The death toll in the suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel attack on Mpondwe-Lhubiriha Secondary School in Kasese district on Friday has risen to 42. The dead include 37 students and five non-students, including a school security guard.
The assailants targeted female students, killing 20 using hammers, while 17 male students were killed with machetes and bullets. The attackers later set fire to the student’s dormitory, resulting in the incineration of several bodies beyond recognition.
The bodies were transported to the mortuary at the UPDF division headquarters, awaiting DNA testing for identification. Four students sustained injuries during the attack and were admitted to Bwera General Hospital. One of the injured individuals required advanced medical care and was transferred to Kirudu Hospital in Kampala.
The school administration reported that 62 learners were present during the attack, but independent verification was impossible due to the destruction of all registers in the flames set by the attackers in the administration building. The rebels are suspected to have kidnapped 25 other students.
Efforts are underway by the Ugandan People’s Defense Force (UPDF) to pursue the suspects who reportedly crossed the border into the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. Joint local operations are being conducted in border areas to apprehend the assailants.
To enhance security measures, the Kasese Resident District Commissioner, Lt. Joe Walusimbi, has directed local council chairpersons to maintain records of all visitors in their respective areas.
Lt. Walusimbi has also urged the local community to remain vigilant and cautioned against linking the attack to the recent release of Charles Wesley Mumbere, the leader of the Obusinag Bwa Rwenzururu and his royal guards. He urged the public to disregard any attempts by political leaders to draw connections between the attack and these recent events.
Meanwhile, Mpondwe-Lhubiriha Secondary School has been closed indefinitely following the devastating attack. The state Minister for Higher Education, John Chrysostom Muyingo, announced the temporary closure, stating that thorough investigations into the incident must be conducted before the school can resume operations.
The Kasese RDC notes that schools, as per the ministry’s recommendations, should not have burglar-proofing on windows. This measure aims to ensure that students have alternative escape routes during emergency situations, potentially saving lives.
Security authorities have attributed the attack to the porosity of the border points, which has allowed the assailants to infiltrate the region. This incident serves as a painful reminder of a similar attack that occurred 25 years ago, when rebels associated with the ADF targeted Kicwamba Technical College in Kabarole district, resulting in the deaths of 80 students and the abduction of many others.