Thousands of residents have abandoned their homes in Kamwenge out of fear of fresh ADF attacks

KAMWENGE -In the wake of the Islamist terror attack on Kitehurizi Village in Kamwenge District, residents in the affected area and nearby regions have swiftly evacuated. The attack, carried out by suspected militants of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), resulted in the brutal murder of 10 individuals.

Faced with the alarming situation, the local population is gripped by mass panic and fear reminiscent of the late 1990s and early 2000s when ADF terrorism was prevalent in the Rwenzori sub-region, making entire villages nearly uninhabitable.

More than 500 people from Omukamwenda, Kyabandara, Fasha, and Nyabutusi villages, situated near Kitehurizi, quickly left the area starting Tuesday morning through the following day. Some briefly returned to their homes early yesterday but were adamant about not spending the night in Kitehurizi. The village, bordering the large and heavily forested Kibaale National Park, is primarily inhabited by farmers who have now abandoned their fields due to the attack.

Enock Tukamushaba, the village chairman, disclosed that the entire village was devoid of human life on Tuesday night, as terrified residents sought refuge elsewhere, with some families renting rooms in the relatively safer Kamwenge Town. Uncertainty lingers about the situation, leading people to avoid the village, returning only during the daytime to tend to their gardens.

In Kitehurizi Trading Centre, where four individuals perished inside a bar during the attack, most small shops and residential houses remained closed. Residents, such as 72-year-old Eufarazia Nyamishana, joined the mass exodus, expressing fear of potential return attacks. Ms. Nyamishana, along with eight children, mentioned that they were relocating to neighboring Kitagwenda District.

Despite the widespread evacuation, a small number of residents returned briefly for the burial of parish councillor Night Margarete Banyazaki, one of the victims. The funeral vigil, attended by a limited number and protected by the military, took place, and the deceased councillor was laid to rest.

Acknowledging the difficult choices facing locals, Kamwenge Resident District Commissioner Isiah Byarugaba Kanyamahane mentioned ongoing efforts to encourage the residents’ return. Local security watches received praise, with Mr. Kanyamahane warning of potential opportunities for criminals in the absence of residents. The military presence has been increased, and soldiers are conducting sweeps in the national park to apprehend the assailants.

For Christmas, churches are advised to conduct thorough checks on individuals entering places of worship. Mr. Byaruhanga disclosed that seven out of the 10 victims’ bodies have been released to their families for burial, while the others remain at Rukunyu Hospital, awaiting relatives to claim them.