div CESNURCenter for Studies on New Religions


"Suspected Cult In Bushenyi Probed "

by Raynel Kanyambu and Patrick Mugumya ("New Vision", May 31, 2000)

Kampala - The Police in Bushenyi yesterday questioned a former member of the Kanungu doomsday cult over allegations that he has started another cult and recruited people in Karagara Bunyaruguru.
Mr. James Bangirana, the Bushenyi Officer in charge of CID told The New Vision yesterday that they had dispatched a team of Police detectives to ascertain whether Abdoni Bishoborokire was managing an illegal society.
He said they had received reports that Abdoni had forcefully recruited family members and members of the public and was preaching the end of the world.
"We have sent a team to investigate a report we have received that Abdoni was recruiting members of the public into a doomsday cult," he said.
Mr. Christopher Iga, the Resident District Commissioner, told The New Vision that they were assessing the risk Abdoni's new cult was posing to Bushenyi district.
Abdoni told The New Vision on Monday that he had had a vision from the Virgin Mary who instructed him to tell the world to "repent before the end of the present times."
He said he had already recruited over 70 followers, including those who defected from the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, Islam and Kanungu survivors.
He said during the vision, the Virgin Mary appeared with Fr Dominic Kataribaabo who promised to return and explain the March 17 inferno in which an estimated 400 people died.

"Shilling Slumps Further, 4 Cult Bodies In Iganga"

by Samuel Apedel (New Vision (Kampala), May 28, 2000)

Kampala - Jokes about advisors having no opinions but their masters' are numerous. On Sunday, however, Colonel Kahinda Otafiire, the senior presidential advisor on Congo, demonstrated that the joke does not apply to him. Not only does he have his own opinions but he expresses them. Loudly, too.
Otafiire said President Museveni has twice saved the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) from further punishment in Kisangani by restraining the UPDF.
It was certainly a good thing Museveni and Otafiire were not of the same mind because by Friday restraint seemed to have won the day. Kisangani was being demilitarised and the UPDF and the RPA were withdrawing from the city centre with most of their fighting force intact.
Maybe it was a brief respite but any day without shots being fired is a victory. To protect the uneasy peace, the army issued a directive barring all UPDF officers from making any comments about Rwanda and RPA. Was the UPDF bending over double to appease the RPA?
While the army's decision to gag its officers was not questioned, the Government came under pressure to publish the report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into corruption in the Police Force.
Donors led by the European Union and Ugandan media bodies Wednesday demanded that the report be published.
Interior minister Edward Rugumayo promised to make the report public but said it would take some time. A task force will have to formulate a White Paper on the recommendations, present it to Cabinet, which will then decide on the recommendations. The ministry will then implement the recommendations. Then and only then will the report be published "in a manner consistent with our national security." So much for transparency.
The shilling's woes may have been denied prominence by the Kisangani madness but the spending public felt the pinch in their pockets. By Wednesday the shilling was trading at 1,615/30 against the Dollar after hitting record lows of 1,627/47 last week, down 16 per cent from 1,350/1,450 at the same time last year.
The depreciation pushed fuel prices up by sh50. Petrol went up to sh1,375 per litre and diesel to sh1,125. The ban on fish imports from Uganda by the European Union, a slump in tourist arrivals following the Bwindi massacre last year and lower international coffee prices have taken their toll. No government has ever won an argument against low purchasing power and empty stomachs.
Somebody had better do something.
Seemingly oblivious of Uganda's economic woes, the Electoral Commission (EC) requisitioned more money to help it fund the referendum process. EC Chairman Aziz Kasujja wrote to the finance ministry saying the sh360m approved by Parliament was inadequate. The Multiparty National Referendum committee complained that the sh180m advanced to it was peanuts and asked for sh1.2b more. Democracy does not come cheap.
Some of the things the Government does are enough to make one wonder whether government is actually about people. Why, for example, does the Government insist on taxing medical donations to hospitals and health centres?
It was a good week for Uganda's expanding education sector as far as promises go. President Yoweri Museveni promised to start building the northern University of Agriculture and Environmental studies in Gulu. Kyambogo University also got the green light to start operating next October.
To the east of the country there was another gruesome reminder of the harm dubious religious sects can do if left to their own devices. Police exhumed four bodies believed to be deceased followers of the Issa Masiya sect in Bubago village in Iganga.
At the end of the week the news was that the President would address Parliament on the security situation in Congo.

"Witch Doctors Attend Church Service"

("Religion Today", May 26, 2000)

Four hundred witch doctors participated in an extraordinary church service. It was held recently at Christ the King Kampala, Uganda, as the culmination of the work of missionary Catholic priest Ross Russo, who has traveled through rural areas urging people to turn to God, All Africa News Agency said.
"Excitement mixed with surprise and disbelief" characterized the packed service as 15 of the witch doctors "gave testimonies of how they have been hoodwinking people," AANA said. The service, part of a three-day gathering, attracted the attention of the media, Christians, animists, and newspaper cartoonists, who depicted witch doctors from across Africa scampering to the church because "even Jesus entered the homes of sinners and tax collectors," AANA said.
Some people were afraid trouble would erupt between church leaders and the witch doctors, who dressed in wildcat and leopard attire with a red and yellow headband. But there was no acrimony, the news service said. "It was a day of repentance and the congregation was treated to a session of confessions and revelations of the past indulgences in 'human divine power.' "
The witch doctors told how they tricked ignorant and unsuspecting clients by changing their voices to assume the presence of a spirit or ghost, AANA said. Eliya Kayiira, a witch doctor for 20 years and now a minister, described how drumming, singing, and the odor of a special herb during rituals weakens people and makes them think they are possessed. The banging of the shrine door and shrieking of ghosts arriving to solve the problems are tricks performed by the witchdoctor, who sometimes severely beats his clients, he said.
"It is this fear of the witch doctor and his knowledge about the clients' affairs having been relayed to him by other clients who interact with the client that gives him power," Kayiira said. "Clients then pay for the services without hesitation to have their problems solved."
Several witch doctors said they were lured into the trade by threats from another witch doctor that they would not otherwise recover from an illness.

"Police Look For Iganga Cult Graves"

("New Vision", May 25, 2000)

Kampala - Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officers are investigating and digging up parts of the Issa Masiya sect headquarters in Bubago village, Iganga district in search of suspected mass graves, reports Davis Weddi.
A senior CID officer told The New Vision yesterday, "We started digging up some parts on Tuesday, but never found anything that day. We are continuing today (yesterday).
A well-placed source at Police headquarters said the detectives sent to the camp will search for evidence of abortion from pit latrines and for graves of unknown people.
There was no independent report about the developments in the camp by press time yesterday.
The sect which is led by Apostle Besweri Kaswabuli, peg their belief on the 1877 Luganda version of the Bible of Issa Masiya.
The believers, said to be more than 100,000 and who include some Kenyans and Rwandese, have other camps in Tororo, Bushenyi, Rukungiri, Ntungamo, Mukono and Pallisa districts.
The search in Bubago follows reports that the sect leader was assaulting some people, defiling under-age girls, aiding and forcing abortions and burying dead followers without informing their relatives.
The acting director of CID, Mr. Erasmus Opio, told The New Vision, "We sent there a team. We are now waiting for their report."
Opio said the CID will need Pastor Kaswabuli to guide them during the investigations if the report about his Bubago village camp recommends so. By yesterday afternoon, sources at Police headquarters were saying Kaswabuli's whereabouts were unknown and that he could have fled.
He called a New Vision journalist in Jinja last week, saying he was going to Israel. Opio said they were not aware that Kaswabuli had fled.
Details availed to The New Vision yesterday indicate that the Issa Masiya have a record of changing the names of all their recruits.
Statements so far recorded from some former members indicate that they were advised to identify themselves as orphans.
The Jinja regional and Iganga district Police chiefs have been attacked for not having done anything when informed about the sect's suspicious activities.
The New Vision has learnt that one of the senior officers at the CID headquarters was alleged to have been Kaswabuli's friend.
The information was said to have passed through the officer.
Opio denied the allegations. He said they delayed in going to the camp because they lacked logistics which were released on Monday by Police headquarters.
"And on friendship, we do not work in terms of friendship."
Opio said they have got two complaints about the sect where some members are believed to have been buried without their relatives being notified.

"Neurological Shock Caused Mass Deaths Of Cult Members"

(Panafrican News Agency, May 24, 2000)

Kampala, Uganda (PANA) - Pathologists have said that neurological shock resulting from burns was the cause of death among members of a bizarre religious sect in Western Uganda last March.
A senior police officer said that this was contained in the first analytical report on the Kanungu inferno, in which about 530 people died 17 March in a church in south- western Uganda.
Leaders of the cult, known as "The Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God", are believed to have masterminded the fire.
Parts of the report, whose full details are not yet made public, were availed by the acting director of the criminal investigation department, Reassume Opio during an interview in Kampala.
Opio said the report indicated that windows of the Kanungu church were bolted from outside while the fire, which started from within the building, was caused by petrol.
He said pathologists say they found no sign of bombs or grenades used but petrol was discovered in the ashes. Press reports had indicated the suspicion that sulphuric acid had been used to start the fire.

"Police Grill Monitor Scribes Over Kanungu"

("The Monitor", May 24, 2000 )

Kampala - Two Monitor reporters were yesterday quizzed by Police's Criminal Investigations Department over two separate stories they wrote quoting a religious leader and a member of Parliament wondering whether government's safe houses were related to the infamous residences of Joseph Kibwetere's cult members that contained mass graves.
Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda and Katamba G. Mohammed were summoned last week by Ag. CID director Eramus Opio to help Police in "its investigations".
Ssemujju was summoned in a relation to story titled "Kibwetere Cult Was Govt Project, Says Nsambu" published on May 5.
The story quoted Makindye West MP, Yusufu Nsubuga Nsambu as saying that the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God cult which caused the death of over 1000 Ugandans, could have been a government project.
Although the story was published on May 5, Nsambu wrote to The Monitor on May 22 after the story that a reporter had been summoned to record a statement, claiming that the reporter "distorted" and misquoted him. He, however, did not state what he said.
Katamba on the other hand was summoned in relation to a story titled, "Muslim Leader Links Cult Graves To Safe Houses". The story quoted the Ag. Chairman of Uganda Muslim Youth Assembly (UMYA), Kasozi Imam Idd, as asking government to identify houses formerly used as safe houses to clear the speculation that bodies of people allegedly killed by the kanungu cult were not exhumed from the safe houses.
The two reporters were yesterday escorted by a female Police from CID's reception to the office of ACP in charge of serious crimes, Godfrey Bangirana.
Bangirana told the two reporters that they had been summoned to help Police investigate statements made by the two leaders.
He said the statements were considered to "be defamatory and were meant to incite the public against the government." He avoided mentioning that the two were summoned following an angry reaction from Internal Affairs minister, Prof. Edward Rugumayo that Imam Kasozi will be compelled to substantiate his statements.
From Bangirana's office the two reporters were handed over to detective Superitendant, John Omoding, who is attached to serious crimes department.
On reaching his officer, Omoding handed over Katamba to Victor Aisu who also handed him over to another officer who finally recorded a statement from him.
Ssemujju recorded his own statement on the instructions of Omoding.
Aisu said that CID may decide to summon Kasozi and Nsambu following the two reporters' statements.
He said that they never disclose where they deploy their "people" and that more information may be got from them.
Aisu also said that both Ssemujju and Katamba were "prominent" in the case and that's the reason they were summoned.

"Cult Leader's Passport Held "

by Arinaitwe Rugyendo ("The Monitor", May 24, 2000 )

Kampala - Police investigators are holding a passport belonging to Fr. Dominic Kataribabo, one of the leaders of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, The Monitor has learnt.
A highly placed police source told The Monitor that the passport, which was retrieved with other documents from Kanungu, indicates that it was issued in 1998.
The source, however, could not divulge the passport number but said that it indicated that he (Kataribabo) travelled to Rwanda in 1998.
"Kataribabo used it in the same year to travel to Rwanda and returned after two days," said the source, who requested for anonymity.
"It is the only trip outside the country for which he used the passport," the source added.
Police spokesman, Erick Naigambi, could neither confirm nor deny that police investigators are holding the passport.
"What I can assure you certainly is that there are many things we have discovered and to reveal anything to that effect will affect the trend of investigations," Naigambi told The Monitor, May 22.
"We have really gone a long way, so I find it hard to discuss anything. That is the only comment I can give you," he said.
However, the police source said investigators are working round the clock to trace the movements of the cult leaders before the Kanungu incident.
"Kataribabo is said to have travelled to Kampala, March 12, while (another leader, John Mary) Kasapurari, passed through Mbarara, March 10, also heading for Kampala," the source said.
Speculation is rife that the leaders: Kataribabo; self-styled prophet, Joseph Kibwetere; Credonia Mwerinde; and John Mary Kasapurari, are alive.
Days after the Kanungu inferno, Kataribabo is reported to have made a call to a priest in Mbarara diocese, saying he and other leaders were not responsible for the fire.
Police issued national and international warrants for the arrest of the leaders.
Kataribabo and other leaders of the doomsday cult are wanted by police to answer charges of murder over 1,000 people.
They are believed to have masterminded the March 17 fire in the church building in Kanungu, Rukungiri, in which over 500 cult members perished. Following the fire, hundreds of other bodies believed to belong to cult members, were found in various mass graves associated with the leaders.

"Kataribaabo's Passport Found "

by Patrick Mugumya (New Vision, May 23, 2000)

Kampala - The Police have discovered the passport belonging to Fr. Dominic Kataribaabo, one of the leaders of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, raising a possibility that he might be hiding in Uganda.
A Police source told The New Vision that the passport was found by a team investigating the cult whose leaders are believed to have killed over 1,000 followers.
The chief Police spokesman, Mr. Asuman Mugenyi, confirmed yesterday that the Police had Kataribaabo's passport.
"It's true we have his passport but I cannot reveal its number or any more details because it is now subject to more investigations," Mugyenyi said on telephone from Jinja.
But sources told The New Vision that the passport, which was issued in 1997, was only used once to travel to neighbouring Rwanda for two days in 1998.
A senior Police officer said the Police was not investigating possible links between the cult leaders and Rwanda. He said the discovery of the passport leaves three possibilities in the investigations: Kataribaabo might be dead, hiding somewhere in Uganda or has another passport, which he may have used to escape to another country.
Mugenyi refused to say what implications of the discovery of the passport might have on the cult probe, saying, "I don't want to give any blanket conclusions, let the investigators investigate." In another development, the first analytical report on the Kanungu inferno, in which hundreds of cult followers were massacred, says there was no sulfuric acid used contrary to previous reports.
Davis Weddi writes that the report, whose details were availed by the acting Director of the CID, Mr. Erasmus Opio, also says they found no sign of bombs or grenades used, but petrol was discovered in the ashes.
Press reports had indicated that it was suspected that sulfuric acid had been used in the fire. It was also reported that the acid could have originated from Kasese Cobalt mines where some had been reported stolen a few weeks before the incident.
Opio said the analytical report said the Kanungu church windows were bolted from outside and that the fire started from within the church.
Opio said the pathologists said those who were in the church died of neurogenic shock as a result of burns and that the fire was caused by petrol.
The pathologists also said most bodies retrieved from mass graves at the homes of some of the cult leaders had signs of strangulation while others had stab wounds and fractures in their skulls.

Index Page: Ten Commandments of God: Tragedy in Uganda

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