- Dec 19, 2016
Duh!!Joseph Kibweteere was the leader of a suicidal cult that splintered from the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda.
Many details of Mr. Kibwetree's life, and especially death, remain unclear. What is known is that he came from a strongly pious Catholic background and was likely wealthy by Ugandan standards.
The second idea comes from the fact he ran for political office in 1980 and had enough land to donate for a school of his own design. The Catholic school he founded and led was apparently orthodox and at that point he had a positive image in the community. In 1960 he married a woman who would prove to outlive him.
The Uganda he lived in suffered from both religious and political upheaval which likely influenced him. The strongest of which may have been religious movements that emphasized miracles and Marian apparitions. In 1984 he claimed to be experiencing sightings of the Virgin Mary. This vision had been brought to him by Credonia Mwerinde.
Around 1989 he came into contact with a woman named Credonia Mwerinde, a prostitute who claimed she was looking to repent for her sins. She had a background of claimed experiences dating back further than Kibwetree.
Credonia claimed that she could see the virgin Mary when looking at a stone on the mountains. The stone looked the spitting image of the Virgin Mary. Her father claimed to have had a vision of his dead daughter Evangelista as early as 1960. His children and grandchildren would be affected by this.
By 1989, Credonia and her Ursula were travelling through Uganda spreading the family's message. When Credonia met Joseph he welcomed her with open arms and shared his own experiences. This would lead to their forming the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God.
After the death of Credonia's father, he became leader of the group. In the 1990s they strongly emphasized apocalypticism in their booklet A Timely Message from Heaven: The End of the Present Time. Hence he led an elite group of six men and six women deemed to be the "new apostles." These apostles had an equal number of women because of the emphasis they placed on Mother Mary as instrumental in sweeping them toward heaven.
The group stated several dates where it would be the end of the world, however, several of these dates passed by with no sign of an apocalypse. Reportedly he stated that the year 2000 would be followed by "year 1 of the new world." These and other claims had little effect on the wider world. For the most part he remained an obscure figure in Uganda and never formally split with the Catholic Church.
In March 2000 the group began slaughtering cattle and buying massive amounts of Coca-Cola. These events did not initially raise alarm, but they were preparation for a feast before death.
On March 17, by coincidence St. Patrick's day, Kibweteere apparently died in the groups mass suicide. Although he had initially been rumored to have escaped and the exact time of death is unclear. A member of Kibweteere's family stated that Joseph's actions were completely influenced by Credonia Mwerinde.
Indeed a great deal remains unclear about his story and the movement. The BBC reported that Joseph Kibweteere had been treated for bipolar disorder a year or so before the group suicide. At the time the Ugandan authorities considered him a fugitive and mass-murderer because they believed him to have escaped.
The date and nature of the apocalypse they expected is debated. There is one camp that indicates they believed it would come in 1999 and that the 2000 suicide was caused by the failure of that prophecy.
This would seem confirmed by some of their activities of 1999, but in their literature 2000 is often seen as the end year. The nature of his role and significance to the events is also disputed. Due to the circumstances of events, satisfactory answers to these and other questions may never be forthcoming.
The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God was a breakaway sect from the Roman Catholic Church founded by Credonia Mwerinde and Joseph Kibweteere in Uganda.
It formed in the late 1980s after Mwerinde, a brewer of banana beer, and Kibweteere, a politician, claimed that they had visions of the Virgin Mary. The five primary leaders were Joseph Kibweteere, Joseph Kasapurari, John Kamagara, Dominic Kataribabo, and Credonia Mwerinde.
In early 2000, followers of the sect perished in a devastating fire, and a series of poisonings and killings, that were either a cult suicide, or an orchestrated mass murder by sect leaders after their predictions of the apocalypse failed to pass. In their coverage of that event, BBC News and the New York Times referred to the Movement as a Doomsday cult.
The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God's goals were to obey the Ten Commandments and preach the word of Jesus Christ. They taught that to avoid damnation in the apocalypse, one had to strictly follow the Commandments.
The emphasis on the Commandments was so strong that the group discouraged talking, for fear of breaking the Ninth Commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor," and on some days communication was only conducted in sign language. Fasts were conducted regularly, and only one meal was eaten on Fridays and Mondays. Sex was forbidden, as was soap.
Movement leaders declared that the apocalypse would occur in the year 2000. The group had a strong emphasis on an apocalyptic end time, highlighted by their booklet A Timely Message from Heaven: The End of the Present Time.
New members were required to study it and be trained in its text, reading it as many as six times. They also taught that the Virgin Mary had a special role in the end, and that she also communicated with their leadership. They held themselves akin to Noah's Ark, a ship of righteousness in a sea of depravity.
The Movement developed a hierarchy of visionaries, topped by Mwerinde. Behind them were former priests who served as theologians and explained their messages. Although the group had split from the Catholic Church, had Catholic icons placed prominently and defrocked priests and nuns in its leadership, ties to the Church were only tenuous.
The recent past of Uganda has been marked with political and social turmoil. The rule of Idi Amin, the AIDS pandemic, and the Ugandan Bush War wreaked havoc across the country. People became pessimistic and fatalistic, and the established Roman Catholic Church was backsliding, enveloped in scandals and the faithful were becoming dissatisfied.
In this void, many post-Catholic groups formed in the late eighties as a confused and traumatized populace turned to charismatic self-declared messiahs who renounced the authority of the government and the Church.
An example of this phenomenon was the Christian resistance group, the Holy Spirit Movement, which fought against the government of Yoweri Museveni. A former member of the sect, Paul Ikazire, would explain his motivation to join the Movement, "We joined the movement as a protest against the Catholic Church. We had good intentions. The church was backsliding, the priests were covered in scandals and the AIDS scourge was taking its toll on the faithful. The world seemed poised to end."
The earliest origins of the movement have been traced back to Credonia Mwerinde's father Paulo Kashaku. In 1960 he claimed to have had a vision of his deceased daughter Evangelista, who told him that he would have visions of heaven. This prediction passed in 1988, when he saw Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Joseph. His daughter Credonia also had similar visions and was involved in a Virgin Cult.
In 1989 Kashaku instructed her to spread the message across Uganda on the orders of the Virgin Mary. In that year she would meet Joseph Kibweteere and tell him of their communications.
Joseph Kibweteere claimed to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1984. Credonia Mwerinde also had a similar vision in a cavern near Kibweteere's house in Rwashamaire, Uganda.
In 1989 the two met and formed the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, with the mission to spread the Virgin's message about the apocalypse. The group grew rapidly and also attracted several defrocked Catholic priests and nuns who worked as theologians, rationalizing messages from the leadership. Two of the arrivals were the excommunicated priests Paul Ikazire and Dominic Kataribabo.
The sect grew in importance with the arrival of Dominic Kataribabo, a respected and popular priest with a PhD from the United States. In order to obtain more funds for the increasing number of disciples, Kibweteere sold his three other properties, car and milling machines.
By the late 1990s, the church had grown into a thriving community, set in pineapple and banana plantations. Members lived communally on land bought by pooling the profits from their property, which they sold when they joined the Movement. Mwerinde claimed to receive messages from the Virgin Mary through a hidden telephone system that communicated through everyday objects.
In western Uganda they built houses for recruitment, indoctrination and worship, and a primary school. The year 2000 was settled on as the final, compelling date for the sect's predictions of the apocalypse.
However this time was not uneventful, in 1992 the group was ordered out of Rwashamaire by village elders, and moved to Kanungu District, where Mwerinde's father offered an extensive property for their use. In 1994, Paul Ikazire left the sect, taking with him approximately seventy members.
By 1997, according to a filing with the government, the Movement's membership was listed at nearly 5,000 people. In 1998, the Ugandan press reported that the Movement had been shut down for insanitary conditions, use of child labor, and possibly kidnapping children, but the sect was allowed to reopen by the government.
As the new millennium approached preparations for the end mounted. In 1999, the state owned New Vision newspaper ran an interview with a teenage member. He said, "The world ends next year. There is no time to waste. Some of our leaders talk directly to god. Any minute from now, when the end comes, every believer who will be at an as yet undisclosed spot will be saved."
With the new year looming, activity by Movement members became frenzied, their leaders urged them to confess their sins in preparation for the end. Clothes and cattle were sold cheaply, past members were re-recruited, and all work in the fields ceased. January 1, 2000 passed without the advent of the apocalypse, and the Movement began to unravel.
Questions were asked of Mwerinde and Kibweteere, and payments to the Church decreased dramatically. Ugandan police believe that some members, who were required to sell their possessions and turn over the money to the Movement, rebelled and demanded the return of their money. It is believed that events that followed were orchestrated by sect leaders in response to the crisis in the ranks.
Another date was immediately predicted, March 17 was the new end of the world, a doomsday that would come "with ceremony, and finality" according to the New York Times. The Movement held a huge party at Kanungu, and roasted three bulls and drank 70 crates of soft drinks.
Another party was planned for the eighteenth, which officials believe sect leaders had announced in order to mislead authorities as to their plans. Several days before Movement leader Dominic Kataribabo was seen buying 50 liters of sulfuric acid, which may have fueled the fire.
On the seventeenth, group members arrived at their church in Kanangu to pray and sing, minutes later nearby villagers heard an explosion, and the building was gutted in an intense fire that killed all 530 in attendance, including dozens of children. The windows and doors of the building had been boarded up.
The five principal cult leaders, Joseph Kibweteere, Joseph Kasapurari, John Kamagara, Dominic Kataribabo, and Credonia Mwerinde, were assumed to have died in the fire. The fire alerted the Ugandan authorities to what had been occurring in the Movement.
Four days after the church fire police investigated Movement properties and discovered hundreds of bodies at sites across southern Uganda. 6 bodies were discovered sealed in the latrine of the Kanungu compound, as well as 153 bodies at a compound in Buhunage, 155 bodies at Dominic Kataribabo's estate at Rugazi, where they had been poisoned and stabbed, and another 81 bodies at lay leader Joseph Nymurinda's farm. Forensics investigations indicated that they had been murdered weeks before the church inferno.
Other than the individuals that died in the fire, medical examiners determined that the majority of dead sect members had been poisoned. Early reports had suggested that they had been strangled based on the presence of twisted banana fibers around their necks. After searching all sites, the police concluded that earlier estimates of nearly a thousand dead had been exaggerated, and that the final death toll had settled at 778.
After interviews and an investigation were conducted, the police ruled out a cult suicide, and instead consider it to be a mass murder conducted by Movement leadership. They believe that the failure of the doomsday prophecy led to a revolt in the ranks of the sect, and the leaders set a new date with a plan to eliminate their followers.
The discovery of bodies at other sites, the fact the church had been boarded up, the presence of incendiaries, and the possible disappearance of sect leaders all point to this theory. Additionally, witnesses said the Movement leadership had never spoken of mass suicide when preparing members for the end of the world.
The Ugandan government responded with condemnation. President Yoweri Museveni has called the event a "mass murder by these priests for monetary gain." Vice president Dr. Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe said, "These were callously, well-orchestrated mass murders perpetrated by a network of diabolic, malevolent criminals masquerading as religious people."
Although it was initially assumed that the five leaders died in the fire, police now believe that Joseph Kibweteere and Credonia Mwerinde may still be alive, and have issued an international warrant for their arrest.
"MOVEMENT FOR THE RESTORATION OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF GOD"
A Christian doomsday cult in Uganda
Accurate information about this tragedy is simply not available, for many reasons, including:
The area is far off the beaten track for news gatherers.
There are major cultural differences between reporters and local citizens.
Relatively little past information about the group is known.
Anti-cult groups have been superimposing their own beliefs, about high-demand religious groups, on the tragedy.
Local forensic resources appear inadequate to handle the investigation.
The following represents our best guess at what really happened in Uganda. We will modify the essay as new information becomes available.
At least 924 members of a doomsday religious sect in Uganda have died. The number of bodies increases daily and is expected to exceed 1,000 after the last compound belonging to the destructive cult is examined:
About 530 in an intentionally-set fire that gutted their church in Kanungu, Uganda on Friday, 2000-MAR-17. Police have counted 330 skulls in the church; however, some bodies had been converted to ash. Almost all were burned beyond recognition. The dead included at least 78 children. The precise number of the dead will never be known.
In the days following the tragedy, police discovered five pit latrines covered in fresh cement. One was opened. Public health officer Richard Opira said: "we found five bodies on the surface and when we shone a torch there were more underneath...They haven't been wounded so we think they were strangled or maybe poisoned." By MAR-21, six bodies had been removed: three had had their stomachs slit open; one had a crushed skull. Dr. Sam Birungi explained: "Some were beaten, some were burned, some were chemically poisoned then their bodies were dumped down in the pit."
153 bodies were discovered in another compound belonging to the religious group in nearby Buhunga.
155 bodies were unearthed in a mass grave in a sugarcane field in Fr. Dominic Kataribabo's estate at Rugazi. Some of the latter had been stabbed; others had pieces of cloth wrapped tightly around their throats. They appeared to have been dead for at least a month.
Another 81 bodies, including 44 children were discovered on the farm of lay leader Joseph Nymurinda.
A fifth compounds belonging to the religious group has not been investigated. As of 2000-APR-3, the police are waiting until they had collected proper equipment. They are asking for international aid in the form of expert forensic pathologists.
Most of the deaths occurred in Kanungu, a small trading center, about 217 miles (360 km) southwest of Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Some individuals at the scene believe that the parishioners had committed suicide; others say that the group leader, Joseph Kibweteere, murdered the members by luring them inside the church and then setting it on fire.
The church's windows had been boarded-up; its doors were nailed shut with the members inside. They sang for a few hours. One witness said that they doused themselves with gasoline and set themselves ablaze. Some witnesses reported the smell of gasoline at the scene, an explosion that preceded the fire, and some screams from inside the building. Jonathan Turyareeda, a police officer, said: "There were families inside, even small children."
Fox News reported that the sect's leaders included three excommunicated priests and two excommunicated nuns. Some believe that the leadership all died along with the general membership; others suspect that a few of the leaders escaped. Some sources say that the members wore white, green and black robes. The Associated Press said that their women wore white veils while men wore black, green or red shirts.
Before the tragedy, Kibweteere allegedly had said that he overheard a conversation between Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. Mary had stated that the world would come to an end unless humans started to follow the Ten Commandments closely. The group initially believed that the end of the world would occur on 1999-DEC-31.
During 1999, members had sold their possessions, presumably in preparation for the end times when they would be transported to heaven. They slaughtered cattle and had a week-long feast. When the end did not come, Kibweteere changed the date to 2000-DEC-31. Later, he taught that the Virgin Mary would appear on MAR-17 and take the faithful to Heaven.
Devastation would then descend upon the world and the remaining 6 billion people in the world would be exterminated. They believed that they would experience a life much like Adam and Eve enjoyed: "no clothes, no cultivating, no work." 15 In preparation of the event, members slaughtered three bulls, and had a great feast on the evening before the tragedy.
About the group:
The movement was founded by excommunicated Roman Catholic priests: Joseph Kibweteere, Joseph Kasapurari, John Kamagara and Dominic Kataribabo; two excommunicated Roman Catholic nuns; and Credonia Mwerinde, an ex-prostitute.
There are conflicting reports of the year in which the group was founded. Some say it was 1989; others 1994. They were registered as a non-governmental organization in 1994.
Their school was shut down by the government in 1998 because of its unsanitary conditions, their use of child labor and allegations of kidnapping of children.
Estimates of their membership before the murder/suicide, range from 235 to about 650.
Most of the group's members were originally Roman Catholic. However, the group taught that the Catholic Church was an enemy, badly in need of reform. There own rules came from the Virgin Mary, as channelled through Mwerinde.
The leaders taught that the Ten Commandments needed to be restored to their original importance.
Medical care was discouraged.
Members rarely spoke. They use mostly gestures to communicate, out of fear of breaking the ninth commandment (eight commandment for Roman Catholics and some Lutherans): "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." (Exodus 20:19; KJV)
The group is located in southwest Uganda -- one of the most unstable areas of the world. Two separate programs of mass murder have been conducted in the vicinity: in Rwanda 800,000 lost their lives. There are estimates that under Idi Amin, as many as 500,000 Ugandans lost their lives. A civil war currently rages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A significant percent of the population has died or is dying of AIDS.
AOL has published excerpts from a handbook that was distributed by the group. It is called: "A Timely Message from Heaven: The End of the Present Time."
Was the tragedy mass murder or mass suicide?
There is general agreement about some events: The membership appears to have anticipated being taken to Heaven by the Virgin Mary on MAR-17. They expected the end of the world to occur at that time. They slaughtered a cow, and ordered 70 crates of soda for a feast on MAR-16. They said goodbye to friends and relatives.
Mass suicide: There is one initial report, never unconfirmed, that the members had applied gasoline and paraffin to their skin before the explosion and fire. However, it is difficult to see how the observer could have witnessed these preparations if the windows and doors of the church were nailed shut. If confirmed, this would be one indicator that the deaths might have been the result of a mass suicide, similar to that of Heaven's Gate. The police investigation cast doubt on this sole witness; they found no signs of paraffin having been used at the church. Most of the world media initially emphasized the suicide theory. So did representatives of the anti-cult movement who are keen to promote their belief that mass suicide is a logical outcome of cult activity. They accuse cults of brainwashing their membership and reducing their will to act independently. Although their fundamental beliefs have been widely discounted by mental health professionals, the ACM has been quite successful in propagating their beliefs among the press and the rest of the public.
Mass murder: There is a growing indication that the tragedy was a mass murder, not a mass suicide:
Several news sources reported that the doors of the church were nailed shut from the inside. That might indicate that the leadership wanted to confine the full membership within the church in order to murder the entire group.
The discovery of additional bodies which had been murdered and buried in latrines near the church gives weight to the mass murder theory.
The discoveries of many hundreds of murder victims at other locations also point towards mass murder.
Leader Kibwetere appears to have planned the tragedy in advance. He allegedly sent a letter to his wife before the tragedy, encouraging her to continue the religion "because the members of the cult were going to perish the next day.''
The group's membership are almost entirely ex-Roman Catholic -- a faith that strongly forbids suicide. Traditional belief also very strongly forbids suicide. Finally, local belief is that if a person dies in a fire, that not only their body is killed but their soul is as well. This is the reason why evil sorcerers were once burned alive: so that they would be completely annihilated. It is very unlikely that if a person in this area wanted to commit suicide that they would choose death by fire.
Regional police commander Setphen Okwalinga said: "It's a criminal case; it's murder..." According to the Associated Press on MAR-26, "Government officials are treating movement leader Kibwetere as a fugitive and all the deaths as murder." Yet media reports and even this AP article still refer to the tragedy as a mass suicide. Some beliefs die hard.
A New York Times article reported that "The police originally suspected mass suicide by more than 300 followers found burned to death in a church in the town of Kanungu...But since then, more bodies have been found, a number with unmistakable signs of strangulation...Many [other] bodies have shown no sign of violence, leading some investigators to suspect mass poisoning. Increasingly, police are calling this an organized slaughter."
There is a growing belief that the deaths were precipitated by failed prophecy. When the end of the world did not occur on 1999-DEC-31, some members of the sect demanded their money and possessions back. This, in turn, may have triggered the mass murders.
According to the New York Times on APR-4: "Uganda's vice president, Dr. Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe, apologized for the government's failure to stop the cult before the deaths..."These were callously, well-orchestrated mass murders perpetrated by a network of diabolic, malevolent criminals masquerading as religious people," she said.
Other violent religious groups in Uganda:
According to Massimo Introvigne of CESNUR, "Uganda is the home of hundreds of religious movements, many of them apocalyptic and millenarian. This is not surprising: Uganda experienced an apocalypse of its own with the bloody regime of Idi Amin Dada and the atrocities of the civil war. Apocalyptic movements in Uganda expect justice from the end of the world, not from politics."
According to Reuters, "There is a history of fanatical religious movements in Uganda." These include:
The Holy Spirit Movement, "an extreme and violent Christian cult," which formed in the late 1980s. "Many hundreds of believers died in suicidal attacks, convinced that magic oil would protect them from bullets of government troops."
The Lord's Resistance Army succeeded the Holy Spirit Movement. The are also a Christian group. Their goal is to run Uganda on the basis of the biblical Ten Commandments. They have kidnapped thousands of children to be used as soldiers and sex slaves; they often commit atrocities against local people.
Police in Uganda had disbanded another doomsday cult, World Message Last Warning in 1999-SEP. Leaders have been charged with rape, kidnapping, illegal confinement, and murder. 24 decomposing bodies were found at their headquarters. Wilson Bushara organized the group in 1995. He apparently preached communal sex and multiple marriages; all of the women in the group were considered to be his wives.
Reactions to the tragedy:
2000-MAR-20: The Boston Herald newspaper quoted Steven Hassan, a leader of the anti-cult movement (ACM). The ACM has promoted the largely discredited concept that mind control techniques are widely used in new religious groups to psychologically abuse their members. He said that the Restoration group likely used mind control to strip members of their ability to think critically: "Most of them died willingly. But when you think about mind control, it wasn't their own will, it was their cult identity's will." Hassan apparently accepts the theory that the cult members committed mass suicide and rejects the theory that the cult members were killed.
2000-MAR-20: Workers using bulldozers, buried hundreds of charred bodies in a mass grave, along with the walls of their church.
2000-MAR-21: The Roman Catholic hierarchy distanced itself from the tragedy. The country's bishops said that the group's excommunicated leaders had "erred and broke the discipline of the church." The sect's members "were misled by obsessed leaders into an obnoxious form of religiosity completely rejected by the Catholic Church."
2000-APR-1: The government called a day of prayer on Sunday [APR-2] to ''console surviving relatives and assure the country that action is being taken in pursuit of the criminal perpetrators''.
2000-APR-3: Rumors have been circulating that two of the leaders of the group had engaged in human sacrifice and cannibalism. They allegedly murdered an infant each week and drank its blood. [Author's note: We suspect that this is an urban folk-tale. Fear of evil sorcerers who dedicate their lives to harming and killing others is well established in this area of the world.]
B.A. Robinson - ReligiousTolerance.org
Tragedy in Uganda: the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, a Post-Catholic Movement
by Massimo Introvigne - Cesnur.org
On March 17, 2000, several hundreds of followers (estimates vary, but they may well have been more than 300, including 78 children) of the Ugandan new religious movement Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God (RTCG) died in Kanungu (in the Rukingiri district, 217 miles South-West of Uganda's capital Kampala) in what was alternatively called a mass suicide or a homicide perpetrated by its leaders. The subsequent discovery of mass graves in various locations raised the death toll to 780 and possibly more, the largest such incident in recent history.
RTCG, a fringe Catholic group, had been established among an epidemic of apparitions of the Virgin Mary and Jesus in Catholic circles in Africa, most of them not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, during and after the famous apparitions in Kibeho, Rwanda (1981-1989.) There, seven seers were encouraged and approved by the Catholic hierarchy.
The apparitions more directly conductive to the formation of the RTCG started in 1987, when a number of Catholics claimed to have visions of Jesus and the Virgin Mary in South-Western Uganda after one Rwandan girl claiming a connection with Kibeho (but not being one of the “approved” seers there,) Specioza Mukantabana, moved in 1986 to the Ugandan dioceses of Mbarara and (later) of Masaka, starting a movement in Mbuye.
Among the new seers were Paul Kashaku (1890-1991,) and his daughter Credonia Mwerinde (1952-2000,) a barmaid with some reputation for sexual promiscuity (who later claimed to be a former prostitute: most probably a false claim, and a conscious attempt to replicate the role of Mary Magdalene.) Kashaku had a past as a visionary, and claimed to have had, as early as 1960, an apparition from her deceased daughter Evangelista (?-1957.)
Kashaku claimed to have had a particularly important apparition in 1988, and impressed among others Joseph Kibwetere (1931-2000,) who claimed to have received himself apparitions since 1984. Kibwetere was a solid member of the Catholic community in Uganda, who had been a politician and a locally prominent member of the Catholic-based Democratic Party in the 1970s. Eventually, a community was established in Kibwetere’s home in 1989.
The newly formed group attempted to merge the movement with other “apparitionist” groups, including the one established in Mbuye by the Rwandan seer Mukantabana (a group which had been in the meantime condemned by the local Catholic bishop.) These attempts, however, failed. A group of twelve apostles (six of them women) was appointed, and Kibwetere became their leader after Kashaku’s death in 1991.
The seers claimed to have seen Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Joseph in several different visions, heavily influenced both by recognized Catholic apparitions such as La Salette and Fatima, and by unofficial Catholic sources, including the messages of the Italian visionary priest Father Stefano Gobbi, several U.S.-based visionaries, and William Kamm (“Little Pebble,”) a marginal Catholic prophet who claims that he will eventually become the next Pope. Together with obvious borrowings from these sources, the messages address typical Ugandan themes such as the AIDS epidemic and governmental corruption. Eventually, the village of Kanungu was designated as "Ishayuriro rya Maria" (the Rescue Place for the Virgin Mary.)
The group of followers of the seers moved there in 1994. The group converted to his prophetic visions a handful of Catholic priests an nuns, including Father Dominic Kataribaabo (1967-2000,) a U.S.-educated Ugandan Dominican priest. The RTCG developed an archconservative brand of Catholicism and some of its leaders and members were eventually excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church (although the priests were suspended from their priestly functions rather than excommunicated.)
Among other things, they broke with Ugandan Catholic Bishops - as many an archconservative would do, throughout the world - on questions of reliability of apparitions (including their own,) clerical garb, and proper ways of taking communion (they regarded as licit only the communion taken kneeling, not standing, and rejected the practice of taking the host in the communicant's hands.)
On the other hand, unlike other traditionalist movements, the RTCG did accept both ecumenism and the new ritual of the Mass introduced in the Catholic Church after Vatican II, and its Masses were celebrated in vernacular rather than Latin. The movement’s publications strongly denied that the RTCG was a new religious movement, and claimed that it was just another conservative Catholic group. The Ugandan Catholic Bishops, however, concluded otherwise.
The RTCG was legally incorporated with this name in 1994, and a boarding school was licensed until 1998, when the license was revoked by the government, which mentioned teachings contrary to he Constitution, breaches of public health regulations and possible mistreatment of children. In fact, the main message of RTCG was that the Ten Commandments had been distorted and needed to be restored in their full value.
The third edition of the handbook A Timely Message from Heaven: The End of Present Times (1996,) mainly written by Kataribaabo, proclaimed: "Ours is not a religion but a movement that endeavors to make the people aware of the fact that the Commandments of God have been abandoned, and it gives what should be done for their observance" (n.p.) Additional comments in the book about morality, such that "girls prefer wearing men's trousers to wearing their own dresses," refer to themes common in traditionalist and other Catholic archconservative circles.
The message was also apocalyptic: "All of you living on the Planet, listen to what I'm going to say: When the year 2000 is completed, the year that will follow will not be year 2001. The year that will follow shall be called Year One in a generation that will follow the present generation; the generation that will follow will have few or many people depending on who will repent. (…) The Lord told me that hurricanes of fire would rain forth from heaven and spread over all those who would not have repented" (n.p.)
It is however worth noting that here RTCG visions are very similar to those of the (Church-approved) Kibeho visionaries: the latter saw rivers of blood, great fires and decapitated corpses. The Virgin Mary told them: "There isn't much time left in preparing for the Last Judgment. We must change our live, renounce sin. Pray and prepare for our own death and for the end of the world" (Maindron, Apparizioni a Kibeho, 1985, p. 107.)
Of course, in Kibeho Church approval also meant Church control, and the apocalyptic elements were controlled by approved and century-old metaphorical interpretations. Once the RTCG had left the Catholic fold, this was less likely to happen and some of the Kibeho images were literally acted out by the RTCG.
The some 5,000 members of RTCG (the movement had branches in several Ugandan small towns) were said to avoid sex, to talk rarely, for fear of breaking the commandment about not bearing false witness and to have developed a sign language (although reports of their unusual behavior may have been exaggerated after the tragedy.)
Although most members were former Catholics, it also included some from the milieu of African Initiated Churches (AIC, formerly called African Independent Churches) and from local spiritualist groups. RTCG was considered in Uganda among the less violent local apocalyptic movements. On the other hand, it did predict the end of the world for December 31, 1999, later revising the date and claiming that on March 17, 2000 the Virgin Mary would appear and take members to Heaven.
The prophetic failure may have induced a number of members to doubt the leaders, and to ask for the money they had contributed back. This development (similar to one that occurred in the Order of the Solar Temple prior to the homicides and suicides of 1994) may have created a category of "traitors" who were killed in various waves prior to March 17 and whose bodies have been found in several mass graves at different locations.
On the other hand, the mass graves remain in many respect a mystery, and it is also possible that some “weak” members, regarded as not fully prepared to commit suicide, were killed there without being regarded as “traitors.”
Shortly before March 17, Kibwetere wrote to his wife Theresa (not a member of RTCG) urging her to carry on the movement after his "departure.” A nun went to nearby villages announcing the coming of the Virgin Mary for March 17. Apparently, while some members did know about the suicide, others were simply told about an imminent supernatural event and did not expect to die.
As in the case of the Solar Temple (and notwithstanding the obvious differences) there were three categories of victims: those who knew about the suicide and regarded it as a “rational” way to escape a doomed world (a minority those who expected to go to Heaven but did not know how; and the "traitors" who doubted Kibweteere after the prophetic failure. The latter were assassinated before the final fire. The presence of three, rather than two, categories of victims create a continuum between homicide and suicide.
Among the leaders, Kataribaabo was originally identified among the dead, but later the Ugandan government issued a warrant for his arrest together with warrants against Kibwetere and Merinde. Dental records for the trio are unavailable, and it is at this stage impossible to determine whether they died in the fire (as their families think,) or escaped with the movement’s money (as some witnesses imply, and the Ugandan government apparently believes.)
Of course, the idea that the leaders were simple con men (and women) who had escaped with the money was the preferred explanation by media and some members of the law enforcement community in the Solar Temple case, too, before dental records proved this theory wrong. Most scholars believe that the leadership of the RTCG died in the 2000 fire, and its behaviour prior to the events confirms this conclusion.
Uganda is the home of hundreds of religious movements, many of them apocalyptic and millenarian. This is not surprising: Uganda experienced an apocalypse of its own with the bloody regime of Idi Amin Dada (1925-2003) and the atrocities of the civil war. Apocalyptic movements in Uganda expect justice from the end of the world, not from politics. Scholarship about Uganda's apocalyptic movements in general warns again applying Western models to situations peculiar to that country.
In fact, conflict between "cults" and the national army, protest, violence (and even suicide) are often new forms of pre-existing ethnic, tribal, and political conflicts. In general, tragedies in Uganda also confirm that violence connected to new religious movements erupts because of a combination of internal and external factors.
In the RTCG case, internal factors include the personality of the leaders, and their literal interpretations of prophecies about the end of the world and the crisis both of society and of the Catholic Church, such as Kibeho’s and Father Gobbi’s. Once dissociated from the Church’s time-tested skills of metaphorical interpretations, Marian apocalyptic revelations may be taken literally, and acted upon. External factors include the situation prevailing in Uganda, and particularly in an area ravaged by disaster, famines, and civil war.
After the tragedy of Kanungu, some African governments reacted quite strongly against “cults” in general. The risk is to engage in witch hunts, and fail to remember that thousands of apocalyptic movements throughout the world are law-abiding and not violent. In Africa as elsewhere, generalizations claiming that all millenarian and apocalyptic movements are ready for mass suicide are grossly inaccurate. They may in fact amplify tension and deviance, thus operating as self-fulfilling prophecies and contributing to cause the very evils they claim they want to prevent.
"A Tentative First Report on the Deaths in Uganda"
by J. Gordon Melton - Cesnur.org
April 14, 2000
First it was 150 dead. Then it was 350, and gradually the count reached and surpassed the 913 that died at the Peoples Temple community in Jonestown, Guyana. It has now risen above 1,000, and the search for victims of Uganda's Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God continues.
The sheer extent of the tragedy in Kanungu, Uganda, calls forth comparison with Jonestown, where in November 1978 the visit of California Representative Leo J. Ryan became the catalyst for the group to turn in upon itself and commit mass suicide, and to murder the minority who would not participate.
On the surface, Jonestown and Kanungu have striking similarities: More than 900 known dead, both exhibited some primary characteristics of so-called "cults"--charismatic leaders and geographic isolation. But closer reflection shows some equally striking differences--despite equally tragic ends.
As our knowledge of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God (MRTC) has expanded, so has our knowledge of its inner dynamics, helped immensely by the emergence of Peter Ahimbisibwe, a young man who so far is the only known Movement survivor.
The MRTC seems to have really begun with the coming together of Credonia Mwerinde and Joseph Kibwetere. On August 24, 1988, Mwerinde, a young woman with a reputation for being sexually loose, had the first of what she said was a series of visions of the Virgin Mary and began to share her story with those who would listen. In 1991, Kibwetere traveled to Nyanmitanga, Uganda, to hear Mwerinde and was so impressed that he invited her to live in his home.
This became the headquarters of the Movement for three years until they moved to Kanangu in 1994. By this time, Kibwetere had separated from his wife and had been excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. The pair led the group, but accounts vary as to which one held ultimate authority.
Mwerinde's visions had also attracted other Catholics, including the priest Dominic Kataribabo, who in the 1980s earned a master's degree in religious studies from Los Angeles' Loyola Marymount University, a Catholic institution. He had been disciplined by his Ugandan bishop, who reprimanded and eventually excommunicated him in the early 1990s for raising funds for the Movement. He eventually left the church and worked exclusively for the MRTC.
Beginning in 1994, the Movement developed as an ordered community, adherents accepting a disciplined life and new behavioral rules as conditions of membership (somewhat like life in other Catholic orders). Its primary center was in Kanungu, but other groups emerged at several nearby towns. Members were united in their acceptance of the material received by Mwerinde from her reported visions.
As families joined, they adopted the group rules designed to prevent any further breaking of the Ten Commandments. They refrained from sex and any unnecessary verbal interaction (a means of refraining from adultery and profaning the Lord's name). They developed a sign language that they used whenever possible.
As the group formed around the visions, it moved to separate itself from society and the church. For MRTC, the Catholic Church was high on the list of those who were regularly breaking the Ten Commandments that caused God such great offense. In return, as soon as the Movement became large enough for church officials to take note, its leaders were excommunicated, and it was written off as not Catholic.
Integral to the group was a belief that the world was disintegrating around them it, but as with apocalyptic groups through the centuries, they also had hope that God or the Virgin would deliver them. The end of the century provided an occasion for actualizing that belief, and as December 31 approached they began to liquidate assets and prepare for the coming deliverance predicted by Mwerinde and Kibwetere.
When deliverance did not come, the pair did as other leaders have done and revised their prediction. It would still happen, they said, but at some point during 2000. Many accepted that revision; they had placed their faith in the Virgin Mary and had confidence in her chosen mouthpiece.
However, if we are to believe Ahimbisibwe's account, a significant number of members lost their confidence in Mwerinde's contact with the divine realm and demanded the money and resources they had donated be returned. That demand created a crisis that threatened to bankrupt if not destroy the group.
At this point, one of two possible scenarios become possible. Which actually unfolded remains unclear for now.
First, it is possible that the resources of the group (never large but substantial in Ugandan terms) had been spent on the buildings they had erected and the ongoing expenses of keeping the community together. There was no cash to return to the dissidents (there were so many of them), and if they left it would be a massive challenge for the rest to keep the faith. Everything would be undone. The words of the Virgin that began the Movement would be disconfirmed.
It could be at this point that the leadership decided that the only course was to kill the dissidents and then to end the Movement in the collective death of the faithful. This action assumes the commitment of the leaders to the truth of the visions and their belief that the destruction of the Movement was the only way for its gains to remain.
In this senario, both Mwerinde and Kibwetere would have had to join the trusted aides who assisted them in the group's murderous destruction and die in the final March 17 conflagration that brought the situation to the world's attention. A fair number of aides would have been needed to carry out the many murders that preceded the final conflagration, and at least one would have been sure to notice the absence of the two leaders during the interval between the sealing of the church doors and the explosion in Kanungu.
The second scenario suggests that either Mwerinde and Kibwetere never had real faith in the visions or, more likely, that they lost their faith. This suggests that they were, in fact, hoarding the group's resources that had accumulated over six years, had created a large secret treasury, and were thinking that at some time they would split with the money.
Their timetable was upset by the unexpected reaction to the failed prophecy, which could have been made to further manipulate the group. Once encountering the reaction, however, they were forced to quickly develop a way out: Bring a cadre of trusted lieutenants into a plan that included the killing of hundreds of dissident members by either poisoning them or stabbing them, quickly burying the bodies, and covering what they had done both from the faithful members and the general public.
In the end, to cover their departure, they killed the remainder of the group in such a way that everyone would think the leaders had also died.
Such a cover-up would have been assisted by the members' trust in their leaders, the maxims against unnecessary communication--including asking about missing members--and the general separation of the group from society as a whole.
Either scenario is possible. If the first is true, there is little the authorities can do. If the second is true, as Ugandan authorities now believe, much needs to be done. If Mwerinde and Kibwetere are alive, a search while the trail is still warm is the best chance to find them. Given what is known of the group's relative lack of resources, the first scenario appears the more likely. There was not enough money for the leaders to think they could hide indefinitely--not with the world after them.
While there is some resemblance, the Peoples Temple stands in sharp contrast with the MRTC in many ways. Jim Jones founded the Peoples Temple as an independent congregation in Indianapolis, and soon afterward the group joined the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a large mainline denomination, a member of the National and World Councils of Churches. Once the Temple relocated to California, Jones and the group's lay leadership became very active in the social, political, and religious life of the San Francisco Bay Area. The Temple emphasized racial issues in particular.
Jones' prominence meant that politicians wanted to be seen with him. The church was also active in its denomination and the ecumenical movement through the California Council of Churches, and its social program was touted throughout liberal Protestant denominations as a model to be admired and copied.
Jones preached a form of liberation theology, a popular option in the 1970s among social activists who tried to mix Marxist thought with Christian theology. Few of his colleagues challenged his more radical statements, as many were themselves exploring Marxism's potential. They did not see his gradual shift toward Marxism to the detriment of theology.
But Jones and the leadership of the Temple became more and more alienated from their environment. They had internal troubles with dissidents, critics threatened their financial base, and the process of change in American life seemed so slow as to be invisible. The loss of a hoped-for future in America led the group to abandon capitalist society. Their actual move to then-Marxist Guyana appears to have been occasioned by an attack on the Temple published in the July 1977 issue of Far West, a newsstand monthly.
Once in Guyana, different dynamics took over. Jones, the charismatic leader who built the group, was a terrible administrator. Gradually, power shifted to the circle of leadership he had previously brought around him, a shift encouraged by his increasingly erratic behavior. Guyana proved to be less than the "Promised Land" many had hoped it would become, and increasingly discussion by the Temple's leadership of the possibility of mass suicide led to preparation for it.
For them, collective death became preferred to the dissolution of the group.. They had invested their life in the Temple; its disintegration would have meant the final loss of any meaning their life might have had.
As the failure of the December 31 prophecy occasioned the murders at Kanungu, so the visit of Congressman Ryan, who arrived in Guyana in response to anti-Temple forces in San Francisco, became the occasion for the death of the Peoples Temple. While outwardly Ryan concluded his visit on friendly terms, and even had nice words to say about what he had found at Jonestown, the fragile nature of the group had been revealed in the defection of 16 members who chose to leave with Ryan.
Importantly, while the Peoples Temple was overwhelming African American in membership, all but one who chose to leave was white, including some longtime members and Temple leaders. Back in America, the defectors would strengthen the Temple's critics; their leaving seemed to herald further defections that would destroy the community's structure.
In the end, several who had previously prepared for the suicide option pushed Jones aside, quickly organized the group, and distributed the poison immediately after Ryan, his entourage, and the defecting members had been killed.. The last words on the tape that was made of the final hour were of several members who voiced their belief that the end of the community in the act of suicide was preferable to its dismemberment by further defections. Jones himself did not take the poison; he died from a gunshot wound.
In Jonestown, we see the collective action of a group in despair that decided that suicide was better than the loss of all they have attempted to create. In the end, relatively few were murdered; the great majority joined in the suicide.
In Uganda, however, members individually or collective had no such choice. Individuals who chose to leave the Movement were murdered by a disparate leadership, and the group of the faithful who gathered for deliverance were met with an explosion. Although the body count was similar, the dynamics of what occurred were completely different. At Jonestown, a great majority chose suicide. In Uganda, a great majority had no choice--they were murdered.
One of the problems in assessing events such as the Jonestown suicides or the Uganda murders is their uniqueness. For those of us who love life, that suicide could be a preferable course of action is difficult to understand. For those of us who trust our pastor, priest, rabbi, or other spiritual leader, it is equally difficult to imagine the betrayal of trust that occurred within the MRTC.
Only in the 1990s, with the tragedies of the Solar Temple, Heaven's Gate, and Waco--each of them a unique event in the dynamics that led up to their tragic conclusions--have we begun to focus attention on such religiously related tragedies. We have much to trust if we hope to prevent future repetitions of these terrible events.
"Kanungu Dead Poisoned"
by Matthias Mugisha
"New Vision" (Kampala), July 28, 2000
Kampala - Most of the hundreds of the people who died at the hands of a doomsday cult at Kanungu early this year, had been poisoned, police said on Thursday.
"The bodies which were found buried in the pits, had been poisoned, Police pathologists have told us. But we have not got the detailed reports from forensic experts of the type of poisoning because we have not yet paid to get the results. Those that were strangled were few," Police spokesman Asuman Mugenyi told AFP, a French news agency.
The final death toll in the cult killings has now settled at 778, Mugenyi added.
On March 17, about 500 members of the cult lead by Joseph Kibwetere, excommunicated priest Dominic Kataribaabo and a former barmaid, Credonia Mwerinde, burnt to ashes in their church whose doors and windows were nailed shut in Kanungu, Rukungiri district in western Uganda.
It was then believed that petrol, and acid was used in the inferno. The theory of a mass suicide was changed to mass murder when decomposing bodies were discovered in pits with signs of strangulation. Some bodies had stab wounds.
Hundreds of bodies were discovered in various places in the country including Kampala where the doomsday cult had branches.
Earlier reports had suggested that most of the members of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God had been strangled to death, a theory lent credence by the presence of twists of banana fibre around the necks of many victims.
"There are no more possibilities of any more bodies being found. There is nothing else. We have searched everywhere," Mugenyi told the news agency.
"Cult in Uganda Poisoned Many, Police Say"
AFP, July 28, 2000
KAMPALA, Uganda, July 27 -- The majority of the hundreds of Ugandans who died at the hands of a doomsday cult this year were poisoned, the police said today.
"The bodies which were found buried in the pits had been poisoned, police pathologists have told us," said a police spokesman, Assuman Mugenyi. "But we have not got the detailed report from forensic experts of the type of poisoning because we have not yet paid to get the results."
Earlier reports suggested that most of the victims -- members of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, whose bodies were found in several locations in western Uganda -- had been strangled. That theory had been based on the presence of twists of banana fibers found around the necks of many victims.
But today Mr. Mugenyi said few of the victims had been strangled.
The final death toll in the cult killings has settled at 778, he added.
Earlier estimates given by the government had suggested the figure might exceed 1,000.
Mr. Mugenyi ruled out finding more bodies. "There is nothing else," he said. "We have searched everywhere."
The five principal cult leaders have never been apprehended.
They were believed to have died with their followers in the cult's headquarters in Kanungu, although the police later issued an international warrant for their arrest.
"'Mary's Flames': The Long Road To Horror In Kanungu"
February 8, 2001 - "The East African," (Kampala)
Erich Ogoso Opolot And David Musoke analyse the findings of a Makerere University study of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments, the Ugandan cult that murdered over 1,000 of its members a year ago
A year ago, on March 17, 2000, Uganda became the site of the worst single incident of cult killings in world history.
Over 1,000 followers of the Movement for The Restoration of the Ten Commandments were found dead. Half of them died in a church that was set on fire; the bodies of the rest were found buried in mass graves all over the country on that day.
The Movement's leaders had predicted the end of the world on December 31, 1999. "Prior to this, darkness was to cover the world for three days from December 29. Once the world came to an end, only cult members gathered at their camp would be saved," says a new report compiled by researchers from Makerere University's Department of Religious Studies, who have spent the past year studying the genesis and growth of this deadly cult.
When 2000 came and none of these predictions came to pass, discontent rose among the members. Some realised they had been duped and started demanding the return of property they had surrendered to the church.
"A chaotic situation developed in the camp. The golden rule of silence was broken. All work stopped. Members became disloyal and started to mix freely with outsiders. Then the leaders told them that the Virgin Mary had reappeared to them and extended the date for the end of the world," the report reveals.
As the end of the world grew increasingly elusive, members were asked to go back to their homes, and told they would be informed when to return to be taken to heaven. Later, the leaders spread the word that the Virgin Mary had extended the date by two months, to March 17, 2000.
The leaders now started selling the followers' shops, clothes and domestic animals, reportedly "for a song."
The high priests also requested persistent complainants to put their grievances in writing. Those who submitted such written complaints would be called to a meeting in groups or individually. Most were never seen again; when members asked about them, they would be told that they had been transferred to the cult's other camps.
A week before the fateful day of March 17, members from the cult's other camps were brought to Kanungu and on the "doomsday," celebrations took place including a sumptuous meal- "a last supper."
March 17 began normally enough, with members trooping into the old church for morning prayers. However, they had been told that today they would be locked in and that the Virgin Mary would come personally, "clothed in flames" to take them to heaven. The pretext for locking them in was that only those inside would be delivered.
Only 17 year-old Peter Ahimbisibwe, who had left earlier to buy food, survived "Mary's flames," which engulfed the church, leaving an estimated 500 people dead. Later, more bodies were discovered underneath houses owned by the cult, garroted, mutilated and poisoned: 155 in Rugazi, Bushenyi on March 27; 153 in Rutooma, Rukungiri district, on March 25; 81 in Rushojwa, Rukungiri, on March 30 and 55 in Buziga, Kampala on April 27.
The Uganda government is yet to give an official explanation of the events that led to the cult deaths. A promised inquiry is yet to begin while police are still searching for cult members who escaped the inferno.
The Makerere report, published by the Marianum Press of Kisubi and written by Gerard Banura, Chris Tuhirirwe, and Joseph Begumanya - established that the cult's core leaders were Joseph Kibwetere, 68, Credonia Mwerinde, 48, and Fr Dominic Kataribabo, 64.
Kibwetere is regarded as the founder of the cult and was addressed as Omukuru w'entumwa (chief apostle/prophet). Born in Ruguma, in Kajara county in western Uganda, he was trained as a primary school teacher at St George's Teachers College, Ibanda. Later, he taught in various schools and was a headmaster and supervisor of Catholic schools in 1962. Later, he joined Uganda's civil service before retiring to pursue politics. He did not distinguish himself in the Democratic Party and later opted to run a bar in Kabale.
At one point, he is said to have developed a "mental problem" and claimed to have died and been resurrected. He was treated at Butabika Psychiatric Hospital.
"Joseph Kibwetere became very faithful to the Movement oath of silence. Whenever he was consulted, he would put his response in writing or use sign language. Most local people rarely saw him," say the researchers.
Mwerinde claimed to talk directly with the Virgin Mary and was the co- ordinator of all activities at the movement's camps. The researchers found that "nothing could be done without consulting her. She in turn would claim that she had to consult with the Virgin Mary. Her word was usually final and binding." Aptly, she was popularly referred to as the 'programmer."
Born in Kanungu in 1952, her father was a retired Catholic catechist. She dropped out of primary school after her family refused to support her education. Later she moved to Kanungu trading centre, where she reportedly "got involved with men" and had four children, of whom only two are still alive. She went on to own the "Independence Bar" in Kanungu.
Fr Dominic Kataribabo was one of the "bishops" administering sacraments, teaching, leading worship and related religious functions. Born in Bushenyi, Kataribabo was educated in Katabi and Katigondo seminaries and was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1965. From 1974 to 1977, he studied history at Makerere University before proceeding to Loyola University, Mt Carmel, California, between 1985 and 1987, obtaining a master's degree in religious studies.
Before joining the cult, the "arrogant, introverted" prelate served as Rector at Katabi seminary and Diocesan Youth Chaplain in Mbarara.
While the cult traced its origins to Mwerinde and Kibwetere, its founder is probably Gauda Kamusha, who lived in Nyakishenyi, Rukungiri district. In the 1980s, she claimed that a rock formation at Nyabugoto caves had once been transformed into the Virgin Mary before her eyes, and that the vision had instructed her to preach repentance and win converts to Christianity.
It was her crusade that brought Mwerinde and Kibwetere to the camp in 1998. After visiting the caves, Kibwetere began attracting a following and developed a close relationship with Mwerinde.
In 1990, Kibwetere officially launched the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God. At first, the cult was headquartered at his home in Ntungamo district, with 27 followers. Later, it was moved to Kakoba, Mbarara.
Against opposition from the mainstream Catholic church, the cult moved in 1993 to Kanungu, after Kibwetere visited Mwerinde's home and liked the area. Mwerinde's ailing father, Paul Kashaku, donated 10 acres of land to the cult.
The same year, it was registered as a religious NGO and was permitted by the Uganda government to carry out its activities throughout the country.
The cult was headquartered on a hillside on which stood a modern house for the leaders and two large dormitories for males and females respectively. There were two guest houses with receptions, kitchens, stores, a primary boarding school and an unfinished shrine. A cemetery, poultry project and dairy farm with 30 Friesian cows and fields of crops completed the set-up.
The site where the group settled was locally called Katate but the cult renamed it Ishayuuriro rya Maria, meaning "where Mary comes to the rescue of the spiritually stranded." There were branches in Rutoma, Rubirizi and Rugazi, Kyaka, Kabarole and Buziga, Kampala.
Women and children formed the bulk of the members but, contrary to reports that most were illiterate peasants, teachers, carpenters, masons, businessmen, ex-soldiers and former catechists were part of its laity. They also included not only Catholics but also Protestants, Muslims and others.
Members observed a strict code of conduct that forbade private ownership of property. Converts therefore surrendered all personal clothing and even academic qualifications to the cult.
Men and women were separated, except for Kibwetere and Mwerinde. Sexual intercourse between members, including married couples, was forbidden. A rigid timetable was followed with Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as days of fasting, which started with prayers called "The Way of the Cross" from 3am to 5am. From 5am to 7am, members would go back to sleep. Upon waking up, they would work till 1pm. followed by another prayer session until 2pm. Free time was 3pm to 4pm and thereafter, there would more work followed by supper at 8.00 pm and night prayers at 11pm.
On non-fasting days, the schedule was basically the same, but members had to clean the compound before breakfast. They also held a short prayer, the Angelus, from 12pm to 3pm. "Lunch was usually light and could be a piece of sugarcane or a cup of porridge. Supper was better qualitatively," says the study. Members were taught that light meals were part of sacrifice. But their leaders enjoyed lavish meals, which included meat, on a regular basis.
Members lived a life of prayer and meditation. Sunday was a 'Day of the Lord' when no work or activity was permitted. During the week, however, it was "like a labour camp," the researchers say.
Ordinary dress was prohibited. Members surrendered their clothes on entering the camp and were issued with uniforms black for recruits, green for those "who had seen the commandments" and green and white for "those who were ready to die in the ark."
The uniforms featured long-sleeved robes reaching the ankles. Women covered their heads with veils of matching colours. Each member wore their uniform at all times, their clothing having been sold or given away. They lived a life of "sacrifice, penance and mortification." They were discouraged from sleeping on beds or mattresses and had only the thinnest of blankets. They were not allowed to wear shoes or sandals- except, of course the leaders.
However, those who contributed more money lived in relatively better housing. The majority were poor and had to make do with mud and wattle huts.
Members observed the rule of absolute silence at all times. They communicated using signs and writing. Contact with outsiders was minimised and members were rarely allowed out of the camp. Visitors were restricted to a "visitors' zone."
In 1997, the cult started a primary school, which was officially opened by District Commissioner Kita Gawera. Later, education authorities closed it down due to poor sanitation, low academic standards and violation of children's rights. There were no health facilities at the Kanungu camp, which should have alerted the authorities to the fatalistic creed of the cult.
To join, children forked out Ush 5,000 ($2.7). For youths, it was Ush8,000 ($4.3) while adults paid Ush25,000 ($13.5). The cult also operated two shops, in Kanungu and Katojo towns.
The Movement kept aloof from the local people, few of whom joined it. However, it enjoyed good relations with local government officials. Some women members did domestic chores for the district commissioner at his house in Kanungu and members were generally law-abiding.
The cult's theology and teaching were based on messages the leaders claimed to receive on a regular basis from the Virgin Mary and Jesus. They emphasised the restoration of the Ten Commandments as God's guidelines to humanity and urged members to confess their sins in preparation for the end of the world on December 31, 1999.
The leaders wrote a sacred book -A Timely Message from Heaven, The End of the Present Times (1996), which detailed their philosophy. Members were told to read the book 20 times, after which they would receive anything they prayed for.
"During baptism, the candidate would be shaved everywhere and nails cut. Later the nails and hair would be burnt and the ashes dissolved in tea or water which the candidate would drink. Part of the ash was mixed with the anointing oils and smeared over the candidate's body, after which he or she was considered clean."
Members moved around with three rosaries -two worn around the neck, one facing the front and another the back. The third was carried around in the hand. At times, a fourth would be hidden under the garments.
by Logan Nakyanzi
ABC News, February 14, 2001
KAMPALA - Father Dominic Kataribabo's house looked like any other under renovation - the work crew was busy fixing the sewage system and had already raised the roof. Neighbors sat beside the gate to the house and in the yard, watching children wearing rosaries pose for a picture.
But last year, 55 bodies were pulled from the house - part of a purge perpetrated by a Ugandan cult calling itself The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God.
By some estimates, as many as 1,000 people were found murdered by the cult across the country.It was about this time last year that the cult started to implode after the apocalypse failed to arrive with the New Year as predicted.
The cult's teachings were based on messages the leaders claimed to receive from the Virgin Mary and Jesus.
They emphasized the restoration of the Ten Commandments and urged members to confess their sins in preparation for the end of the world on December 31, 1999.
But the end never came and questions were inevitably asked of the leaders. Payments to the "church" by members slowed dramatically until it was announced that the deadline for the end of the world had been extended by the Virgin Mary.
March 17 was set as the "new" doomsday and people arrived to pray. They were locked in a church and burned to death on the pretext that the Virgin Mary would deliver them from the end of the world "clothed in flames." In addition to the bodies in the church, investigators found bodies of followers buried all over the country.
Church leaders, including Kataribabo, are still believed to be on the run.
Uganda has many cults, says newspaper editor Charles Onyango-Obbo. Obbo is editor of The Monitor, a newspaper billed as Uganda's only independent daily.
"Every small town has got a small church, small sect, someone has set up shop there. There's much, much more than 200 [churches, cults and sects]."
Obbo says the expansion of cults in Uganda is symptomatic of the country's larger problems.
He said Ugandans faced frustrations with established churches and the government because both had been unable to meet the needs of people coping with multiple traumas dogging the country.
On the Up and Up
Despite being hailed as an up-and-coming power broker in East Africa, Uganda is still reeling from years of armed conflict, political killings, and AIDS. Most of its population is under 18.
For Obbo, there is a connection between Uganda's one-party state and the growth of churches.
"A one-party state creates a vacuum and something will fill it. Either some demagogue, some church … during Idi Amin's [dictator in the 1970s responsible for the deaths of 300,000 opponents] time it was football, it was sports, sports clubs became very big. And now we have a lot of what you see, what we call cultural fundamentalism," Obbo told ABCNEWS.com.
Obbo said that until the lives of the average Ugandan improved, they would continue to be attracted to churches.
"If you had political groups, if they were free, you'd have competition for people's attention and time. You'd have a lot of programs being sold to the people … other than churches."
The government, for its part, is trying to intervene when churches begin behaving like extremist cults.
In August, a United Methodist Church was closed. Reportedly, officials took action after learning parishioners were pressured into abandoning medication and cosmetics to spend their days in all-day prayer vigils in darkened rooms. And some "born-again" churches have come under fire for holding "night prayers" for the same reason — the potential for excess.
Bordered by Sudan to the north, Congo to the west, and Rwanda to the southwest, Uganda has a habit of making headlines as the kind of nation vaulting from one tragedy to another.
Perhaps the most recent spark for international attention was an outbreak of the Ebola virus last year.
It was in this uncertain climate that the Ten Commandments cult thrived and was able to convince people that the end of the world was imminent.
William Tayeebwa, a reporter who covered the story locally, says killings began when leaders panicked: Members sold their property and gave proceeds to the cult with the understanding that the apocalypse was nigh.
"Nineteen-ninety-nine ends and they did not see the end of the world. So then the people started agitating. 'Now what's happening? We are supposed to go to heaven, we are not going.' And then it was clear [to cult leaders] that these people were revolting and in order to bring down the revolt, these people had to arrange for the end of the world," Tayeebwa said.
Choosing the Right Path
Obbo breaks the religious spectrum in Uganda into three groups. The older, established churches, the independent churches and the alternative churches.
He says the established churches, like the Anglican and Catholic churches, have found themselves stuck in a rigid format, unable to compete with the smaller groups who are winning over their parishioners.
Even church leaders are jumping ship. Father Kataribabo, now on the run from authorities as the the second-in-command of the Ten Commandments cult, was a preacher in the Catholic Church and reportedly left when he failed to be promoted at a pace he found acceptable.
"In the west of Uganda, very few members of that church have been able to rise in the hierarchy of the church," says Obbo, "so dissidents from that movement, like Father Kataribabo, then go and say, 'there's nothing in this for us. If they cannot reward us, we must organize ourselves.'"
By contrast, independent and alternative churches can hardly find enough room to seat all their new members.
Kampala Pentecostal Church (KPC) and its Canadian preacher, for example, minister from a former theater on a prominent hill in the middle of the capital. Sundays it is packed to overflowing, the balcony filled and parishioners out back watching the service on television monitors.
But Obbo makes a distinction between KPC and other newer churches: KPC "targets middle class, successful, professionals. And it talks about how to make money, how to find yourself a nice husband, nice wife, how to have a happy time with your family, picnicking and things. So it's been able to combine — it's almost got an ecumenical undertone to it. It's been able to speak to people's material concerns, the bottom line, so to speak. And it's also spoken to spiritual issues, in a very very modern sense.
"The Pentecostal Church has got its own thing, proper church, air conditioning. So it's in a different league than the rest, the majority of the other churches, which are very, very aggressive, which commit miracles: The Miracle Center, The Healing Center, The Victory Center — these are very aggressive churches."
And the miracles being advertised are attractive: Speaking before a packed congregation at Redeemed of the Lord Evangelistic Church, one preacher says she was cured of AIDS when she was "born-again." Reverend Grace Kityo, from Faith Christian Churches, a sect of 50 churches he helped found, says, "I've seen people who have been with AIDS delivered by the Almighty power and now are free." He also claims he brought a boy back from the dead.
At Kataribabo's house, like many gated homes in Uganda, the walls of the perimeter fence are topped with broken glass. While the walls keep out unwanted scrutiny, the cults sweeping Uganda continue to entice vulnerable Ugandans with empty promises of a better life.
"Up in smoke or into thin air? Uganda's killer cult leaders a year on"
AFP, March 16, 2001
KAMPALA - A year after more than 700 Ugandans died at the hands of a doomsday cult, authorities remain uncertain whether the group's leaders were among those who perished in the flames or have simply disappeared.
"We haven't picked up much more on the authors of these acts or about their whereabouts," Internal Security Organisation chief Brigadier Ivan Koreta told AFP about the leaders of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God.
On March 17, 2000, about 300 members of this group, including many women and children, were killed in a blaze in a Kanungu, western Uganda church whose doors and windows had been nailed shut.
Cult members had reportedly been persuaded that they were going into the 'Ark' to join the Virgin Mary in heaven.
In the following weeks a further 395 bodies were found buried in mass graves in the compounds of three buildings owned by the cult across southwest Uganda - and also in a suburb of the capital, Kampala.
But mystery still surrounds the whereabouts of the cult's top leadership.
"Our search most likely seems to point to them having gone up in flames as well... The trail is getting a bit cold now but we keep on trying to learn as much as we can," added Koreta.
Some of the mass graves were in gardens, others under concreted-over floors inside houses. Most of the dead were naked.
Police said at the time that they believed that the three principle cult leaders -- former bar girl Credonia Mwerinde, Joseph Kibwetere and their principle apostle Dominic Kataribaabo -- had died along with their followers.
One of the corpses, at the rear of the Kanungu church, was a large man, a dog-collar fused into his neck by the heat, lying by the back door which had been nailed shut.
He was widely believed to be Kataribaabo.
Within hours of the blaze, reports began to trickle in of Credonia being seen driving away from Kanungu in a pick-up truck.
Police issued arrest warrants for six cult leaders through Interpol, and these remain active.
"There were not really any leads," police spokesman Assuman Mugenyi told AFP.
"We keep on getting information and we would check and then we find nothing. Last year we got information that Katirabaabo was in Nairobi. We sent our people and couldn't get him.
"Then they said Kibwetere had been seen in Kisumu in Kenya. We despatched our police but we were chasing air," Mygenyi added.
The proximity of Kanungu to the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo has fuelled continuing rumours of the cult leaders' successful flight.
The killings shocked and baffled the world. One of the hardest things to understand was how the perpetrators hid their acts from neighbours.
Several of the houses where the bodies were found were built right in the middle of villages, and in the case of Father Kataribaabo, who had 155 bodies buried in his garden and house, was positioned on a ledge overlooking a local school.
The Kampala cult house, which has since been refurbished and rented, was overlooked by other homes.
"Please, this is a private property now. Every day we receive a lot of people saying they just want to peep inside and go away. We are tired of this," the owner told the State Owned New Vision newspaper.
Police still do not know exactly how the killings took place, although they are clearer about the methods used.
"We know that in the church the people died from an explosion caused by lit petrol, not by bombs as earlier alleged. These people had put so many lit containers of petrol around the church," Mugenyi told AFP.
Pathology reports revealed that those who were found buried in the cult buildings had first been poisoned by eating contaminated food.
"Those who took time to die were strangled, but they had already been weakened by the poison in the food," Mugenyi said.
Police have also now established that those found in mass graves were killed four to six weeks before the Kanungu blaze, ending speculation that they were murdered at the turn of the millennium when a prophecy that the world would end failed to come true.
One year on little has been discovered about the motives behind the killings.
Theories range from greed: cult members sold off their belongings at give-away prices before they died; to simple post-millennial madness.
Investigations have been hampered by the government's apparent disinterest.
The severely under-funded police admitted at the time that they lacked the means to handle the inquiry, while a government commission into the massacres never got off the ground for want of finance.
"A year after cult mass murder, some see the ghosts of the victims"
by Henry Wasswa
AP, March 16, 2001
KANUNGU -- The rusting tire rim that served as a bell to summon the faithful swings from the branch of an avocado tree. A tangle of young saplings pushes up from the mass grave. And the cult leaders presumed to be behind the fire that killed 330 of their followers are still at large one year later.
A ghostly silence hangs over the burned-out hall and the tidy, solid houses where the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God prayed and sang. They were awaiting the day when God, angered by the world's sins, would send flames to destroy it and take the virtuous to heaven.
But the cult's leaders hastened judgment day and on March 17, according to police, herded 330 people, mostly women and children, into the makeshift mud-and-wattle temple, sprinkled combustible material, nailed the doors and windows shut and torched it.
In the following weeks, police followed a grisly trail to several houses owned or rented by presumed cult leaders, and found 448 more bodies stacked like firewood under concrete floors. Hundreds of bodies ended up being bulldozed into a mass grave at the site, a converted farm.
Today, people in the hilly corner of southwestern Uganda say the place is haunted by the ghosts of their friends and relatives. "As dusk approaches, we see figures of people moving up and down as they used to do before they were killed in the fire. They put on the same red and blue uniforms," said 18-year-old Deus Tweyongere, whose aunt and four cousins perished in the inferno.
Police still guard the site, and officially the investigation continues. But authorities seem to have little prospect of tracking down the alleged cult leaders, Joseph Kibwetere, defrocked Catholic priest Dominic Kataribaabo and a woman named Cledonia Mwerinde, who passed herself off as a nun.
Uganda is a poor country. Its police have no access to computer databases that might link them to neighboring countries where at least one suspect has been seen. They even lack gasoline for their few vehicles.
"The investigations are not easy, and we were not successful," said national police spokesman Asuman Mugenyi. "We only got air." He said Kataribaabo was seen last year in Rwanda, at the camp of a different cult, and then in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Mwerinde, who once ran a bar, was seen in a village in southwestern Uganda. No one has seen Kibwetere, and many believe he could have perished in the fire.
Cult members were pushed to work 12-hour days in the fields and live frugally. They sold their belongings, and once inside the cult compound, could not leave again. "Even during the day, I fear the place," said Peter Mogadi, a farmer. "We hear the ghosts wailing at night, and we see them moving. I know of a whole family of parents, children and grandchildren who had converted to the faith and died on March 17."
The compound's stone houses are still strewn with torn clothing, half-used tubes of toothpaste, jars of face cream and bits of candles. No one has decided what to do with the compound.
Charles Rwomushana, a former regional legislator, says it should be a place people can visit and remember the dead. "This was an episode of its own in the century, an event of its own," he said.
"Kibwetere Sighted in Dar"
by Henry Bongyereirwe
"The Monitor," October 18, 2001
Uganda has had a number of difficult times, but the March 17, 2000 mass suicide at Kanungu was an act that greatly lowered the ranking of the country both in the region and on the international scene.
Over 2000 believers of the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God were burnt to ashes. A self-styled prophet Joseph Kibwetere and others who headed the said cult are still at large. Police investigations have never been concluded.
A few days ago I discovered Kibwetere in Tanzania's capital city - Dar.
On, October 2, when I ended my one-week tour of Bagamoyo and Dar-es-Salaam, I decided to travel back the same way I had entered the land of the swahili.
I checked in at Ubungo Bus Terminal, a giant bus park that hundreds of bus coaches plying the interior of Tanzania mainland as well as other countries 'tax'. Here I was set to commence a fourteen-hour 'flight' to Kenya's capital - Nairobi and later 12 more hours to my mother- land Kampala.
I met face-to-face with one of Uganda's most wanted men in a place visited by about 7000-10,000 people.
I was not so sure whether all Tanzanians had knowledge about the former cult leader. But I met him in Ubungo Bus Terminal's clean toilet. I entered the toilet to answer nature's call before I start my long journey, a second thought told me to look up on the grey-clean wall.
"Kibetwere Spoiler Boy" was well marked on the wall. As I went on to do nature a favour, I thought of this.
"So these Tanzanians must be our great friends". It was important to learn that they (Tanzanians) did, and still make Kibwetere a big subject in such a public place. On the contrary, here back home investigations have never revealed even a single grain of truth of "spoiler boy's where-bouts.
No wonder, Tanzania played a major role in the smoking out of yet another spoiler boy, Idi Amin in 1979.
Oh Uganda the country of wonders and miracles!
Religious mass suicide or massacre? The Kanungu case
By Nathan Byamukama
27 June, 2005
I was asked to present a paper on "Religious Mass Suicide in Western Uganda". I beg to change the topic a bit and call what happened in Kanungu, Western Uganda a "Massacre" rather than a "Mass Suicide". I have a copy of the report here but I will present just the highlights: the highlights of the Uganda Human Rights Commission report on the Kanungu Massacre (2000). The Report is a product of the findings of a team set up by the Commission a month after the Kanungu inferno incident of 17th March 2000.
The team's terms of reference included to visit all scenes of the tragedy, get as much information as possible from LCs and other local administration officials of the areas visited, the police, religious leaders, opinion leaders and neighbours of the places where people were killed, and collect all possible literature of and about the cult. And then develop the findings into an official report to government and to the people of Uganda. About 40 people were interviewed. All of them seemed to indicate that the followers were put to death rather than themselves committing suicide.
The Report does not dwell on the theoretical foundations of the cult or even cults in general. It only establishes facts surrounding the cult and the circumstances that led to the mass murder of hundreds of people in such a covert manner that it eluded the suspicion of the authorities and even the local population where the cult operated.
The Report is basically an indictment of a cult that behaved in a devilish, satanic and criminal manner and violated all human rights. The report could be a basis for convicting the ringleaders of the cult, if any of them could still be alive.
Most of the findings about Kanungu are now known and are already in the public domain, especially regarding how many people died, who killed them and where they were killed, how and where they were buried and reburied and by who. What might not be known are a few details of how the cult was able to sustain itself and the extent of the human rights violations that were committed, and this report makes a contribution towards bridging that gap.
(i) First of all we called what happened in Kanungu and other areas a Massacre because we came out convinced that it was not a mass suicide. At first it was thought that it was mass suicide by the members of the cult who were convinced about going to heaven through fire. However, our findings established that it was mass murder organised by a few members of the cult leadership. The victims of the inferno included children too young to make independent decisions.
(ii) The brains behind " The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God "cult was not Kibwetere as most people tend to believe. It was Credonia Mwerinde who recruited Kibwetere and priests like Fr Ikazire and Kasapurari into the cult and she controlled all of them. However, Kibwetere was used as "a sign post" as one of our interviewees put it, because of his high profile in society. For the term "Kibwetere cult" to be a short hand for "The Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God" is a misnomer and patriarchy - the belief that all big things must be engineered by men - could have played a role in the nomenclature here.
(iii) Most of the victims were women and children. For example, out of 153 bodies exhumed in Buhunga, Rukungiri district, 94 were adults with the majority women, and 59 were children.
- In Rugazi, Bunyaruguru district out of the 155 bodies exhumed 96 (63%) were female victims while 57 (37%) were male and 2 could not be categorised.
- In Nyakishojwa, Ruhinda County, Bushenyi district, where 81 bodies ' were exhumed 58 (71%) bodies were female while 23 (28%) bodies - were male.
- In Buziga, Kampala where 55 bodies were exhumed 32 (58%) were female while 23 (42%) were male.
- A total of 444 bodies were exhumed and reburied (excluding those who burnt in Kanungu). Out of the bodies that were categorized between children and adults (363 bodies) 149 (41%) were children. Why more women than men fell victim of this cult, we did not bother to establish. It is an area worth exploring through further studies and investigations.
(iv) The idea that poverty was an ideal among the people of the cult was not sustainable in our investigations. On the contrary it was established that it was the cult that impoverished its followers by hoodwinking them into selling all their property.
(v) Fears of some people who were (or believed be) affected or afflicted with HIV/AIDs drew some aspiration to the cult and could have been some of the ardent followers of the cult.
(vi) There was high possibility that Kibwetere did not die in the inferno of the 17th March 2000. He was last seen in 1999 when he was seriously sick. He could have died naturally earlier than that.
(vii) There was high proof that Mr Kibwetere had a love affair with Credonia Mwerinde and that contributed to the mistreatment that Tereza Kibwetere the legitimate wife of Kibwetere was subjected to by Mwerinde - to the point of isolating Tereza and his children from the cult.
(viii) There was also a high possibility that Fr Kataribabo did not burn in the inferno but prepared for its execution. He had disappeared a day before the incident when the leaders (together with him) were coming from Rukungiri town at night to buy items for the festivities of the day before they died. Either he died thereafter or he might still be around.
(ix) It is probable that the other leaders including Mwerinde, died in the inferno.
(x) While everybody else believed in going to heaven on that day, it is probably Mwerinde that knew she was committing suicide and was probably going to Hell. She had told all the lies, she was facing internal resistance, she had impoverished her followers and killed some of them piecemeal and she would have been killed if she did not kill herself. To kill everybody with her was the remaining satisfaction she would derive from the last of her criminal activities on earth - and she succeeded.
(xi) There were signs of negligence on the part of some state officials. Some foresighted leaders like Rtd RDC -Kamacerere had warned against the registration of the cult and even briefed his successor against, the activities of the cult. His successor never accepted his advice and instead fraternised with the cult members and eventually helped them to register.
(xii) There was also strong evidence of a lack of preparedness on the part of the state to deal with disaster like that in Kanungu. This was evident when they used prisoners with unprotected wear to exhume and rebury decomposing bodies. This was unethical, violated the rights of prisoners and exposed the state's unpreparedness about disasters.
(xiii) The report outlines 20 ways in which the cult managed to successfully execute its criminal mission without much suspicion:
o Promises of the end of the world
o Restrictions on the enjoyment of all human rights especially freedom of speech
o Separation of families
o Erecting fences around their camps and situating their camps ins strategic position to be avoid impromptu visits
o Keeping within the law
o Reliance on deception and lies and bible-reading out of context to suit their interest
o They usually travelled at night and could therefore not be noticed by neighbours
o They had a tight schedule in camps that kept followers to busy to discuss anything
o They commanded their followers to sell all their property and become dependent on them
o They exploited the general belief in Uganda that that religious people are usually innocent, humble, harmless and peace-loving
o Followers were constantly shifted to new places and new environment
o There was possible use of drugs and poisoning in the killings
From a human rights perspective, it does not matter how one wants to worship who or whatever he believes in. You can believe in God, gods or something else, but your belief should not and never violate or be intended to violate human rights. But the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God violated almost all human rights and for that it should be condemned, avoided , rejected and never be imitated in any its ways by any of us.
Nathan Byamukama is Head of Department, Monitoring and Treaties, with the Uganda Human Rights Commission