Uganda Tragedy: 42 Dead including 38 Students in Brutal Attack at Lhubiriha Secondary School

Uganda Tragedy: 42 Dead including 38 Students in Brutal Attack at Lhubiriha Secondary School

In the heart of Uganda, a country rich in beauty and cultural diversity, there lies a grim narrative that unfolded at Lhubiriha Secondary School, located in the border town of Mpondwe. The horrific incident bore witness to the recovery of 42 bodies, including 38 innocent students, who had fallen victim to a gruesome massacre carried out by a group of merciless attackers. The victims were brutally burned, shot, or hacked to death, instilling a wave of terror that swept across the nation.

A faction of rebels suspected to be responsible for the onslaught abducted at least six individuals, thereafter escaping the scene across the fluid border into the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Ugandan authorities pointed fingers at the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed outfit with proven connections to the international terror group, ISIL (ISIS). The ADF, operating from its strongholds in the unstable eastern DRC, has a history of launching ruthless attacks for several years.

This tragic event at Mpondwe’s Lhubiriha Secondary School stands as the deadliest assault on Uganda since the 2010 Kampala bombings, which saw 76 casualties and was claimed by the Somalia-based al-Shabab group.

Selevest Mapoze, Mayor of Mpondwe-Lhubiriha, recounted the horrifying ordeal from the fateful Saturday. He detailed that while a group of students suffered death by inferno when the assailants torched a dormitory, others faced fatal gunshots or were hacked to death with machetes.

One survivor, 16-year-old Mumbere Edgar Dido, provided a harrowing first-hand account of the brutal incursion. He recollected how the attackers, armed with machetes and firearms, stormed his dormitory, firing from outside and forcing the terrified students to take cover under their beds. The nightmare continued as the attackers ignited the dormitory with the students still inside, before moving on to the girls’ quarters.

Despite the traumatic event, many questions remain unanswered. Felix Kulayigye, spokesperson for the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF), confirmed that the six kidnapped individuals were led towards the expansive Virunga National Park that borders DRC and Uganda. He also informed the media about UPDF’s immediate pursuit of the perpetrators to rescue the abducted students.

Meanwhile, Fred Enanga, the national police spokesperson, shared that the attack targeted a privately-owned school in the district of Kasese, situated approximately two kilometres from the DRC border. Daniel Bwambale, a renowned expert on government affairs in Kampala, criticized the authorities’ response to the incident. In his conversation with Al Jazeera, he stated that the attack could have been averted and held the authorities accountable for neglecting the intelligence they had on the ADF’s plans.

Florence Kabugho, a legislator for Kasese, shared her concerns regarding the conspicuous absence of security despite the border’s heavy military presence. She questioned the authorities’ preparedness, rhetorically asking, “Where was this security when these killers came to Uganda?”

Regrettably, this isn’t the first instance of an ADF attack on a Ugandan school. In June 1998, a similar onslaught on Kichwamba Technical Institute near the DRC border resulted in the death of 80 students, who were burned alive in their dormitories, and over 100 students abducted.

Joe Walusimbi, a representative for Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni in Kasese, remarked about the distressing state of the bodies, many of which were burnt beyond recognition. Major-General Dick Olum, the army’s commander for western Uganda, further revealed that the attackers had remained in the town for two days before the attack, carefully identifying their target.

As Uganda continues to grapple with the repercussions of this horrific incident, the country’s resilience and quest for justice remain unyielding. The question that continues to echo throughout Uganda, and indeed the world, is how such atrocities can be prevented in the future.

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