YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – In the wake of a June 16 attack by Islamic terrorists on a secondary school in western Uganda, the bishop of the local diocese has described the carnage as “unbelievable, horrible and inhuman,” slamming the Ugandan government for what he described as security failures.
“Security should have intensified her intelligence operation plans to timely detect and neutralize the attack,” said Bishop Francis Aquirinus Kibira of Kasese.
Kibira called on the Ugandan government to procure Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to monitor border points for the safety of lives and property. He also called on the government to install CCTV cameras to intensify security.
Friday’s attack claimed 42 lives, 38 of them students. In a June 20 statement, Kibira said the attackers, suspected to be members of the rebel Allied democratic Forces, overran the school “armed with light fire arms and machetes and clubs.”
He said locals who saw the approaching attackers mistook them for Ugandan security forces.
“On arrival at the school, they forced the gatekeeper, the late Kirilhuhandi Mbusa, to open the gate. He was later shot dead on refusing to open, and they then entered freely,” the bishop reported, drawing on eyewitness testimony.
“In the two dormitories, the rebels hacked their victims to death using light weapons and machetes before torching the girls’ accommodation wing as they cried in vain. At the boys’ wing, the boys resisted entry to the rebels who later opened the door by firing through. The rebels then set the boys’ dormitory ablaze. All the 17 boys were burnt to ashes beyond recognition,” he said.
“It was unbelievable, horrible and inhuman,” Kibira said.
The bishop’s report noted that the attackers chose not to kill the school’s headmistress, Mary Musoki, on the grounds that their Islamic guidelines on combat operations do not allow them to murder a breastfeeding mother.
Security in Uganda is following up clues that the suspected ADF remnants have collaborators in the area who guided the attack, which, Kibira said, may have been intended as a form of retaliation for the deployment of Ugandan forces in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
The ADF is a shadowy rebel group that has links with the Islamic State terrorist organization. It was established in the 1990s by some Ugandan Muslims who felt that President Yoweri Museveni had sidelined them in his policies.
The Ugandan military then launched attacks on the rebel movement, forcing it to relocate into Eastern Congo where the absence of state authority has allowed several rebel groups to operate and thrive.
In 2021, the Ugandan military deployed troops to Eastern Congo to help the Congolese army fight off the rebels and reestablish state authority.
A local resident who witnessed the June 16 assault on the school said that as the attackers passed her house, “the terrorists boasted in the Arabic and Kiswahili languages for what they called a successful revenge on Museveni and calling him Kafir, meaning pagan.”
Kibira blamed the attack on a failure of Uganda’s security system.
A week before Friday’s attack, suspected ADF fighters carried out an attack in the popular Domene village in the DR Congo, “forcing dozens to cross to Uganda for refuge at the Catholic Shrine in Kabuyiri in the Diocese of Kasese,” he said.
He argued that that alone should have informed the Ugandan security that a similar attack could take place across the border in Uganda.
Kibira also noted this is not the first time such an incident has happened.
In 1997, the ADF rebels attacked St. John the Evangelist Minor Seminary-Kiburara in the Diocese of Kasese, where nineteen students and two members of the non-teaching staff were kidnapped. Of the 21 abductees, only eleven returned home.
In 1998, remnants of the ADF attacked the Kichwamba technical institute in Kabarole district, killing eighty students, abducting 100 more and destroying property.
Kibira said he’s requested priests, religious and the lay faithful “to have a five days’ prayer for the souls of the innocent deceased students and restoration of peace. We are still praying for the situation to improve. We are also seeing how we can help materially the victims of the incident. We shall appeal to help from different people for this noble cause.”
“As a church, we appeal for dialogue and peace talks. The people of God are innocently shedding blood. We teach people to love humanity,” he said.