab’s main sources of income are extortion, trade, foreign remittances and piracy, according to the report.
The group’s extortion victims include Somali families that receive welfare cash transfers from relatives running businesses in Uganda, most of which are located in the central Kampala area; a scenario that presents complicated enforcement choices for Uganda’s security agencies.
In comparison, the ADF’S presence has been felt in the eastern DR Congo where it maintains some bases and parts of Uganda since it was formed in 1996.
The ADF is blamed for past civilian massacres in eastern DRC and the series of bombings in Kampala in 1997 and 1998 that killed scores of civilians.
The group is led by Jamil Mukulu, a former Christian and radical Islamic activist who is currently facing a host of treason charges together with suspected ADF members in the High Court Criminal Division and has called for the creation of an Islamic state in Uganda.
Its sources of revenue include trade, real estate business, illegal mining and donations from non-profit organisations, the re-
Sydney Asubo, executive director of Uganda’s Financial Intelligence Authority:
“The major sources of terrorism funds are extortion, wildlife crimes, donations, tax evasion and the mineral trade. This figure is an estimate based on our findings but details cannot be discussed because of their sensitivity towards current terrorism financing investigations. But certain individuals engaged in terrorism financing like Jamil Mukulu have done many business transactions in the past, accumulated a lot of money and this has significantly contributed to overall terrorism financial flows.”
Suspects who were arrested after the July 11, 2010, twin bombings by Al Shabaab in Kampala that claimed 90 lives, leave a prison bus at the Uganda High Court.