The six children who were killed and 11 others who were injured while playing with a grenade in Maji II Refugee Settlement, Adjumani District were South Sudanese.
Assistant Superintendent of Police, Josephine Angucia, the West Nile/North West Nile Regional police spokesperson, identified the deceased as Joseph Otto, 6, James Drago, 9, Emmanuel Duku, 7, Isaac Amaruma, 11, Thomas Edema, 10, Justine Mandre, 14.
The five who sustained injuries include Jonathan Wani, 10, James Abao, 7, Dominic Andruga, 14, Joyce Bazio, 12, and one who is yet to be identified.
According to the Chairperson of South Sudanese Refugees in Northern Uganda, Wilson Manyok, Wednesday’s explosion killed six children on the spot and two others succumbed to their injuries in the hospital. He said the rest remain in critical condition in Adjumani Hospital.
“Some children in Maji II Refugee Settlement went to play beside the hillside and they found an explosive, started playing with it, and cut it with a panga and it exploded. The explosion killed six children on the spot and injured another eleven. The eleven injured children were taken to hospital but unfortunately, two of them died from the injuries they sustained. Many of those admitted in the hospital are still in critical condition,” he said.
Mr Manyok said the children were aged between 5 and 11 years adding that he could not tell what type of explosive it was or if it was old or new because he did not see it.
Ms Angucia confirmed to Radio Tamazuj on Friday that indeed several children were killed and injured by what the police suspected to be an old explosive left by rebels.
“Six children were indeed killed and five injured in an explosion on 16 February at Maaji II Refugee Settlement in Adjumani district,” ASP Angucia said. “The children went out playing and when they came across this suspicious-looking metal they decided to pick it and cut it using a panga and that is when the item exploded hence killing three instantly and injuring several of them, three of whom died later in the hospital. The total of those dead is six and five injured.
Recently in the same district, about a month ago, there was another explosion that injured two people from both the refugee and host community.
According to Ms Angucia, police took the fragments for analysis, “but our analysis as police is that since Adjumani district was invaded by the former Lord’s Resistance Army rebels of Joseph Kony and the Uganda National Liberation Front rebels in the past, it is suspected that they could have left some grenades and other explosives hidden in the bushes as they were expelled from the area.”
She said that the unexploded ordinance gets exposed through bush burning during the dry spell which could have exposed the children to these dangers.
“It is an old bomb, when you look at the fragments, it is really old. Which means they must have been abandoned by the said group of rebels in the 1980s and early 90s,” ASP Angucia added.
She said sensitisation is ongoing and police have teamed up with other stakeholders to educate the communities and to guard against similar incidents.