The massacre in a Ugandan school on 16 June came just weeks after bishops warned that militant attacks in central Africa were spiralling out of control.
Bishops of six dioceses in Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) – Bukavu, Butembo-Beni, Goma, Kasongo, Kindu and Uvira – issued the warning at the end of May. These dioceses are in North and South Kivu, close to the Ugandan border.
Five militants from the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) killed 42 people in Uganda when they attacked the Mpondwe Lhubiriha secondary school in Mpondwe, Kasese District, less than two kilometres from the border.
Some pupils were still missing last week, while relatives of victims conducted DNA tests to identify bodies burnt beyond recognition in the attack.
Bishop Acquirinus Kibira of Kasese visited the scene to offer his condolences. He told the Daily Monitor that “the innocent souls had been chopped like meat”.
Anglican Bishop Nason Baluku of Rwenzori South said that the militants’ attacks had started in a village in DR Congo a few hours before they attacked the school. Originally a Ugandan insurgency, ADF is now based in eastern DR Congo and is affiliated with Islamic State.
In their statement in May, the Kivu bishops warned that “pastoral work is being disrupted by the activity of ADF-NALU and other armed groups which are cruelly massacring peaceful citizens, even close to the positions of the security forces which are supposed to be protecting them”.
They said that armed militias have captured key territories rich in natural resources such as coltan, a mineral used in the manufacturing of mobile phones, electric cars and other electronic devices. International companies are profiting by this exploitation, they said.
Meanwhile, local people face “an unprecedented humanitarian crisis of famine, disease, and death”.
“Misery has taken up residence everywhere in a country that is potentially very rich, but with a truly miserable people.”