In a devastating act of violence, militants launched a brutal attack on a school in western Uganda, resulting in the death of at least 41 people, predominantly students. Families are mourning the loss of their loved ones, while others desperately search for missing family members in the aftermath of this tragic event, which marks the worst attack of its kind in Uganda since 2010.
President Yoweri Museveni, in his first official statement since the attack, expressed determination to eliminate the militants responsible for the atrocity.
The late-night raid on Lhubiriha Secondary School in Mpondwe, situated less than two kilometers from the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, saw victims subjected to horrific acts of hacking, shooting, and burning.
The global community has been shocked by this incident, with Pope Francis offering prayers for the young student victims of the brutal attack.
Uganda has condemned the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militia based in the DR Congo, for their role in the attack and is actively pursuing the attackers who fled toward the border, taking six individuals as abductees.
Eriphaz Muhindi, chairman of Kasese district, reported that “fifteen others from the community, including five girls, are still missing. The search continues along the long and forested border shared by Kasese and the DR Congo.”
Families anxiously awaited news outside a mortuary in nearby Bwera, enduring the cold night in hopes of identifying their loved ones.
Heartbreaking scenes unfolded as those able to recognize their family members embraced them and wept, taking their bodies away in coffins.
Roti Masereka, a farmer, recounted the horrific scene inside the hospital, describing bodies of boys and girls, some bearing machete wounds and others with head injuries from hammer blows. He, too, mourned the loss of his brother and 17-year-old son, while desperately searching for his missing 15-year-old child.
The Ugandan government has pledged support for funeral arrangements and assistance to the injured. Unfortunately, the intense fire set by the attackers resulted in seventeen victims being burned beyond recognition, complicating the identification process.
These victims have been taken for DNA testing, a procedure that may take some time, causing immense pain for their families.
According to officials, the attackers wore military camouflage as they ruthlessly carried out their assault. They fired through windows and doors, throwing a bomb into the dormitory, which ignited a fire.
Elias Kule, an 18-year-old survivor, described the harrowing experience of hiding until he could escape once the attackers left. Tragically, four non-students, including the security guard Kirurihandi, also lost their lives.
The African Union, France, and the United States, a close ally of Uganda, have expressed their condolences and condemned the bloodshed.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the perpetrators of this appalling act to be brought to justice.
Serious questions have arisen about the ability of the attackers to evade detection in a heavily guarded border region.
Major General Dick Olum disclosed that intelligence indicated the presence of the ADF in the area at least two days before the attack, prompting the need for an investigation to determine what went wrong.
Uganda and the DR Congo had initiated a joint offensive in 2021 to drive the ADF out of their Congolese strongholds, but unfortunately, the measures have not been successful in curbing the group’s violence.
Originating as insurgents in Uganda, the ADF established a foothold in eastern DRC in the 1990s and have been accused of perpetrating numerous acts of violence against civilians.
The ADF is claimed by the Islamic State group as its Central African affiliate.