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"Priest who 'murdered' his flock: Bodies were buried in the priest's garden"

(BBC, March 30, 2000)

One of the Ugandan cult leaders accused of massacring hundreds of followers may have picked up some of his ideas in America, according to friends.
Police have so far unearthed 155 bodies from the house and garden of Dominic Kataribabo, a defrocked Roman Catholic priest and key figure in the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God.
He wore his dog collar until the end, portraying himself as the model priest we knew
Attorney General Bart Katureebe
Mr Kataribabo joined the cult a few years after returning from the United States where he obtained a PhD at a college in Los Angeles.
Archbishop Paul Bakyenga, who had known Mr Kataribabo since 1965, said the priest had videos about a group he had met in the US which he understood to be similar to a millennialist cult.
The bishop said he thought there was ''something funny'' about the organisation and did not want to see the videos.
''I thought America had changed him,'' he added. ''He was quieter, not as exuberant as before he went. He seemed more deliberate in his talking and thinking.''
New ideas Mr Kataribabo was a very well respected and popular priest before he joined the cult in the late 1980s.
Diggers wear masks because of the stench
His friends included the Attorney General of Uganda, Bart Katureebe, who said he had tried in vain to get Mr Kataribabo to return to the church.
''It was after he came back from America that his problems started,'' said Mr Katureebe, who is MP for Rugazi, where the bodies have been discovered.
''I don't think America as such changed him, but he was exposed to fresh ideas.''
The Attorney General said Mr Kataribabo had been a ''model priest'' and was the last person you would expect to join a cult.
He had a degree from Makere University and was rector of Kitabi Seminary where he was known as a good counsellor.
I don't know why he joined - that's a big puzzle for so many people Archbishop Paul Bakyenga Friends said he was a very friendly, intelligent man who was extremely interested in regional development.
''Clearly none of that prepared us for the claims that he was planning to kill anyone,'' added Mr Katureebe. ''This thing has come as such a big shock.
''I have known him from when I was born. He was one of the priests at my wedding. We're really shattered. We don't know what to believe.''
Mr Katureebe told how his friend fell out with the Catholic Church after seeing visions of the Virgin Mary.
''He said the world was coming to an end because it had become so sinful.
Now that these horrible things are coming out, I don't think we knew him that well
Archbishop Bakyenga
''He said the Virgin Mary was interceding for the world and appearing to holy people and asking them to pray.
''I asked him, if you have seen an apparition why don't you allow the church to make the necessary investigations?
''But he told me there was no time because something was coming to shatter the world into small pieces.''
Cult leaders are thought to have started killing followers when their prophecies that the world would end on the eve of the new millennium failed to come true.
Around 500 sect members burned to death in an inferno at their church in Kanungu.
Just days before the blaze, Mr Kataribabo was seen buying 40 litres of sulphuric acid, a chemical police suspect was used to fuel the fire.
The victims found at is home in Rugazi are thought to have been murdered in the weeks before. Many appear to have been strangled.
Mr Katureebe said Mr Kataribabo had sold the house to his nephew shortly before the fire and ''must have known what was there''.
Neighbours said they had seen digging going on, but Mr Kataribabo told them the ditch in the garden was for a new latrine. He told his nephew that a second pit inside his house was for a refrigerator.
Police initially thought the 64-year-old priest had perished in the Kanungu blaze, but now believe he may be on the run with other sect leaders.

"The zealot who ran Uganda's killer cult"

by Anna Borzello ("The Guardian", March 30, 2000)

Teresa Kibwetere, 64, clearly remembers the day she met the woman who was to transform her husband into the head apostle of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God.
"It was July 1989. We had gone to church and we were told about two girls who had visions of the Virgin Mary," she says. "[The girls] greeted us cheerfully and they told us they received messages from heaven. When they saw we were interested", she said, they asked to come to her house.
The meeting changed her life. Her husband, Joseph Kibwetere, went on to become the leader of the cult which has so far taken more than 600 lives in Uganda; 330 of them in a fire on March 17 at the cult's headquarters at Kanungu in south-western Uganda - an incident now being treated as murder.
The rest have since been dug up from two buildings owned by the movement. Yesterday police exhumed a further 53 bodies from under the floor of a house belonging to Father Dominic Kataribabo, the only one of the cult leaders whose body has been identified.
Most of the dead were women and children. Police have still to search three other sites used by the cult.
Teresa Kibwetere, a former domestic science teacher, is a polite, elderly woman dressed in a busuti , a traditional robe with a scarf at the waist She lives in a small village in Ntungamo district in the south-west, in the house she and her husband built in 1973 when he was a well-off and respected member of the community.
Photos of their early married life show a shy Teresa and a confident Joseph with his land commission colleagues.
In 1979 Joseph - who was deeply religious despite having several illegitimate children - visited Rome and on his return he built a church for his community. An apostolic blessing from that journey, a 3D picture of Jesus and a portrait of the local bishop jostle for space on walls crammed with Catholic icons.
"We had a happy marriage," Teresa says. "He was very kind. The problems only began when we met Credonia Mwerinde and her sister Ursula in the church in 1989."
Little is known of Credonia's past other than that she described herself as a former prostitute. All Teresa knows is that she moved into the house in July that year and did not leave for two years.
"She was humble at first. But she soon began to mistreat me. She said I was bad then she said she and her sister should sleep in the same room with my husband and I. He always supported them," she says.
Teresa refuses to speculate on her husband's relationship with Credonia, other than to say that she was the cause of changes in his personality.
The small group quickly gathered around Joseph and by 1991 it had become a 200-strong community. Joseph Kibwetere was appointed the leader but according to Teresa, Credonia Mwerinde was the power behind the throne. Un der them were three apostles, later to become 12.
"Credonia was silent and she stayed alone in that room there," said Teresa, pointing to a door leading off from the living room. "We would only see her when we went to mass and meetings. Her nephew used to pass us messages. She said she was receiving messages from the Virgin Mary and she spent the whole day writing them down."
Teresa and Joseph's son, Giles Musime, 37, was appalled by what he saw: "My father loved us when we were children. But then he started to do whatever those women told him. He stopped loving us."
Giles also disliked the cult's message. "They prepared nice food for higher ranks, but the rest could stay a day without eating. They would punish people. They would tell children not to go to school - including my brothers and sisters - and they would say the world was ending and that if we were sick we should pray instead of getting medicine."
Cult members wore black uniforms, were forbidden to speak and communicated only in sign language. "I think that the leaders made them silent because they wanted to be obeyed without question," he adds.
The turning point came when Ursula Mwerinde poured paraffin on a bag of Teresa's clothes and set them alight. When Teresa complained, Credonia tried to beat her. She escaped, but after that Credonia repeatedly abused her, with Joseph's backing.
The rest of the family decided that enough was enough when Joseph started to sell off his property to buy food and clothing for the commune.
"We called the elders and we explained what was happening," Giles says. "They agreed to expel him. We said our father could stay, with a few people. But he told us he was going away and would never come back."
Joseph and the other cult members left for Kanungu in nearby Rukingere district in 1991. He returned to Ntungamo only once, in 1995 to attend the funeral of one of his children. In 1997 another two children died but he did not come home.
The family is still struggling to understand what happened to their father - a task that becomes harder every day as more bodies of murdered followers are unearthed.
Police have speculated that the cult leaders may have told followers to sell their property, gathered them into the church in Kanungu, boarded up the windows and set the building alight.
They also suspect that Joseph Kibwetere and Credonia Mwerinde have fled with the money.
The family believes Joseph is dead. "I don't think these people could have done such a thing in Kanungu without Credonia and him," Giles says. "They had always said they were going to build an ark and when the time came, they would lock themselves in and then they would go to heaven while the rest perished.
"I think most of the people were innocent. I don't think they knew they were going to be burned."

"Officials ``sat on'' Uganda cult reports - Museveni"

(Reuters, March 30, 2000)

LONDON, March 30 (Reuters) - Ugandan intelligence agents warned of the dangers of a Christian Doomsday cult before at least 800 of its followers died but the reports never got beyond local officials, President Yoweri Museveni said on a visit to Britain.
``Some intelligence officers filed reports saying that this is a dangerous group but at one level it was not forwarded, it was just ignored,'' Museveni told the BBC late on Wednesday.
His statement came as authorities in Uganda said they had arrested a local government official for suspected links with the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God.
Museveni said neither he nor any of his senior security officials had received the information, which he said was ``sat on'' by regional administrators.
An inquiry would examine why the reports were not forwarded, he said.
However, Museveni said the group's ``cover that they were religious people'' explained why authorities in the heavily populated area did not notice the disappearance of hundreds of their followers.
Uganda's Internal Affairs Minister Edward Rugumayo said police had arrested Reverend Amooti Mutazindwa, an assistant district commissioner in southwest Uganda, for allegedly suppressing an intelligence report that suggested the cult posed a threat.
Although Mutazindwa is not a leading suspect, he is the first person to be arrested in connection with the deaths within the group that operated throughout southwest Uganda.
Police have found about 800 bodies of former cult members, including more than 100 children, who appear to have been killed by their leaders after a prediction that the world would end at the end of the millennium failed to come true.

"Fifth cult mass grave found"

(BBC, March 30, 2000)

Grim toll
17 March: At least 330 bodies found in burnt-out church at Kunungu 24 March: 153 bodies found in mass grave at Buhunga 27 March: 74 bodies exhumed from compound of Kataribabo's house in Rugazi 28 March: 28 bodies found under floor inside Rugazi house 29 March: Another 53 bodies found at Rugazi 30 March: Another mass grave found at Rushojwa Ugandan police have found 47 bodies after unearthing a new mass grave linked to the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments cult.
The discovery was made at the house of cult member Joseph Nyamurinda, in the village Rushojwa, about 35 kilometres from the sect's headquarters of Kanungu.
Meanwhile Interpol is reported to have been asked for help in tracing the leaders of the cult, who are wanted for mass murder.
"We got information that they have used this place as a branch for three years and the guy left three days before the (church) inferno in Kanungu with 18 members of his family," said police spokesman, Assuman Mugenyi.
He said that Nyamurinda and all his family are believed to have died in the fire in Kanungu.
This is the fifth mass grave to be discovered by investigators, who now put the death toll at more than 700.
Government official arrested
Police also say that they have arrested a regional government official in connection with their investigations into the cult deaths.
The official, Amooti Mutazindwa, who is the assistant resident district commissioner for Kanungu, is suspected of being a member of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments cult.
President Museveni has set up a commission of inquiry
He is also alleged to have helped in the registration of the cult.
"He is in custody and he is helping police with investigations," said police spokesman, John Kimera.
The arrest is the first in connection with the cult, whose leaders are believed to be responsible for the deaths of its members.
International search warrants are reported to have been lodged with Interpol for cult leaders Joseph Kibwetere, Credonia Mwerinde, Ursula Komuhangi, Henry Byarugaba and Dominic Kataribaabo.
Suppresed warnings
The arrest came as Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told the BBC that intelligence reports about the dangerous nature of the group had been suppressed by some government officials.
President Museveni said he had ordered the National Security Council to mount an investigation into why the reports were suppressed.

"Cult Toll Rises in Uganda as More Dead Are Found"

by Ian Fisher ("The New York Times", March 30, 2000)

RUGAZI, Uganda, March 29 -- Fifty-three more bodies were discovered today crammed into a small pit inside the house of a Ugandan cult leader. A total of 81 bodies have been found in the pit in the past two days, 48 of them those of children.
With each day bringing new horror in one of the largest mass murders in recent history, the police said tonight they believed they had found yet another mass grave at a building about 50 miles south of here, in the southwest of Uganda. Excavation will begin on Thursday morning, the police said. But even before that work begins, the death toll already stands at more than 600.
Here at the home of an excommunicated priest, Father Dominic Kataribabo, investigators unearthed 74 bodies in the backyard on Monday. On Tuesday and today, 81 bodies were found inside the indoor pit, covered over with concrete, in one of the stone house's 10 rooms.
The space for so many corpses was incredibly small. The pit, lined with banana leaves, was just six feet deep and five feet square, and the corpses were packed together in a dense, interlocking heap.
Since Feb. 17, at least 654 bodies have been recovered in the wreckage of a cult, the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, that splintered off from the Roman Catholic Church. The group demanded strict adherence to the Ten Commandments, required members to sell off their possessions and preached that the world would end on Dec. 31, 1999.
The police originally suspected mass suicide when more than 300 followers burned to death in a church in the town of Kanungu, less than 50 miles from here. But since then, more bodies have been found with unmistakable signs of strangulation -- some by rope or banana leaves, others by hand. Many bodies have shown no signs of violence, leading some investigators to suspect mass poisoning.
More and more, the police are calling this an organized slaughter, though they have not speculated publicly about how so many people could have been killed or how many executioners would have been involved.
The scene at the house here today was particularly wrenching because so many bodies of children were found. Workers wearing rubber gloves pulled out the bodies one by one and laid them in a row on the lawn for a quick examination by a police pathologist. Then they were dragged to the rear of the compound to be buried in a long trench with the other bodies.
Tonight, the police gave no details about the sight they intend to search tomorrow, except that it is in a village called Kabira, at a place where they said cult members often stayed overnight.
A police spokesman, Mugenyi Assuman, said investigators also expected to take soil samples from various places where bodies have been found.

"UPDF joins cult probe"

("New Vision" [Kampala], March 30, 2000)

Investigators from the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) have joined the Police in investigating the doomsday cult, the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, reports Patrick Mugumya. A senior official at the southwestern regional police offices in Mbarara said officers from the army had joined the investigation hitherto led by the Police. „The army has sent in a team of officers, who include forensic experts to help the Police in investigating the cult's activities,‰ he said but declined to reveal the exact number of the officers sent. He said the authorities had widened their investigation to include the places where the cult members used to meet and the residences of their leaders. Over 500 followers of the cult including about 80 children died at Kanungu, Rukungiri on March 17 in an inferno at the church in what the Police now suspects was mass murder. President Yoweri Museveni told a press conference last week that the probe into the cult's activities would be handled by the best investigators in the country and that if possible foreign investigators would be called in. Meanwhile the Police in Bushenyi on Tuesday questioned Rev. Fr. Paul Ikazire who defected from the cult in 1994. A policeman on duty at the Police station said on Tuesday that the DPC Wilson Kwanya led a team of investigators who also searched Ikazire's residence in Rugazi, Bunyaruguru. „They are carrying out a comprehensive investigation into the cult activities and searching for more possible bodies and that means going to all places where the cult members used to meet,‰ he said. Ikazire's home is located a few kilometres from the home of Fr. Dominic Kataribabo where the police exhumed over 70 bodies from a mass grave on Monday.

"Police disperse 200 cult followers"

("New Vision" [Kampala], March 30, 2000)

POLICE in Mukono Tuesday dispersed over 200 followers, mainly children, of the Universal Apostolic Church for the Restless in Mukono town council.
The sect's leader was arrested after the Police had information that the sect was similar to the Kanungu Cult.
Paster Semuel Bonga who leads the sect in Mukono District, was held at Mukono Police Station for questioning.
The operation was mounted by a team of CID officials from Mukono led by the officer in-charge, Mr Wilson Andama.
Andama told The New Vision after the operation that the Police were suspicious after LCs reported that over 200 people, mainly children, had converged in the area without informing the authorities or the Police.
"We managed to disperse the crowd and we arrested their leader who is giving us his statement to enable the Police investigate the matter further," Andama said.
He said that the followers were from as far as Masaka, Luweero, Jinja and Mukono districts.
"We are still looking for these children. We do not know where they have gone and we don't know what they were doing with children aged between 13 to 15, mainly girls," Andama said.
The country is still gripped with fear after the recent murder of 600 followers of a cult in Kanungu, Rukungiri District.
Mukono town council residents said the sect followers had stayed in the area for about three days praying and singing. Police said the sect's headquarters is in Jinja.

"Bedroom death toll reaches 81"

by Matthias Mugisha, Innocent Nahabwe and Raynel Kanyambu ("New Vision" [Kampala], March 30, 2000)

Another 53 bodies have been found at Fr. Dominic Kataribaabo's bedroom, bringing the number to 81.
The Police recovered 28 bodies, mostly of children, in the self-styled Father's dressing room on Tuesday.
Some 74 bodies were recovered from his compound in Rugazi, on Monday, bringing the total at his home to 155.
Police spokesman Asuman Mugenyi said yesterday banana leaves were thrown at the bottom of the grave.
Mugenyi said the bodies bore signs that the victims were strangled or poisoned. Bottles believed to have contained the poison were yesterday found in the grave.
Geoffrey Bangirana, the assistant commissioner for serious crime, who has been at the site since Tuesday, said the Police were getting more clues about the mass murder.
He said more mass graves could be in Mitoma, Kitabi and Kabira in Bushenyi.

"Police issues arrest warrant"

("New Vision" [Kampala], March 30, 2000)

RUGAZI, Tuesday - The Police are to issue an international arrest warrant for five cult leaders, including Dominic Kataribaabo whose body had earlier been reported identified after the fire in Kanungu.
Police spokesman Asuman Mugenyi told AFP that pictures of Joseph Kibwetere, Credonia Mwerinde, Ursula Komuhangi, Henry Byarugaba and Kataribaabo will soon be published in newspapers.
The Police exhumed a further 53 bodies on Wednesday from the foundations of the doomsday cult leader's former home here, bringing the total number of deaths of the cult to over 800.
Over 155 bodies have been found since Saturday at Kataribaabo's house in Rugazi, officials said.
Pathologist Thaddeus Barungi said the bodies unearthed on Wednesday had been dead more than a month - longer than those found earlier this week. "They are older than the ones found yesterday, over one month, but you can't tell with certainty," he said. "These ones seem to be more decomposed than the earlier ones."
The Police are struggling to cope with the situation.
"We assume that they're (cult leaders) alive since we have no evidence they died," he said.
More than 540 bodies were found in a church belonging to the cult in Kanungu following a fire there on March 17, while another 153 were found in a mass grave in Kalingo on Friday. Kalingo is 45 kilometres west of Kanungu, while Rugazi is 80 kilometres to the north.
Large numbers of children are among the dead - 20 of the 28 bodies unearthed yesterday were of minors.
Very few of the victims' identities are known..
Few families have come forward to make inquiries about missing members, which could have helped the Police draw up lists.
The Police say the victims were from far away.

"Kanungu acid stolen from Kasese mines"

by John Thawite ("New Vision" [Kampala], March 30, 2000)

MORE than 40 litres of sulphuric acid suspected to have been used in the Kanungu inferno was stolen from the multi-billion Kasese Cobalt Company Ltd. (KCCL) by a store-keeper at the plant about three months ago, The New Vision has learnt.
A Police source in Kasese, preferring anonymity, said yesterday the store-keeper channeled the acid through a shop on Margarita Street in Kasese town, where one of the doomsday cult leaders, Fr. Dominic Kataribaabo, bought it on March 13.
"KCCL reported the matter to the Police. But the person who stole the acid has since disappeared," the source said.
"Investigations are going on. We have interrogated two suspects," a Criminal Investigations Department source said.
The source said the acid was used in the mass murder of at least 700 followers of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God.
The dead have been recovered from various mass graves in Kanungu in Rukungiri and Rugazi in Bushenyi district.
Kataribaabo is said to have bought 40 litres of acid on March 13, three days before hundreds of followers perished in a fire in Kanungu.
The source said Kataribaabo was also sighted in Kasese several times this year, visiting relatives and trying to recruit followers.
"(Joseph) Kibwetere and an unspecified number of other cult leaders escaped in a car at around 11.00am after their church at Kanungu burst into flames," Kasese District Police chief, Pius Mutabazi, who hails from Kanungu, said.
"The group used a pick-up truck Kibwetere had just bought and a saloon car which they tied to each other feigning a breakdown," he said.
Quoting eyewitnesses in Kanungu, he said the group escaped via Rugunjo in Nyakishenyi and Kisiza disappearing towards Rubare in Ntungamo district.
He said Kibwetere used to drive a vehicle belonging to the cult but the vehicle had since disappeared.
The cult is said to have systematically been killing its followers who had demanded a refund of their property which they had been told to sell since the world was ending.
Residents claim the leaders used to slaughter children on Friday mornings in witchcraft.
Police say followers were killed and their colleagues told they had gone to heaven with the Virgin Mary.

Index Page: Ten Commandments of God: Mass Suicide in Uganda

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