Kampala - Prisoners who were forced to exhume and rebury the hundreds of mutilated bodies discovered at mass cult graves are suffering trauma. Doctors warn that unless they get immediate counselling some may suffer life-long psychological problems.
At the same time human rights organisations say the prisoners' rights were grossly violated when they were forced to work in perilous conditions. They said that if the prisoners sued, the government would pay compensation.
Doctors said anything unpleasant to the eyes could cause trauma, especially if a person is not prepared for it.
"Both the prisoners and the people in Kanungu were not prepared for what happened. Up to 10 per cent of the people may have psychological problems," said Dr Margaret Mungherera, president of the Uganda Medical Association (UMA), the psychiatrist in charge of the Uganda Prisons Service (UPS).
"Even culturally we do not handle bodies like that... the fear the prisoners had that they might contract the illnesses the dead had suffered from was enough to traumatise them. If you are not prepared and have no information on the chances of getting ill from the activity, then you are bound to be psychologically affected. One had to educate them to make an informed decision whether or not to participate," she said.
The Medical Association, with support from the Ministry of Health has started giving both short-term and long-term psychiatric support to the prisoners, those who lost relatives as well as those who live near Kanungu and other areas where mass graves were discovered.
"Trauma is long term and doesn't wear off soon. The prisoners need immediate attention. They need to be given an opportunity to talk. They should be handled by trained, compassionate and supportive counsellors, who will listen to them," Dr Mungherera said. "There is also a need to separate those badly affected from those not."
The Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), a local human rights advocacy organisation, visited the cult's headquarters in Kataate last week and claims that more bodies are still lying on the floor of a building that served as a dormitory and office for the Movement for the Restoration of the Commandments cult.
FHRI reports that a number of those involved in the exhumation were traumatised by the experience. Prisoners in Kanungu's Local Administration Prison, who were the first on the scene and worked for several days barefooted and without gloves, say they could not eat for several days after handling the mutilated and decomposing bodies.
"I couldn't eat for some time," a prisoner remanded for the last one month in Kanungu Prison for Tax defaulting said. According to the prisoner, inmates were never given water to bathe after the exercise. "Normally, we bathe once every week and, even on this occasion, we showered only on Sunday," FHRI quoted a prisoner as saying.
Accra - The Togolese authorities have set up an inter-ministerial commission to investigate the activities of all religious sects in the country whose unorthodox mode of worship threatens to imperil the orderly well being of the Togolese society.
A statement issued after a Ministerial Council meeting in Lome on Wednesday last week, chaired by President Eyadema expressed the Government's concern about the unorthodox methods of worship by some sects which beat cymbals and drums that make noise at night to disturb the public peace.
The resultant pandemonium imperils the physical security, and well being of individuals with whom they live in their respective communities as neighbours.
Such modes of worship, observed the government statement, carried out under the guise of healing the sick and disabled rather tend to offend decency, and the moral fabric upon which the Togolese society is built.
Consequently the inter-ministerial council is expected to investigate them and submit recommendations with a view to streamlining aspects of their activities which constitute a social canker and menace which must be eradicated with appropriate measures.
"Some of the unorthodox methods of worship of some of the churches which use the noise making as a pretext to heal and cure the sick have become a social canker and pest to society," declared an official.
Of late, there has been a proliferation of unorthodox sects in Togo, taking advantage of the new democratic atmosphere of freedom of association, and worship.
Some of the sects are located in residential areas and make unbearable noise that disturbs the public peace "and dislocates familial equilibrium."
To make matters worse, these sects, some of which are spill-overs from neighbouring Ghana and Nigeria, have flourished without any state regulatory bodies or security control mechanisms to monitor their activities.
But a social scientist remarked that the Togolese authorities have become alarmed about the tragedy which occurred in Uganda where several hundreds of worshippers of a religious cult committed mass suicide, misled by their leader.
Press reports say some leaders of the Ugandan religious cult held responsible for the death of hundreds of its members last month had links with a notorious Australian doomsday cult.
The Australian cult, called the Marian Work of Atonement or Our Lady of the Ark, has aroused concern in Australia because of its apocalyptic nature.
It is headed by 49-year-old William Kamm, who has also adopted the pseudonym "Little Pebble".
He currently runs a community of several hundred full-time followers in Nowra, New South Wales.
Mr Kamm visited Uganda in October 1989 and gave lectures about his faith over four days at the then police officers' mess in the capital, Kampala.
Cult leader in audience
The British newspaper, The Guardian, reported that those in attendance included the leader of the Ugandan cult, Joseph Kibwetere and his wife, Teresa.
Their own cult, the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments (RTGC), had been established for less than three months at the time of the meeting.
Mr Kibwetere, along with five other cult leaders, has since been accused of murdering at least 330 people in a fire at the cult headquarters in Kanungu, western Uganda on 17 March.
A further 395 bodies were later found in three properties used by the cult elsewhere in western Uganda.
Police have issued warrants for their arrests, but it is not known if the leaders are still alive, or whether they died with their followers in the fire.
According to the minutes of Little Pebble's visit which have been seen by the BBC, the German-born cult leader was on his second trip to Africa (he visited Kenya in 1988).
During his seminar, Little Pebble stresses the validity of heavenly visions, the fallibility of bishops - and his own claim that he would one day become Pope.
"I wish to encourage people of Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya to continue fighting for the truth concerning apparitions," Little Pebble told his congregation.
"The main reasons Jesus and Mary have sent me to Uganda is to bring unity amongst the seers and among the people of God." He went on to assert that apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Masaka District, Central Uganda, were authentic.
Listed as a seer
The Kibweteres are both known to have shown keen interest in these visions and to have visited the shrine in 1987, before starting their own cult.
Little Pebble's cult shows many similiarities with the now notorious RTCG, including the reliance on Marian visions and the importance of the Ark.
The RTCG cult manifesto also pays homage to Little Pebble, naming him as one of ten listed 'seers'.
The documents strengthen concerns that the cult was able to operate without raising suspicion because it was aided by local officials.
Five former policemen are known to have died in the fire at Kanungu, while the Assistant Resident District Commissioner in charge of Kanungu has been arrested by police on suspicion that he prevented investigations of the group.
President Yoweri Museveni has already ordered a commission of inquiry into the cult killings.
In the minutes of the Little Pebble meeting, Mr Kamm welcomes "government officials" to the police officers' mess - but does not name them.
Police have said that any meeting held in the mess would have to have been authorised by the office of then Inspector General of police.
The former Ugandan cult leader Joseph Kibwetere, now wanted for murder, was linked to an Australian doomsday group, the Marian Workers of Atonement, according to documents found at his home by The Guardian.
According to his wife, Teresa, she and her husband attended talks on supernatural manifestations given by the leader of the Australian group, William Kamm - whose spiritual name is "Little Pebble" - in Kampala. Based in Nowra, New South Wales, the followers of 49-year-old Kamm share many beliefs with Kibwetere's cult, the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, at least 330 members of which were killed in a fire in their church at Kanungu.
Some 395 bodies, mainly of women and children, were later found in the compounds of three buildings run by the cult. Police believe that there are more dead, but have yet to resume their search because of lack of funds and equipment.
According to the documents, Mr Kamm held four meetings at the Kampala police mess between October 6 and 10, 1989 - when reports of manifestations of the Virgin Mary, an aspect common to both cults, were becoming frequent throughout Uganda and neighbouring Rwanda.
Mrs Kibwetere said she had been in contact with Mr Kamm before she and her husband went to hear him talk. "We were interested in visions of His Blessed Mother ... Little Pebble sent us these papers and I used to write to him. Then he came to Uganda and we went to see him in Kampala."
The couple's son, Rugambwa, said the visit made a strong impression on his father. "I remember them going, and when my father came back he said that Little Pebble had filled him with new hope." The manifesto of the Kanungu cult - entitled A Timely Message from Heaven: The End of the Present Times, which was first published in 1991 - also names Little Pebble among those "from various countries who got revelations and visions of the coming chastisements"
Australian cultwatch groups have expressed a suspicion of links between Mr Kamm's group and the Ugandan cult. "All apocalyptic groups feed off each other, so I wouldn't be surprised to find some of William's messages among the documents. But it doesn't mean that it was necessarily William who made the group go off," said Wally Anglesea, who is based in Australia and has been monitoring the Little Pebble cult for the past 16 years.
A British newspaper has reported what it calls a link between a Ugandan doomsday cult and a Catholic sect in Australia.
The sect is said to have inspired Joseph Kibwetere, now wanted on murder charges after the death of 900 of his cult members in Uganda.
However the head of the Order of St Charbel in New South Wales has rejected suggestions of a direct link between the groups.
Mr William Kamm, who calls himself the Little Pebble, says he never knew Mr Kibwetere but did visit Uganda on a speaking tour in 1989.
"Our teaching is nothing like what they proceeded to do because they took their lives," he said.
"Our teaching is to preserve life so therefore what eventuated there as far as I am concerned is very very sad."
An Australian Catholic sect gave inspiration to the leader of the Ugandan cult, who has been charged with murder following the deaths of more than 900 followers, according to documents revealed today.
The documents linking the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God to a Nowra-based sect have been discovered in the home of Joseph Kibwetere, the cult's missing leader.
Britain's Guardian newspaper, which obtained the papers, said they show that the leader of the Australian group, Mr William Kamm, met, corresponded and provided inspiration to Kibwetere.
The newspaper says both Kibwetere's wife and son confirmed that he had attended public meetings in the Ugandan capital of Kampala in October 1989 convened by Mr Kamm, a former Wollongong building society clerk who calls himself "Little Pebble", and leads the Order of St Charbel, also known as the Marian Work of Atonement, and Our Lady of the Ark.
The Ugandan cult shocked the world in mid-March when 530 followers died in a church fire. Authorities said the fire had been deliberately lit and that doors and windows had been sealed to prevent escape.
Subsequent searches of sect compounds turned up 394 bodies piled in mass graves and thrown into a pit toilet. Six cult leaders - including Joseph Kibwetere - have been charged with murder and are all still at large.
Mr James Duffy, secretary of the Order of St Charbel, confirmed that both he and Mr Kamm visited Kampala in the late 1980s to give a series of talks, but denied any ongoing contact with the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God or its leaders.
"When you have 6,000 in a room, the names escape me totally," he said today. "I don't know of any linkage whatsoever." Kibwetere's son, Rugambwa, said the meeting with Mr Kamm made a strong impression on his father, the Guardian reported. "I remember them going, and when my father came back he said that Little Pebble had filled him with new hope." The documents found in Kibwetere's house comprise dispatches from Mr Kamm's Australian headquarters and transcripts of the talks Mrs Kibwetere says he gave in Uganda.
Mrs Kibwetere told the newspaper she had been in contact with Mr Kamm before she and her husband went to hear him talk and that Mr Kamm had corresponded with her husband. The 1991 manifesto of Kibwetere's cult - entitled A Timely Message from Heaven: The End of the Present Times - also names Little Pebble among those from whom he drew inspiration.
In a transcript of a meeting on October 6 1989, Mr Kamm reportedly urged those attending - described in the documents as "the congregation" - to "not be surprised that the church in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania or any other place is speaking against apparitions".
He also called for those present to "join with Little Pebble of Australia".
The Catholic Church does not recognise Mr Kamm's organisation and has been investigating his teachings and claims.
According to an Australian cult-watcher, Mr Wally Anglese, many of Mr Kamm's prophesies are "apocalyptic in content, usually referring to the end of the world or the 'end of days'".
German-born Mr Kamm, 49, claims to be one of 120 international "seers" with a direct line of communication to the Virgin Mary. In a ceremony after a "mass" on the 13th day of each month, at a rural headquarters near Nowra, Mr Kamm claims Mary appears to him.
Mr Kamm has claimed that the Pope has given his approval to the group, and wishes to have formal recognition from the church. According to reports, Mr Kamm claims that in one of his visions of the Virgin Mary, he was told he would be the next Pope.
The Guardian says there are "clear similarities" between the Nowra group and the Ugandan cult. Both claim to have direct contact with the Virgin Mary and both prominently venerate the symbol of the Ark.
Mr Duffy said he was not familiar with the Ugandan cult's beliefs and practices and dismissed any similarities as coincidental.
The former Ugandan cult leader Joseph Kibwetere, now wanted for murder, was linked to an Australian doomsday group, the Marian Workers of Atonement, according to documents found at his home by the Guardian. According to his wife, Teresa, she and her husband attended talks on supernatural manifestations given by the leader of the Australian group, William Kamm - whose spiritual name is "Little Pebble" - in Kampala, Uganda's capital.
Based in Nowra, New South Wales, the followers of 49-year-old Kamm share many beliefs with Kibwetere's cult, the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, at least 330 members of which were killed in a fire in their church at Kanungu, in western Uganda. Many others are believed to have died, but it was impossible to accurately count their charred remains.
Some 395 bodies, mainly of women and children, were later found in the compounds of three buildings run by the cult. Police believe that there are more dead, but have yet to resume their search because of lack of funds and equipment.
According to the documents, Mr Kamm held four meetings at the Kampala police mess between October 6 and 10, 1989 - when reports of manifestations of the Virgin Mary, an aspect common to both cults, were becoming frequent throughout Uganda and neighbouring Rwanda. Mrs Kibwetere said she had been in contact with Mr Kamm before she and her husband went to hear him talk. "We were interested in visions of His Blessed Mother... Little Pebble sent us these papers and I used to write to him. Then he came to Uganda and we went to see him in Kampala."
The couple's son, Rugambwa, said the visit made a strong impression on his father. "I remember them going, and when my father came back he said that Little Pebble had filled him with new hope."
The manifesto of the Kanungu cult - entitled A Timely Message from Heaven: The End of the Present Times, which was first published in 1991 - also names Little Pebble among those "from various countries who got revelations and visions of the chastisements that are coming".
Australian cultwatch groups have expressed a suspicion of links between Mr Kamm's group and the Ugandan cult. "All apocalyptic groups feed off each other, so I wouldn't be surprised to find some of William's messages among the documents. But it doesn't mean that it was necessarily William who made the group go off," said Wally Anglesea, who is based in Australia and has been monitoring the Little Pebble cult for the past 16 years. The activities of the cult, he said, had caused serious concern in Australia. His sister-in-law had been a member during the 1980s. "Yes, they are dangerous. Categorically, yes. The reason they are dangerous is the combination of weapons and paranoia and apocalypticism. It's a dangerous cocktail."
The documents found in the Kibwetere house are a mixture of dispatches from Little Pebble's Australian headquarters and apparently verbatim transcripts of the talks Mrs Kibwetere says he gave in Uganda. They also include a prayer for satanic exorcism.
The papers suggest that Mr Kamm was accompanied by a J Duff. According to Mr Anglesea, a James Duffy is head of security of the Little Pebble group, and also acts as the leader's bodyguard. A Ugandan, known only as Mr Iga, introduced the visitors. In a meeting on October 6 1989, Mr Kamm reportedly urged those attending - described in the documents as "the congregation" - to "not be surprised that the church in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania or any other place is speaking against apparitions". He then called for those present to "join with Little Pebble of Australia". There are clear similarities between the Little Pebble and the Kanungu cults, apart from their claims of direct contact with the Virgin Mary (both refer to receiv ing these messages via a "voice box"). The symbol of the Ark is prominent in each of the cults. The followers of the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God called the church they entered before burning to death their "Ark". They also told friends and relatives that the Virgin Mary was coming to take them to heaven - also promised to Little Pebble's followers on their leader's website.
Mr Kamm founded his organisation - sometimes also referred to as Our Lady of the Ark and the Order of St Charbel - between 1970-72. He claims to be in contact with the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ as well as other heavenly beings, from whom he says he receives a constant stream of prophetic messages. These are in a similar format to those purportedly received by Kibwetere and the five other leaders of the Ugandan cult.
Born in Cologne, Germany, Mr Kamm changed his name to Little Pebble in the early 1980s, perhaps in reference to the biblical St Peter, the Rock. He has for many years been in conflict with the established Catholic church in his local diocese of Wollongong and with the archdiocese of Melbourne. Among his many claims - on his website and in the Ugandan documents - are that he will be the next pope, and he claims that when he met Pope John Paul II, the pontiff confirmed it.
The Little Pebble website does show pictures of Mr Kamm meeting the Pope. But on July 17 1985, Archbishop Barbarito, the Pope's representative in Australia, sent the following message to Bishop Murray of Wollongong, who had already declared Kamm's movement inauthentic. The message, directly from Archbishop Edward Martin, then the Pope's chief secretary, read: "I ask you to inform Bishop Murray that though... Mr Kamm met the Holy Father... and took part with others of the faithful at the Mass in the Holy Father's private chapel, nevertheless he did not receive any approval of his alleged 'visions' on the part of the Holy Father."
In 1997, George Pell, Archbishop of Melbourne, issued a statement in which he made it clear that Little Pebble did not have the approval of the archdiocese.
The archbishop's statement ran: "Messages are alleged to have been received from this person in which great emphasis is placed on millennialism, warnings, signs, torments, days of darkness. Alleged private revelations are given importance above the revealed teaching of Scripture and the authentic guidance of the Church. Messages which are not consistent with the Word of God and the constant teaching of the Church are to be rejected."
The Ugandan connection also raises questions about the role of the country's police force in the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God. Five former Ugandan police officers are known to have died in the Kanungu fire, and allegations have been made about local authority complicity in the cult's activities.
The acting inspector general of police, Stephen Oonyu, said that the police mess where the meetings were held had closed "sometime" during late 1989 or in 1990. But he added that any meeting of this kind would have required the authorisation of the inspector general at the time.
Kampala - Christian leaders meet on Wednesday to discuss the way forward following the Kanungu tragedy on March 17. Mr. Philip Wandawa, the director of Kampala Evangelical School of Theology (KEST), said the leaders would address church problems, teachings and practices.
A statement on the meeting said, "Rather than wait for the world and the media to analyse the church's condition, it is better for us to do our own stock-taking."
Over 70 Christian leaders from churches and NGOs around Kampala are expected to attend. The churches will include Kampala Pentecostal, St. Francis Makerere, Deliverance, Namirembe, All Saints, Redeemed, Kampala Baptist and Miracle Centre. The NGOs include World Vision, Scripture Union, FOCUS and Life Ministry. The meeting at KEST, Makerere will analyse weaknesses and equip the leaders to meet the challenges of false teaching.
Kampala - As the search for surviving members of a Uganda doomsday cult intensifies in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, fresh details cast doubt on the competence of Uganda's security agencies.
Police were last week following a tip-off that Joseph Kibwetere, the leader of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments, spent a night at Rutooma, 283km from Kampala, on the Mbarara-Ibanda road, after burning his followers to death inside a church in Kanungu.
He left Rutooma mid-morning the next day and drove in a Toyota Carina car towards the Congo border, in the company of another leader, Credonia Mwerinde.
Police said last week that other clues received that the cult leaders were hiding in and around Kampala had been proved untrue. "We received a lot of calls from people claiming they were hiding in Kampala, but whenever we followed the clues, they turned out to be untrue. We are, however, not ruling out anything," said a top police officer.
But fresh reports that State House Security asked for a probe into the activities at Kanungu two months ago, has cast serious doubt on the competence of the police.
Apparently State House, two months before the Kanungu incident, had asked for an investigation of the activities of the cult, but the investigators did not find anything.
Criminal Investigation Department boss, J.B. Okumu wrote to the Rukungiri Division Police Commander directing him to investigate alleged links between the Kanungu doomsday cult and the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) operating in western Uganda. They also wanted to establish the truth of claims that Kibwetere's cult was engaged in kidnapping children. State House also wanted to establish whether children who died at the camp were buried in a common grave.
"Furnish this office with your findings thereafter. Treat it as very urgent,"
Mr. Okumu is said to have written to the Rukungiri DPC. On February 5, P. Mugizi, the Rukungiri CID officer, wrote back saying: "It has been established that there are no signs of any rebel connection or ideology during their teaching so far."
As the investigations in Congo continue, Uganda is also investigating the motives of a group of 11 Spanish nationals who reportedly visited the headquarters of the doomsday cult blamed for murdering up to 1,000 followers, senior police officials said.
Minister of State for Security, Mr. Muruli Mukasa, told Parliament last Tuesday that investigators had received information indicating that a group of 11 Spaniards visited the Kanungu home of the cult on August 17, last year.
"Investigations are going on to establish what the motive of the visit was," he said. Police say they are also investigating links between the cult and groups in European countries suspected to have been the financiers of the cult.
Among the countries that have been named where the cult had contacts are Austria, Italy and Germany. Investigators say they have sent photographs of the cult leaders - believed to be alive and on the run - to several international airports. Security agencies from several countries, including Britain, the US, South Africa and Germany as well as Interpol, are to help in the hunt for the fugitive leaders.
The minister told Parliament that it is believed the cult leaders had instigated the murder of their followers and were still alive.
Kampala - More than two weeks since the shocking deaths of over 530 doomsday cult members in a blaze at a church in western Uganda, Ugandan security officials say there are still many missing links in the tragedy.
Earlier thought to be a suicide, police are now treating the matter as murder. However, how the murders were carried out is yet to be known. Mass graves containing up to 400 bodies, found at homes of former cult officials have added to the mystery of how the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments cult operated and the cause of the murders.
The Ugandan Vice President Dr Specioza Wandira Kazibwe who last Sunday visited the cult headquarters at Kanungu, 362 kilometres south west of Kampala, to lead national inter-denomination prayers for the dead, said the death toll had reached 1,000 and the counting continued.
"It is a mystery how the cultists managed to kill their victims and bury them in mass graves without rousing the suspicions of the people in the neighbourhood," said Charles Musana, the officer in charge of Bushenyi district police station. Four mass graves have been discovered in the district following the Kanungu inferno.
At the home of Fr. Dominic Kataribaabo, a cult official who held a Doctorate in Theology from a Californian university, police found 163 bodies, several buried in his bedroom in a mass grave sealed with cement.
Police believe those murdered had opposed their leaders who had encouraged them to sell off their property and surrender the money to the leaders who prophesied that the world was coming to an end. The believers sold their property at give-away prices and faced the prospect of leading a pauper's life when the year 2000 begun and the world did not end.
"The year 2000 came and the world hadn't ended. The followers faced a prospect of poverty and they knew they would be rejected by their neighbours whom they had quarrelled with. So I think Kibwetere thought fast and made the world end for his followers," said James Bangirana, the officer in charge of the criminal investigations department at Bushenyi district.
"We did not notice anything to suggest these people were murderers. Although we were from different religions, we did not hate them because they never attacked us. In fact they never said anything wrong to anybody," said Lodoviko Kabagambe, who was a neighbour to Kataribaabo. Cult members had a silence code which barred them from speaking while outside the camp. Even inside the camp they spoke rarely, apparently to avoid committing sin.
"How a religious group without arms managed to kill hundreds of people remains a mystery. Kataribaabo was a lay man who could not have been able to kill those people himself. Either he hired professional killers or he trained a squad," suggests area Member of Parliament Stanley Kinyata.
While some families have said they lost up to 17 members in the inferno, police spokesman Eric Naigambi says many who lost their kin have not come up for fear of being linked to the cult. As a result, it has not been possible to establish the names of those who perished in the inferno.
The Internal Affairs Ministry says the cult had about 5,000 members though a register found at Kanungu has only under 300 members. Believers from other areas of Uganda, as well as Rwanda and Tanzania had also travelled to the cult headquarters on the eve of the inferno. Some had gone in the hope of witnessing the end of the world and the Virgin Mary coming to lead them to heaven while others were merely there to witness the opening of the cult's new church, investigators say.
According to local councillors, the cult grew poisonous weeds which it could have used to kill some believers. Several others were reportedly strangled, clubbed or machetted to death.
Police say the believers' last supper at Kanungu was laced with poison, and that acid and other explosives were used to ignite the fire. The church had also been sealed from the outside with nails and timber before the fire started.
The government has issued international arrest warrants for the cult leaders, at least two of whom - "Pastor' Joseph Kibwetere and "Sister" Credonia Mwerinde - are believed to be alive and on the run. A vehicle they used the day before the blaze has never been recovered, suggesting they got away in it, possibly crossing into neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo via Butogota or Ishasa border posts just 24 km from Kanungu.
What puzzles investigators is how the cult leaders who had different backgrounds managed to work together. Three of them were well educated priests who had served in the Catholic Church - the biggest in the country - one was a former prostitute turned lay preacher, another a failed politician who had qualified as a primary school teacher, briefly embraced Islam before becoming a lay preacher in the local Catholic church.
The cult was able to avoid scrutiny from authorities partly because it operated almost as an island and its members rarely had contact with the outside world; and also by bribing authorities with lavish gifts and managing to convince some of them to subscribe to its ideals.
Other information the police are investigating indicates that the cult leaders had taken the advice of witchdoctors and started sacrificing a child every week and drinking its blood in a bid to keep evil spirits, opponents and government officials at bay. That may explain the huge number of bodies of children found in the mass graves.
But former cult members also say while there was a government-run health clinic near Kanungu, cult doctrines did not allow for scientific medication.
The life of acute deprivation which members led, including sleeping on papyrus mats and having one proper meal a day, could also have contributed to malnutrition and high mortality among children.
While some government officials have been apprehended for failing to act on intelligence reports that the cult was a security threat, they plead that they had no reason to suspect the intentions of the cult. At the time of the blaze, Kibwetere's group was putting up new permanent buildings, and still kept the graves of former members well kept. It occasionally invited authorities to functions at its premises.
Police spokesman Naigambi says they will not be able to establish the causes of death before pathologists examine the bodies. The country has only one pathologist who took cursory looks at the exhumed bodies before they were reburied. Private operators refused to help out since the government had no funds to pay them.
Kampala - Forensic experts and pathologists from the British Metropolitan Police, the Scotland Yard are expected in Uganda to take over investigations into the Kanungu church massacre.
Highly placed sources said Uganda has written to the British government asking for their immediate intervention following discovery of more bodies in mass graves.
"We are writing to seek their assistance especially in the field of forensic experts," said the source.
Police deputy spokesman Eric Naigambi said Saturday, " We need their assistance because the whole field is new to us and the magnitude is beyond our capacity."
The experts are expected to study the mutilated bodies recovered from mass graves in the compounds of some of the cult leaders to establish the cause of their deaths.
President Yoweri Museveni said last month that the best investigators in the country would handle the probe into the cult's activities and if possible foreign investigators would be called in. Government is treating the Kanungu incident as a high profile criminal act. Over 1000 people have been confirmed dead in the March 17 inferno and other deaths before it.
Naigambi said at this time Police required assistance in all fields but in the long run they would want assistance in the area of capacity building.
There was no official confirmation from the British High Commission whether they had received the letter or not.
The acting Director of CID Erasmus Opio Friday told Sunday Vision that both Government chemist and pathologists' reports on some of the bodies were out.
"We have got the post mortem reports for a few bodies. Certainly other reports will continue coming in gradually," he said. The reports are for the bodies that have been positively identified by relatives. Those identified include: Joseph Naymiranda, Stephen Katege, Imelda Bwongezire, Beatrice Kembabazi, Rosemary Kengozi, Christopher Tugize, Robert Bikorumuhangi, Florence Tumuhimbise, Rogers Tumwine and Pokeria Tinaikakwa. Opio said the analysis by pathologists from Makerere University on the charred bodies indicated that they died of neurotic shock as a result of the fire.
Results from the bodies dug out of the mass graves are not yet out but pathologists say they could have died of mechanical strangulation.
"The government chemist has confirmed the fire was caused by highly inflammable substance- gasoline (petrol,)" Opio said.
A 15 man CID team headed by the officer in charge of criminal investigations, Godfrey Bangirana, has been in Kanungu since the church inferno. Exhumations were suspended due to lack of logistics.
Opio said Friday that they would continue with the exhumations after getting all the necessary equipment like protective gear.
He said government had intervened because police alone could not handle the situation.
Opio said although no international help had been received, the International Police (Interpol) had asked for the post-mortem reports.
The New Vision was also told last month that detectives from at least eight European and African countries had expressed interest in the hunt for the cult leaders.
The Uganda Police this week issued an international arrest warrant for six leaders of the cult, including chairman Joseph Kibwetere 62, Vice Credonia Mwerinde 56.
Index Page: Ten Commandments of God: Tragedy in Uganda
[Home Page] [Cos'è il CESNUR] [Biblioteca del CESNUR] [Testi e documenti] [Libri] [Convegni]
[Home Page] [About CESNUR] [CESNUR Library] [Texts & Documents] [Book Reviews] [Conferences]