Education Minister Points to Ownership Dispute As Cause of Attack on Kasese School

Janet Kataha Museveni, the Minister of Education and Sports, has said that Friday’s attack on a school in Kasese may be linked to a dispute over ownership.

Without going into details, the minister said that initial investigations conducted by her ministry and security agencies suggest a potential connection between the violent attack and a dispute over the school ownership

Ms Museveni who is also the First Lady made the remarks during a press briefing at State House on Saturday. Although they didn’t disclose the parties that were fighting over the school, she suggested that this connection raises the possibility that the perpetrators of the attack may have involved terrorists to attack the school.

Lhubiriha Secondary School in Mpondwe town council was attacked by suspected rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces-ADF.

The army has put the death toll to 37. The male students were struck by a petrol bomb when they refused to open the door, while the girls were brutally hacked with machetes.

The boarding section of the school accommodated 62 students, and based on available information, only three students who had left for a nearby town for recreational purposes managed to survive the attack.

According to the school administration, the suspected rebels launched the attack at approximately 10:30 pm on Friday, shortly after the students had finished their evening preps.

Information from the education ministry shows Lhubiriha Secondary School is a privately-owned educational institution, ran by an NGO led by Peter Hunter, a Canadian individual who works in both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and another undisclosed location.

Ms Museveni added that there have been some disputes at the school and recently Peter Hunter had sent in auditors who finished their work on Thursday and left the school on the day of the attack.

She emphasized that the available information does not currently establish a direct connection between the presence of auditors and the attack.

The first lady, considering the theory of a potential ownership dispute, expressed further skepticism regarding the attackers’ choice of targeting Lhubiriha Secondary School instead of a larger neighboring school that houses a larger student population.

She emphasized the need for a comprehensive investigation to uncover the true motives and facts surrounding the attack. By doing so, it is hoped that a clearer understanding of the incident and any underlying issues, such as a possible dispute over ownership, can be obtained.

Ownership disputes in schools leading to unfortunate incidents have occurred in the past, including school fires that have resulted in loss of lives. However, the incident at Lhubiriha Secondary School, with its magnitude and nature, represents an unprecedented and extreme act in the country’s history.

Meanwhile, in response to the attack, the minister has mobilized a team from her ministry, headed by JC Muyingo, the state minister in charge of higher education and Permanent Secretary Ketty Lamaro.

They were also joined by other senior officials from the department responsible for private secondary schools. The purpose of their deployment is to provide assistance and support to the existing security teams on the ground.

In light of the situation, the first lady expressed her desire to be present at the scene but was unable to leave State House due to quarantine protocols.

Both her and the President, along with some workers, are currently under quarantine as a precautionary measure after the president tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The attack has received condemnation from numerous individuals and the international community alike, emphasizing the gravity of the situation.

Dr. Munir Safieldin, the UNICEF Representative to Uganda, joined in condemning the act and echoed the demand for the immediate release and safe return of the abducted students.

“We stand in solidarity with the students, the teaching staff, the school authorities, families of those impact and the people of Uganda in this sad moment. Schools are a safe place for all learners and must never be attacked. We appeal to all those involved in the Friday attack to respect schools and the rights of every child to learn in safe and protected environment,” Dr Safieldin.

The recent attack on the school has evoked painful memories of a previous incident that occurred in June 1998. During that time, the ADF carried out an attack on Kichwamba Technical Institute, located near the border of DR Congo.

80 students lost their lives as they were burnt to death in their dormitories. Additionally, over 100 students were abducted by the ADF.

The similarity between these two attacks underscores the need for increased efforts to prevent such atrocities and ensure the safety of students and educational institutions.

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