News Congo DR (DRC) | 04 July 2023

41 Killed in Ugandan School Attack


Show: true / Country: Congo DR (DRC) / Congo DR (DRC)
Top photo: OD Field worker speaking to family at a funeral after the attack on the Lhubiriha Secondary School.

Every night, Mary Masika went to bed hearing the voices of singing children coming from the school near her home in western Uganda’s Kasese District.

But on the evening of Friday, June 16, instead of singing, she heard screaming That night, as the students prepared for bed in their dormitories, militants attacked Lhubiriha Secondary School, killing at least 41 people, mainly male students, and abducting several girls. Others were critically injured. Open Doors’ local contacts in the area said that most, if not all, of the victims were Christians.

Targeted violence
The group of at least five militants, part of the Islamic extremist group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), attacked with a purpose in mind. An Open Doors field worker shared: “According to a survivor of the school attack, the militants [said] if there were Muslims among the students, they should move aside because they were not going to hurt fellow believers.”

At around 11:30 pm, towards the end of the attack, Masika told the BBC that she heard one of the assailants talking at her gate, asking a fellow fighter if “the job was done.” She said they began shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) and that after these chants one of them added: “We have succeeded in destabilizing Museveni’s [the Ugandan President] country.”

The details of the attack are horrific. Militants burned the school buildings while children were still inside, mercilessly killing 37 students along with four residents. It is still unclear how many were kidnapped. Some sources say seven while others think it could be dozens.

In response to the heinous attack, Uganda’s People Defense Forces sent helicopters to search for the abducted students. Ugandan President Yoweri Musevni called the attack “desperate, cowardly, terrorist action.” “We are bringing new forces to the Uganda side as we continue the hunting on the Congo side,” he said.

The school is less than two kilometers from the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)  where the ADF is mainly active today.

Open Doors’ spokesperson for our work in sub-Saharan Africa, Jo Newhouse* shared: “Open Doors unequivocally denounces this brutal attack. For years now, the Christian-dominated communities in northeastern DRC have suffered immensely under the brutality of the Islamic militant ADF group with insufficient international attention to their plight [Read: 

“The ease with which the militants crossed the border to Uganda and callously attacked some of the most vulnerable in society is a huge concern and serves as urgent alert to the agenda of the group to expand their influence and footprint.”

What remains of the burnt out dormitories at the Lhubiriha Secondary School.

Who are the ADF?

Founded in 1995 in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Allied Democratic Forces has Ugandan and extremist Islamic roots. The group was formed to fight and overthrow the Ugandan government through an agreement between portions of Uganda’s Tabliq Islamic sect and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU), a group that sought to violently establish strict
Islamic rule in Uganda.

Since 1995, the ADF has been supported by various parties to fight for various objectives, including several governments in the DRC who tried to disrupt the Ugandan and Rwandan military presence in the country. But a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies notes that following the 2015 arrest and extradition of ADF leader Jamil Mukulu, the group aligned with the Islamic State group (the Islamic State group publicly recognized ADF as an affiliate in late 2018). The allegiance with the Islamic State group has launched increased and focused efforts to kill non-Muslim civilians.

The UPDF, alongside DRC’s national army, have spent almost two years pursuing the ADF in a joint operation. However, efforts to curtail or eradicate ADF presence and impact have been mostly ineffective. Their violent insurgency shows no real signs of weakening or stopping. The latest attack on a school yet another example of how brutal they can be.

"Our deepest and heartfelt condolences to all the families affected by this tragic and cruel attack,” said Joshua Williams*, Open Doors’ Field Director for our work in sub-Saharan Africa “May God grant justice to all. We call on the government of Uganda to step up and speedily to curb this injustice and protect its citizens at all costs.”

On the ground

On Sunday, Open Doors field workers were allowed on the grounds of the school. Field workers described the scene as “devastating.” “Security in the area has been stepped up, but Open Doors partners are on the ground and ministering to affected people,” Newhouse said. “The attack only strengthens our Arise Africa campaign’s efforts to raise awareness, prayer and support for the body of Christ affected by the growing violent militancy in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Open Doors field workers visited two families who lost loved ones in the attack. One family had already finished burying two of their family members: a father and security guard at the school, Zephanas Mbusa; and his 17-year-old son, Elton, who was a student at the school. The family's second son (20 years old) is suspected to be among those abducted. The team also visited a second family who has benefitted from Open Doors support. Sadly, their daughter’s body has not yet been identified or found. Regardless of the uncertainty, the family made the difficult decision to make funeral preparations.

The attack has deeply unsettled the community, and many schools have closed, asking parents to collect their children. The UPDF has intensified its presence, and a 7 pm curfew has been instituted for the area.

The chaplain from Lhubiriha Secondary School shared with Open Doors workers that the school is trying to remain open, but many parents have called requesting to collect their children.

“The parents are calling the school asking for their children,” the chaplain said. “They are saying that they would rather die with their children at home than hear that they were butchered like what happened."

please pray
  1. Please continue to pray for the families affected by this attack. Pray that fear and despair will not overcome them and that they will experience God's tangible presence in this difficult and uncertain time.
    "When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." Psalm 34: 17-18

  2. Pray for the children in the hands of the ADF. May they remain steadfast in their faith and be faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ. Pray that God's Spirit will give them courage to endure and give them the grace to escape. 

  3. Pray for the ADF and that they will turn from their evil plans to kill and destroy. Pray that they will encounter the presence of the God and accept Jesus as their Savior. 

Will you stand as one with Christians in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Every PHP 2,700 helps three Christians who’ve experienced extreme violence by providing hope and healing at a trauma center.

Every PHP3,400 provides food, medicine and other emergency relief to help two believers displaced by persecution.

Every PHP 4,700 educates 17 young people from persecuted families for a month, giving them hope for the future.



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