A Brutal School Attack Puts Uganda’s Role in Congo in the Spotlight

A Brutal School Attack Puts Uganda’s Role in Congo in the Spotlight
Charred bedframes stand in a burned-out dormitory in Lhubiriha Secondary School, Mpondwe, Uganda, June 22, 2023 (photo by Sophie Neiman).

MPONDWE, Uganda—The bodies began to at arrive the hospital mortuary at 1 a.m. on Saturday, June 17. Many had perished brutally, hacked with machetes and beaten with hammers. In the deadliest attack Uganda has suffered in years, assailants murdered 37 students at Lhubiriha Secondary School, in the remote border town of Mpondwe. Another five people, including the school security guard, also lost their lives. The attackers allegedly belonged to the Allied Democratic Forces, or ADF, an armed group operating in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, just across the border.

A little more than a week later, shell-shocked residents of Mpondwe are still reeling from the attack, which has also raised complex questions about the assailants’ goals, as well as the domestic implications of Uganda’s cross-border security operations in eastern Congo.  

The raid started around 10 p.m. on Friday, just as the students were preparing for bed, witnesses told World Politics Review. During the assault, the boys’ sleeping quarters and headmaster’s house were burned. Rebels also looted food stores and absconded back into Congo with six abducted children.

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