Ugandan diocese observes five-day prayer for victims of secondary school attack

Diocese of Kasese, Uganda Credit: Diocese of Kasese

The Diocese of Kasese in Uganda observed a five-day prayer for the souls of the victims of the recent attack on Lubiriha Secondary School located in its territory in the western region of the country.

On June 16, suspected members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) reportedly attacked the school located in Mpondwe, Kasese district, killing some 41 people, including 38 students who were murdered in their dormitories. Half a dozen other students were abducted to help carry food that was looted from the school premises, according to a Ugandan military statement.

“I requested the priests, religious, and the lay faithful to have a five-day prayer for the souls of the innocent deceased students,” Bishop Francis Aquirinus Kibira of Kasese Diocese said in a June 20 statement.

Kibira added that the prayers, which started on June 19, were also for the “restoration of peace” in the Ugandan region following the attack.

The Ugandan diocese is “also seeing how we can help materially the victims of the incident,” Kibira said, adding: “We shall appeal for help from different people for this noble cause.”

On June 19, the Uganda Police Force commissioner announced the arrest of 20 suspected collaborators of the ADF rebels allegedly involved in the June 16 nighttime attack.

Commissioner Fred Enanga said the director and headteacher of the school, which is located near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), were among those arrested.

In his June 20 statement, Kibira said security forces in the East African nation are investigating if ownership disputes at the school could have had a hand in the attack.

Kibira said the police “are also following up clues that the suspected ADF remnants have collaborators in the area to guide the attack.”

In his statement, Kibira faulted security agencies in Uganda for not intensifying “intelligence operation plans to timely detect and neutralize the attack.”

“A week before the attack,” he explained, “there was a reported attack that claimed lives in the popular Domene village in the DRC, forcing dozens to cross to Uganda for refuge at the Catholic shrine in Kabuyiri in the Diocese of Kasese.”

The DRC attack, the bishop said, “would have worked as a warning to the Ugandan security forces about a possible invasion by the enemy in the neighborhood.” 

He called on the President Yoweri Museveni-led government to invest in “unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor border points for the safety of lives and property.” 

Kibira, who has been at the helm of Kasese Diocese since 2014, also urged the government to “encourage institutions to install CCTV cameras to intensify security.”

He further called for “more sensitization to familiarize the community more with the Ugandan forces.”

“People saw the bandits but mistook them for UPDF [Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces] and alerted no one until the attack,” Kibira said, emphasizing the need to familiarize the people with Ugandan security agencies.

“As a Church, we appeal for dialogue and peace talks,” he said in the statement. “The people of God are innocently shedding blood. We teach people to love humanity.”

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Earlier, members of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) condemned “in the strongest terms” the school attack.

In a statement circulated June 19, IRCU members, which include representatives of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, said that such “acts of terrorism, lawlessness, and extreme violence” are against the holy Scriptures and the constitution of Uganda, which foster the sanctity of human life. 

The religious leaders implored the Ugandan government to reach out to the families of the bereaved and victims of the attack with essential support and supplies.

This story was originally published on ACI Africa, CNA’s partner news agency in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.

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