KASESE. 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.
The State Minister for Higher Education, John Chrysostom Muyingo has urged school owners and managers to continuously implement the security measures that the government set for them to ensure the safety of learners. He was presiding over the 81st anniversary of Trinity College Nabbingo in Wakiso on Sunday where he represented the Minister of Education and Sports Janet Museveni currently under coronavirus-induced isolation.
Commenting on the attack on Lhubiriha Secondary School near Mpondwe town in Kasese district, Muyingo said if the measures put in place were being followed, either the attack would have been prevented or the extent of the damage minimized. At least 42 people, mostly students, were killed and 25 abducted when suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels attacked the school on Friday night, burning a dormitory and looting food.
Minister Muyingo, who visited the school on Saturday, said his own assessment revealed that the authorities there had neglected or abandoned all the security measures, which would have saved the lives of the students. Apart from the measures, Dr. Muyingo, himself a proprietor of several schools, also urged students to be vigilant by watching out for and reporting any stranger or suspicious person sighted in or around their school premises.
Muyingo repeated the directives to schools to get rid of burglar-proof bars in windows, saying that perhaps this would have saved some boys at Lhubiriha SS when the attackers locked the doors.
Some leaders in the area have instead blamed the security forces whom, they say, reached the site of the massacre two and a half hours after the incident, despite both a police station and an army detachment being within one and a half and three kilometers respectively.
President Yoweri Museveni also questioned the kind of response by the security forces in the area, as well as the absence of intelligence information on the Democratic Republic of Congo side of the border and the lax vigilance of the community.
In his statement issued on Sunday afternoon, Museveni said vigilance helped UPDF repel the rebels when they attacked Ntoroko last year, and 26 were reportedly killed and the other 25 captured. Giving his account of the situation Minister Muyingo said it is hard to understand why the attackers wanted to ensure that everyone at the school was dead, by even hacking to death girls who tried to flee.
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