The Ugandan army has confirmed that 41 people (mostly students) were killed in a Friday night attack on a school in Kasese.
The number of dead has been confirmed by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) mountain division commander Major General Dick Olum. He is also commanding the Operation Shujaa in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Maj Gen Olum said a small band of Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels launched the June 16 attack on Lhubirira Secondary School in Mpondwe.
Mpondwe is located in Nyabugando Town Council, Karambi Sub County, in Kasese district. The school is about two kilometres from the shared border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Olum said that the attack was staged between 11pm and midnight. He estimated that the band of rebels was about five in number with three guns. They ambushed the security guard of the privately run school and shot him dead at his station.
This alerted the 63 students who were in their dormitories. The school, funded with the help of a Canadian Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) had 27 boys in one dormitory and 28 girls in another. The other eight students are day scholars and were not on the premises.
The male students locked themselves in their dormitory to prevent the assailants from gaining entry. However, the ADF band then lobbed a petrol bomb into the boys dormitory. Beddings including mattresses in the boys dormitory then caught fire leading to the death of at least 17 male students. Three boys, however, managed to make their escape from the inferno with two suffering serious burns.
The band then moved to the girls dormitory which was unlocked. They proceeded to hack the female students to death eventually killing 20 of them in their dormitory. They then set the dormitory alight before proceeding to the school food store which they looted and set on fire. They also set the school library on fire.
As the retreated from the school, they allegedly killed two more civilians, including an elderly woman.
It is thought that they kidnapped six students from the school in addition to some civilians who had come to inquire about the commotion and noise at the secondary school.
The bodies of the deceased and eight survivors were conveyed to Bwera government hospital.
Education minister and First Lady Janet Kataaha Museveni has strongly condemned the attack and offered government condolences to the bereaved families and country. She said government would assist the families to meet funeral costs for their loved ones.
Minister for Higher Education Dr Chrysestom Muyingo is already in Kasese to make an on-spot assessment. He has been joined by the Commander of the Defence Forces (CDF) Gen Wilson Mbadi and the Commander of Land Forces Lt Gen Kayanja Muhanga.
President Museveni, who is recovering from Covid-19, is yet to issue a public statement.
The attack on the school comes twenty-five years to the day after the same rebel outfit launched a devastating attack on Uganda Technical College, Kichwamba on June 8, 1998. Reports indicate 80 students lost their lives in that ADF attack while another 100 were abducted.