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Militant Islamists or borderland dissidents? An exploration into the Allied Democratic Forces' recruitment practices and constitution*

  • Lindsay Scorgie-Porter (a1)

Descriptions of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) – a relatively resilient rebel group in the Congo–Uganda borderland – are almost solely focused upon the rebellion's Islamic extremist characteristics. Through looking specifically at the ADF's recruitment practices, this paper seeks to problematise existing accounts of the group's constitution. It discusses how Islamic extremism has had a significant influence on various aspects of ADF recruitment, and therefore helps to explain particular dimensions of the ADF's composition. Nevertheless, this paper demonstrates that focusing on the role of Islamism alone, leaves a large part of the ADF's story untold – such as the important role played by recruitment networks associated with marginalised and militarised ex-combatants, or the populations of disenfranchised youth in the borderlands. Indeed, unresolved political and socio-economic injustices amongst the people of the Rwenzories have been just as significant motivating factors for joining the rebels as have Islamic sources. Thus, this paper argues that the ADF's recruitment practices and constitution cannot be sufficiently analysed without adequate recognition of the rebel group's position within a borderland context.

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Special thanks to Christopher Clapham and Devon Curtis for suggestions towards this paper, as well as the extremely helpful comments of two anonymous reviewers. The fieldwork for this article was conducted during my PhD at the University of Cambridge, and was carried out in Uganda and Congo throughout 2009, 2010 and 2011 (with a total of 14 months in the field). It was financed by the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust, Gonville & Caius College, UAC of Nigeria Travel Fund Grant, Cambridge Political Economy Society Trust Grant, the Round Table Commonwealth Award for Young Scholars, and the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada. Any errors are the author's alone.

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