by Adrian Blomfield (Reuter, March 28, 2000)
RUGAZI, Uganda (Reuters) - Ugandan police found a new mass grave Tuesday and removed six bodies at a site used by Doomsday cult leaders suspected of murdering hundreds of the group's members.
Police say the 700 bodies found so far in mass graves and a burnt-out church in southwest Uganda, including more than 100 children, appear to have been.
slain systematically by cult leaders, who they think are now on the run from the law.
The latest find, the bodies of three women and three young children, were pulled from under the floor of a room in the house of cult leader ``Father'' Dominic Kataribabo at Rugazi. More bodies were visible in the grave. Seventy bodies were dug up from a separate grave in Kataribabo's garden Monday, and police spokesman Assuman Mugenyi said digging began Tuesday at five more sites used by the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God.
After a cursory examination Monday, a doctor said many of the victims from the first grave at Rugazi, who included 26 children, had been strangled or stabbed to death.
The bodies were swiftly reburied, but Tuesday police, with the help of inmates from a local prison, dug up many of the corpses for a second time for proper forensic examinations.
``Some we think were poisoned, but we will establish that later,'' police pathologist Thaddeus Barungi said after taking liver samples from five corpses.
Police Dig Up Bodies Again
Mugenyi said the police would also revisit the nearby village of Buhunga to exhume for a second time the corpses of 153 cult members found last Friday Investigators would also revisit Kanungu, where about 500 people were burned to death in the cult's church on March 17.
Police initially treated the blaze as a mass suicide, but are now treating it as a mass murder. They suspect that cult leaders systematically killed their followers for months after a prediction that the world would end at the end of the millennium failed to materialize.
``This is systematic,'' Mugenyi said. ``Once, they were asked 'who among you doesn't believe the world is going to end?'''
``They were told to write down their names (if they did not believe). We strongly suspect these people have been killed here and in Buhunga and at other sites.''
One theory says some cult members -- who had been asked to sell their possessions and give the proceeds to the church -- demanded their money back when Doomsday did not arrive on December 31.
Police said they would also look for bodies under the freshly-cemented floor of the cult's church at Rugazi and near the burnt-out church at Kanungu, where a pit latrine where six bodies were found was still giving out a smell of rotting flesh.
Police spokesman Mugenyi said he estimated the cult had 4,000 to 5,000 members, although not all are thought to be dead, since some may have defected in recent months. Some were helping the police.
by Craig Nelson ("Associated Press", March 28, 2000)
RUGAZI, Uganda (AP) -- Inmates on release, using a crowbar and hoe, today found another mass grave linked to a doomsday religious sect, this site hidden under the floor at the home of an excommunicated priest who was one of the cult's leaders.
Seven bodies were pulled from the grave by late afternoon, but investigators feared that more corpses remained.
Scenes of carnage connected to the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God have followed one after another in the lush hills of southwest Uganda since mid-March. The latest findings brings the number of murders linked to the cult to at least 569.
After interviewing a nephew of Dominic Kataribabo, the former priest who is believed to have died in a fire 10 days ago, police found fresh concrete in a reception room of Kataribabo's 10-room brick-and-mortar house.
Prisoners on release from a local jail dug through the concrete and found the bodies, including those of at least three children. They pulled the corpses out of the grave with ropes.
On Monday, authorities found the bodies of 73 unidentified men, women and children hidden in a sugar cane field at Kataribabo's compound.
Authorities are pursuing the two main leaders of the movement -- Cledonia Mwerinde and Joseph Kibweteere, an excommunicated Roman Catholic -- in connection with the murders.
The pair, invoking the authority of Jesus and visions imparted by the Blessed Virgin Mary, predicted the world would end Dec. 31. When the forecast failed, authorities believe, sect members demanded a return of the possessions they had surrendered to join the sect, precipitating the killings.
Senior Ugandan officials have quoted witnesses as saying Mwerinde, 40, and Kibweteere, 68, may have left Kanungu on March 17, the same day a fire in a makeshift sect church there killed at least 330 members. Those reports are unconfirmed.
The deaths in Kanungu -- which set off the investigation -- were initially viewed as a mass suicide. The discovery of six mutilated and strangled bodies in one of the compound's latrines, however, transformed it into a murder investigation.
Days after the Kanungu fire, 153 bodies were also found buried in a Buhunga village compound belonging to the sect.
Police discovered the Rugazi mass grave Friday, when they came to inspect the compound that belonged to Kataribabo.
The former priest studied for a doctorate in theology in a Los Angeles-area seminary in the mid-1980s said one of his nephews, Bart Bainomukama. Kataribabo became a leader in the sect soon after a local bishop stripped him of his duties as Roman Catholic priest in the early 1990s.
It was after talking to Bainomukama that police began digging in the floor.
It was not immediately clear what he told police.
Five other compounds in southwestern Uganda belonging to the sect remained to be examined, said Assuman Mugenyi, Uganda's chief police spokesman.
The sect had up to 1,000 members, and authorities here fear most may have been killed.
On Monday, prisoners released for the day from a local jail worked layer-by-layer through a nightmare of decomposing, mostly naked bodies, pulling the remains -- including those of 24 children -- from a mass grave hidden in a sugarcane field.
Some of the bodies showed signs of stab wounds while others had pieces of cloth wrapped tightly around their throats. They appeared to have been dead at least a month, said Dr. Ben Twetegire, the local general practitioner examining the corpses. All were in a similar state of decomposition, suggesting they had died at roughly the same time.
The prisoners, shirtless and shoeless, stood head-high in the trench, sweating and digging. They covered their noses in gauze and passed cigarettes among themselves to try to ward off the enveloping stench, which drifted for hundreds of yards across lush hillsides overlooking a chain of steep-banked volcanic lakes.
As the twisted, rotting bodies were hoisted from the reddish brown earth, there were no screams of recognition from villagers who pressed against the crude wood fence at the edge of the cane field. The corpses brought up -- sect members who came here to attend seminars on righteous living and the end of the world taught by Kataribabo -- were strangers from elsewhere in Uganda.
There were no body bags and only surgical gloves for examination equipment.
Onlookers and police plucked the leaves of a nearby cypress tree and thrust them into their nostrils to ease the stench.
The bodies, some dismembered and one visibly pregnant, were cast onto the dirt and examined for little more than a minute by Twetegire, who dictated information to Medal Magdalene, a 30-year-old health worker. Prisoners then picked up the bodies and flung them into a nearby trench for reburial.
(BBC, March 28, 2000)
Ugandan officials investigating the deaths of members of a doomsday religious cult have found another mass grave under the concrete floor of the home of a cult leader.
Six bodies were discovered hidden in the floor of the Rugazi home of Father Dominic Kataribabo, the defrocked Roman Catholic priest who was one of the leaders of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God cult. Police decided to dig the living room of the house after interviewing a nephew of Father Kataribabo.
Prisoners from a local jail used ropes to pull the bodies to the surface after they used a crowbar and a hoe to dig up the concrete.
On Monday, the investigators, assisted by the prisoners, discovered a mass grave on the same property owned by Father Kataribabo.
About 70 bodies were unearthed, including that of a pregnant woman and others of 26 children.
Many of the bodies had stab wounds and others showed signs of strangulation.
Another 153 bodies had been found on another cult compound in the village of Buhunga on Friday.
Father Kataribabo is believed to have died in the fire in the cult's main church at Kanungu where 400 members were killed.
But it is still not clear if two other cult leaders, Cledonia Mwerinde and Joseph Kibweteere also perished in the fire.
The authorities are looking for them. It was the massive fire and deaths at Kanungu that set off the investigation into the activities of the cult.
by Adrian Blomfield (Reuters, March 28, 2000)
Mbarara - Ugandan police believe they may find more mass graves at three further sites used by doomsday cult leaders who are thought to have murdered 700 of the group's confirmed dead members.
Police have found 700 bodies, among them dozens of children, in mass graves since a church used by the Christian Movement For The Restoration Of The Ten Commandments Of God was set ablaze while crammed with cult members on March 17.
Police chief Cleophas Muhatane said that an investigative team would visit three more sites in the Bushenyi district, "where there may be three more mass graves", on Tueday.
Police have already found the partly decomposed bodies of about 70 people buried in the back garden of a house used by prominent cult leader, Dominic Kataribabo, at Rugazi in Bushenyi. Many of the bodies had stab wounds and ropes around their necks.
They suspected there was another mass grave there, but, overwhelmed by the scale of the tragedy and their own meagre resources, were not sure when and if they would resume digging at Rugazi.
Another 153 corpses had been found in two graves at another site belonging to the cult, in the nearby village of Buhunga, on Friday. Roughly 500 more were found burned to death in the church in Kanungu earlier this month.
Initially, police treated the Kanungu blaze as mass suicide. Now they are treating it as mass murder. Cult leaders, they suspect, may have been systematically killing their followers for months when a prediction that the world would end with the new millennium failed to materialise.
Some cult members, who had been asked to sell their possessions and give the proceeds to the church, apparently demanded their money back when an Armageddon didn't come around on December 31.
In response, the group's leaders are believed to have started killing unruly cult members.
More and more bodies found There may also be more bodies buried near the burnt-out church at Kanungu, where police say a pit latrine where six bodies were found is still giving out a powerful smell of rotting flesh.
Speaking for the police, Assuman Mugenyi said he estimated the religious cult had 4 000 to 5 000 members, although not all are thought to be dead.
"Not at all, because some of them at least are helping us - although they are trying to say they have already abandoned the sect," he said.
Experts said Uganda's grinding poverty, rampant Aids and regional conflicts had proven fertile soil for the doomsday cult. Uganda has a history of extreme religious sects, perhaps the most famous being Alice Lakwena's Holy Spirit Movement in the 1980s.
Many hundreds of her followers marched to their deaths believing that magic oil would protect them from government bullets.
Like cult members at Buhunga, Kataribabo and dozens of his followers had abandoned the house at Rugazi to go to Kanungu days before the blaze, selling the property to his nephew and burning or selling the contents.
Police say they think the 64-year-old former Catholic priest died in the fire at Kanungu, identifying his body next to one of the doors of the church.
But they say they think other cult leaders, including self-styled prophet Joseph Kibwetere and his assistant, Gredonia Mwerinda, are on the run.
by Adrian Blomfield (Reuters, March 28, 2000)
RUGAZI, Uganda, March 28 (Reuters) - The naked, decomposed body of baby is lifted from a mass grave and dumped on top of a growing pile of month-old corpses.
After a cursory examination by a doctor, an entry is added in his colleague's notebook: ``Body no. 47, infant, gender unidentified, with rope round neck.''
Moments later the tiny corpse is unceremoniously plucked from the heap by a bare-chested inmate from a local prison and thrown into a freshly dug grave.
The unknown baby was one of about 70 corpses discovered on Monday in the garden of Father Dominic Kataribabo, a leader of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, some 700 of whose members have now been found dead.
Hundreds of curious bystanders, many of them children, watched as shoeless prisoners pulled body after body from the narrow, eight foot (2.5 metre) deep grave in Rugazi, the third to be uncovered in the last four days in southern Uganda.
Another 153 corpses were found in two graves at another site belonging to the cult in the nearby village of Buhunga on Friday. Some 500 more were found burned to death in their church in Kanungu earlier this month.
Police initially treated the Kanungu blaze as mass suicide. Now they are treating it as mass murder.
Cult leaders, they suspect, may have been systematically killing followers for months after a prediction that the world would end at the end of the millennium failed to come true.
BODIES WITH ROPES AROUND NECKS
As the horror of what lay within the grave became apparent, the crowd, seemingly unconcerned at first as they laughed and joked in small groups, became more and more subdued.
Almost all the bodies were naked and none were recognisable. Skin had lost its pigment and the piled up corpses shone an unnatural, almost translucent white under the searing sun.
The bodies of 26 children were pulled out of the grave. Most had ropes tied around their necks, and police said they appeared to have been garrotted. At least three were babies.
Children held leaves from cypress trees to their nostrils to counter the smell. Prisoners, standing barefoot on bodies in the grave, wound bandages round their heads to cover their noses.
With no trained pathologist available, local medical practitioner Ben Twetegeria was called in to try to establish the cause of death.
``The freshest corpses are at least one month old, the oldest up to three months,'' he said, adding that the most common forms of death appeared to have been strangulation and stabbing.
Police said 74 corpses had been pulled from the grave, but Twetegeria and his assistant only recorded the details of 66.
Witnesses said some corpses appeared to have been hurriedly reburied before their details were taken, and the true number may never be established.
(CIP-DHSF, March 24-28, 2000)
CIP (24.03.2000)/DHSF (28.03.2000) - - Les évêques, qui, en raison de la gravité de l'événement, " ont interrompu le silence dune retraite " qui se déroulait à l'Institut Ste-Augustine de Nsambya, parlent d'un " acte barbare " qui, " même commis au nom d'une religion, quelle qu'elle soit " est " indéniablement répréhensible et inacceptable " au regard de la religion catholique. Lépiscopat condamnent laction de la manière la plus absolue.
Après avoir récapitulé les modalités d'implication des deux anciens prêtres diocésains Dominic Kataribabo et John Kamagara dans le " Mouvement pour la Restauration des Dix Commandements ", la secte à l'origine du suicide collectif, les évêques ougandais rappellent l'engagement de " la majeure partie des catholiques de la zone, prêtres, religieux et croyants laïques " pour tenter d'empêcher leurs parents et amis de suivre les préceptes de ce mouvement. Malheureusement, " certains ont regagné l'Église, mais d'autres sont restés sur leurs positions ".
Les évêques soulignent que " de nombreuses victimes de l'horrible mort collective étaient innocentes ", mais quelles ont été abusées par des " possédés " à suivre " une forme de religiosité complètement rejetée par l'Église catholique ". Ils invitent " tous les croyants, y compris ces groupes qui prétendent avoir des visions ", à se référer " aux autorités de l'Église et à son enseignement authentique " de façon à éviter, entre autres choses, de " se perdre sur les traces du groupe " qui s'est donné la mort vendredi dernier. Après avoir rappelé les fidèles à l'unité, les évêques concluent en invitant les fidèles à prier et à exprimer leur compassion aux parents et amis des victimes de " l'enfer de Kanungu ".
("New Vision" [Kampala], March 28, 2000)
Ugandan authorities emptied a mass grave containing 74 corpses, including those of small children and some with stab wounds, at a third doomsday cult site in southwestern Uganda yesterday.
Tangled bodies were seen deeper in the grave when prisoners drafted in to dig had already unearthed about 40 corpses on the property at Rugazi of a leader of the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God cult, Dominic Kataribaabo. "We've got about 40 out and there are still a lot in there," a police officer said as the digging went on, while a doctor on the scene said, "Some of them have stab wounds."
The bodies comprised 48 adults and 26 children, some had pieces of cotton tied around their necks.
One of the police officers overseeing the operation said the corpses were those of people who had been dead for less than three months. Dr. Ben Twesigye from Mitooma health centre examined the bodies at the request of the residents after they were exhumed. The bodies were reburied in a big nearby hole. Police had brought prisoners to the site on Monday after the discovery of a first corpse late Saturday during an ongoing probe into the cult, blamed for the mass murder of over 480 people, at least 330 of them burned in a church fire and more than 150 found in another mass grave.
The prisoners, working barefoot, were finding bodies around three metres (10 feet) underground. One of the first to be unearthed was that of a woman and three bodies were packed close together on their sides.
("New Vision" [Kampala], March 28, 2000)
The Government cannot be held liable for the death of hundreds of followers of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mayanja Nkangi has said, reports John Kakande. "The Government licensed an NGO, not a cult. On the face of it, it was a lawful entity. Government licences people to get married, but if the husband later kills the wife, it is murder and Government cannot be held liable," Nkangi told The New Vision yesterday.
He said former Catholic priest Bishanga Kabishanga, sentenced to 72 years for murdering nine girls, can be jailed again if it is established he was not lawfully released. He said the Prisons Service should follow up the matter. "It is not enough for him to say he was released. He has to prove that the authority at the time let him out," Nkangi said.
Fr Bishanga Kabishanga was in 1978 sentenced to 72 years over the death of nine girls in Fort Portal.
But he left jail after the Amin regime was overthrown. In a statement faxed to The New Vision on Saturday, Kabishanga said, "I was released because God wanted it so. The nine girls died for reasons well known to the late Bishop Serapio Magambo and the parish priest of Kahunga."
The East African newspaper, quoting legal experts, said yesterday that the Government could face liability for criminal negligence and loss of life if relatives of the dead proved that requests they made to the Government to probe the bizarre acts of the cult were ignored.
("New Vision" [Kampala], March 28, 2000)
THE Rakai Assistant RDC, who received the security report about the Kanungu cult, went missing on March 15, two days before the church's mass suicide, reports Eddie Ssejjoba.
Mary Frances Owor, the Rakai RDC, said the Rev. Richard Mutazindwa, who had been transferred from Rukungiri, left for a party in Kanungu on the day he was supposed to attend a district security meeting organised in his area of operation in March. He replaced the Rev. Steven Bangumya who was transferred to Kanungu in February 2000.
Owor said the Gombolola Internal Security Officer in Lyantonde, Mr. Kakembo, informed her that Mutazindwa had left a verbal apology, saying he had gone to Kanungu for a party. Kakembo added that Mutazindwa said he would be delayed at the party but did not specify the number of days.
Owor said Mutazindwa and Bangumya had been invited by the cult leaders to attend a farewell party but it is not clear yet whether they attended the party.
("New Vision" [Kampala], March 28, 2000)
Doomsday cult leaders slaughtered a child every Friday morning and drank its blood in high-level witchcraft. James Mujuni reports that the bizzare ritual was intended to keep the opposition at bay and government agencies off the cult's crimes. A senior special branch Police officer said the leaders of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God contemplated the murder of over 1,000 members of their flock to stem off mounting opposition over the victims' property.The cult leaders had started consulting witches in Karoza (Bushenyi), Masaka and Mityana.The witches advised them to kill the opposition leaders and drink the blood of a young slain child to keep off the spirits and Government,the police said.The weekly Orumuri newspaper on Monday quoted Flugensia Katano, a resident of Rugyeyo, Rukungiri, as saying self-styled Father Dominic Kataribaabo and Sr. Credonia Mwerinde carried out the murders and the cannibalism in their Kanungu office."On March 3, I entered Credonia's office unannounced and found her squatting on the blood covered body of a little child. I fled the camp that night. They had the habit of killing everyone with vital information about their operations," Katano said.He said he never reported the matter to the authorities. The Rev. Fr. Paul Ikazire, the Roman Catholic priest who defected from the cult in 1994, told The New Vision on March 24, that cult boss Joseph Kibwetere, ran mad in 1993."They secretly took him for treatment abroad but he never recovered. In that state of mind, he had the capacity to do anything extraordinary," Ikazire said.
Police investigations indicate that the cult leaders poisoned many of their followers in the run-up to March 17 Kanungu church inferno in which over 550 people died.Stanley Kisikuzi, the LC1 chairman of Muhenda, in Rutoma, Rukungiri, where 153 bodies were buried in an office last Friday, said the leaders grew poisonous herbs at the camp."They used poisonous plants like omuziiko and eraaze,"; he said. Many people who fell sick in the camp would be buried alive, he said.
by Henri E. Cauvin ("The New York Times", March 28, 2000)
KAMPALA, Uganda, March 27 -- Eighty more bodies were exhumed today from a mass grave discovered during the weekend on a rural plot of land once owned by a leader of a doomsday cult, which now appears to be linked to the deaths of at least 500 people.
Investigators believe the people found today, like the 159 unearthed last week from other mass graves, had been murdered, said a police spokesman, Eric Naigambi. "There is no other reason why 80 people would end up in a mass grave," Mr. Naigambi said late tonight.
The unearthing of corpses today, in the village of Rugazi, was the third such discovery since March 17, when at least 330 followers of the cult, the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, died in a fire set by some of its own members in a chapel on the cult's isolated compound in Kanungu, about 200 miles southwest of here. The cult believed the end of the world was to come on Dec. 31, 1999.
Rugazi is the latest site to be searched by the police as they try to piece together what happened on March 17 and determine who was responsible. So far their searches have only added more questions to an already complicated case.
A few days after the fire, investigators pulled six bodies from a latrine on the cult's compound in Kanungu, just steps away from the charred wreckage of the chapel. The six people, who could not be identified, had been slain.
Then on Friday, in Rutoma, a village about 30 miles from Kanungu, the police unearthed the bodies of 153 people buried in mass graves on a plot of land used by the cult. The people had been slashed to death or strangled during the past several weeks, the police said.
Investigators arrived in Rugazi, which is also about 30 miles from Kanungu, during the weekend, and on Sunday discovered the remains of a human being buried in a grave, the police said. Digging was halted immediately, and a team of senior investigators was summoned from here in the capital.
Led by the police department's head of criminal investigation, the team, which includes a government chemist and a government pathologist, was expected to arrive in the village late today, a police spokesman said.
But the search of the site was not supposed to have resumed until this Wednesday, when the experts had arrived from the capital, Mr. Naigambi said. Inexplicably, the local officials resumed the search this afternoon and soon discovered that the lone body found on Sunday was far from the only one.
A local doctor examining the bodies said at the scene that the victims appear to have been dead about a month, according to the Associated Press, which reported that some of the bodies appeared to have stab wounds while others had pieces of cloth tied around their necks.
Why the digging began before the team from the capital arrived and why the bodies were re-buried before being examined by that team are just the latest questions in what has been a troubled investigation.
Apparently overwhelmed by the number of bodies, the authorities here have conducted only cursory autopsies before reburying the dead in mass graves, leaving many important questions unanswered.
The order to halt digging and wait for the experts to arrive was supposed to have been a step toward straightening out the investigation. "We don't know what happened," Mr. Naigambi, the police spokesman, said when asked why the search had proceeded today.
The property was owned until recently by Dominic Kataribaabo, a disgraced former priest who was one of the cult's leaders and who is believed to have perished in the fire at Kanungu, another police spokesman, Assuman Mugenyi, said. The house was apparently used by the cult for meetings until about a month ago, when Mr. Kataribaabo sold it to his brother, Mr. Mugenyi said.
The timing of the sale, only weeks before the deadly inferno at Kanungu, is another piece of circumstantial evidence suggesting that many of the cult's followers knew something momentous was about to happen. Only hours before the fire in Kanungu, cult members set fire to all five buildings in the compound in Rutoma before leaving for Kanungu, the police said.
The cult's two most prominent leaders, Joseph Kibwetere and Credonia Mwerinde, are among the prime suspects in the killings, the police said. No one knows whether either of them is alive, but the police here are operating on the assumption, for now, that they are alive and are on the run.
Index Page: Ten Commandments of God: Mass Suicide in Uganda
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