How we escaped ADF attack on Kichwamba

Alimanya (L) and Katuramu

Alimanya's story

“I went to bed early, planning to go for morning preps towards 6am. I was residing in Rukidi dormitory, which was one of those burnt by the rebels during the attack. It had three wings; I was sleeping in the central wing, where I had vantage view of the gate. I saw rebels walking into the compound.

At that moment, the transformer blew and power went off. As soon as power went off, we saw the college truck up in flames.

There was commotion outside. The rebels were calling student to get out. By this time, some dormitories had already been torched. One wing of Rukidi was on fire and students were running out as commanded. The rebels were commanding us in English and other local languages like Rutooro, Luganda and Swahili.

We were about 50 students in my wing but two of us refused to go out. Those who went out were checked for any injuries. The injured were separated form the uninjured.

The dormitory had glassed windows. Rebels were shooting students who were trying to climb into the ceiling to hide. Some of them died in the ceiling from gunshots. The smoke in the wing we were became too much. We kept moving from one corner to the other. It reached a point we were about to suffocate and we ran out.

The smoke in our wing was too much that we kept moving from one corner to another. It reached a point when we could no longer endure it and we ran out of the dormitory.
By this time, the shooting had drastically reduced. We ran past the kitchen to the bush behind it. That was where we stayed up until 9am when the UPDF soldiers arrived.

When we came out, other students had also come from their hiding places.
There were many dead bodies. Some had died of burns in the dormitories, others of gunshots.
By this time, the abducted students where up the Rwenzori Mountains. Soon after, the LCV chairman and some locals came to the school.

Around midday, an assembly was called, roll call was done to know who was still alive, the dead and those missing. From the assembly, those who could were told to go home.

My dormitory had been totally burnt down. I was walking barefooted. All I wanted at that time was to get out of the school and go home. A police car gave me a lift to Fort Portal Town, from where I walked home.
I later heard an announcement on the radio that the dead would be buried on Thursday, four days after the attack. I came to pay my last respect to the fallen colleagues. Many other survivors attend. The college buildings which had been set on fire were still burning.
After the burial, we were told the college would remain closed until further notice. We were to be distributed to different colleges to finish our end of year exams, while those doing their finals were to be accommodated at Virika to sit their papers.”

Katuramu's story

“It was in the early hours of Monday, June 8,1998, the day we were supposed to start exams. Many students had been burning the midnight candle, having spent Sunday recovering from the Saturday end-of-year party hangover.

On that day, I changed my reading schedule from the usual between 4.30am and 5.30am to between 2.30am to 6am. As I stood in the doorway of the lecture room on my way back to the dormitory, I saw soldiers running. I shouted to fellow students to run to the dormitory.

The nearest dormitory from the class was Kabalega, about 70 metres away. No sooner had I warned those in class than the firing started.

I remembered a month earlier when the rebels tried to attack the college, the Resident District Commissioner had given us survival tips that in case of an attack, we roll on the ground.

He told us it was better to be abducted than getting shot while running because we could at least be rescued in the case of abduction. I followed that advice and rolled to Kabalega dormitory.

We in Kabalega dormitory managed to survive because it had a metallic door with wooden windows. It is one of the few dormitories that were not burnt. Those with glassed windows and doors were easily set ablaze.

I hid under the bed with another student from the time of the attack, until 9am when the UPDF soldiers arrived.

By the time of the attack, there were less than 10 Local Defense Unit (LDU’s) soldiers providing us with security. The UPDF soldiers who had been brought in after the first attempted attack on the college, had been withdrawn more than a month earlier.
Inside the dormitory, we could hear the rebels order the students to get out. Those who got out were ordered to squat at a place they were all being collected. They all stayed there up until the time when the rebels ordered them to walk out.

They took them through Kihondo Trading Centre, where the rebels broke into some shops, looted foodstuff and ordered the captured students to carry it as they walked up the Rwenzori mountains.

At around midday, the principal called for an assembly and he told us to go home, while those who could not make it back home were taken to Virika as they organised transport for them.
Some of us who were coming from nearby places walked back home. Even those who did not lose their property in the fire could not collect it as everybody just wanted to leave the school premises as soon as they could

When we came for burial, those who managed to escape from captivity told us how some of their fellow abductees met their death. We were told the abducted students who could not walk up the mountain were shot on spot and their colleagues ordered to get rid of the bodies.