KAMPALA, Uganda - The two main leaders of more than 700 cult members who died in what police say were mass killings are probably dead themselves, the state-run Ugandan Human Rights Commission said.
The commission report, issued Monday, also called for an investigation into the cult leaders' relationship with two local officials.
It said police should investigate the former resident district commissioner and his assistant to learn what the men knew about the Movement for the Restoration of God, a cult that police now say was a scam to steal from its members.
The 85-page report said 444 bodies have been exhumed from the cult's branches around the country and the homes of their leaders. At least 330 other people were killed in a church fire in Kanungu on March 17, 2000, but police say that many other bodies were probably reduced to ash in the fire.
Police have said they believe cult leaders first killed dissidents at branch churches and then later gathered followers in the Kanungu church, nailed the doors shut and set it on fire. The government has never released a final report on its investigation.
The commission said the cult was led by a former prostitute, Cledonia Mwerinde, who recruited and became lovers with Joseph Kibwetere, who was later recognized as the cult's leader. The commission said it's investigation suggests Mwerinde died in the church fire and that she may have killed Kibwetere in 1999 fearing that he had AIDS.
"Some people who had left the camp say that Kibwetere and Mwerinde had a love affair and that Kibwetere may have been killed by Mwerinde after suspecting Kibwetere of having HIV/AIDS or he could have naturally died of AIDS," the report said.
Leaders of the cult made members work like animals, starved them and made them sell all their belongings in anticipation of doomsday and "going to heaven," the report said. Mwerinde probably led the victims of the Kanungu fire into the church on March 17 because growing discontent within the cult meant "she would have been killed if she had not killed herself."
Ugandan police still list Mwerinde and Kibwetere on their wanted list, along with defrocked catholic priest Dominic Kataribaabo, Joseph Kasapuraari and Ursula Komuhangi, cult leaders suspected of organizing the mass killing.
The infamous cult in which over 500 followers died in a fire in Kanungu in March 2000 was led by Credonia Mwerinde and not Joseph Kibwetere as most people thought, a report by the Uganda Human Rights Commission has said.
The report launched yesterday by the commissions chairperson, Margaret Ssekajja, at Hotel Africana, said children kidnapped from Kampala were found in camps of the outlawed cult, the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God.
Commissioner Constantine Karusoke, who led investigations into the cult activities said Kibwetere was recruited into the cult by Mwerinde and used as a flag because of his wealth and high profile in society.
The head of the cult was not Kibwetere as most of us were made to believe, Karusoke said.
It was a woman called Credonia Mwerinde who led the cult. She was the one who recruited Kibwetere and other cult leaders and even had control over them, he said.
Karusoke said some Government officials were negligent on the cults activities.
Some far sighted leaders like former Rukungiri Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Yorokamu Kamacerere had advised against the registration of the cult and even warned his successor in his handover report but his successor never heeded the advice, Karusoke said.
The 84-page report recommends that the then RDC, Kitaka Gawera be investigated to establish the circumstances that led to his fraternising with the cult leaders. It also recommends that security organs be adequately facilitated to prevent such occurrences in future.
WHEN over 500 people were burnt to death two years ago, it was at first thought to be mass suicide, but it turned out to be a well-planned murder. Following the incident, Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) set up a team to investigate the causes and the human right implications of the Kanungu tragedy. Its report, titled The Kanungu Massacre: The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God Indicted, reveals how the cult leaders violated the human rights of the followers.
The report says all human rights, especially the freedom to speak; freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; the right to property; right to health; right to marriage and children, were violated.
UHRC is mandated to publish periodic reports of its findings on the state of human rights and freedoms in the country. Apart from Police inquiry, this is the first investigation by a statutory institution. Government set up a Commission of Inquiry which is yet to begin working. It is also the first public document on the Kanungu cult.
The Movement for the Restoration of Ten Commandment of God, led by psychopaths pretending to deliver their followers to heaven, could have instead sent them to hell. Even before their death, the report indicates that the followers lived in constant torment.
The report documents 20 ways the cult recruited and retained followers. Laced with threats of the apocalypse, the cult leaders manipulated the predominantly peasant followers into submission. No questions but obedience and patience in anticipation of the end of the world were expected of them.
Cults thrive on spiritual hunger, offering hope to the desperate, but in the end take lives. From the report, the Movement for the Restoration of Ten Commandments had all the characteristics of a cult. It was manipulative, excluded followers from their communities and managed strict secrecy about its activities. Like any cult, it operated as a transit point from the world to heaven.
The report catalogues several cases of human rights abuse: Children were separated from parents and communication between them harshly restricted. Children who cried in the night were taken out and left in the cold until they "stopped crying".
Contrary to the inherent rights, cult leaders discouraged the followers from possessing property. Several of the followers sold their belongings, including land and found sanctuary in the cult's compound.
Scanty accommodation and poor sanitation did not bother them since, in their anticipation of meeting their creator; temporary discomfort on earth was merely a brief moment.
The report cites the ban on sex among married couples as well as on, speech and contact with communities neighbouring the cult camps as cases of human rights abuse. The whole conception and structure of the cult was erected on principles that denied members their rights as Ugandan citizens and human beings.
And discrimination was common; while the followers were denied basic rights, the cult leaders enjoyed theirs in full.
Index Page: Ten Commandments of God: Tragedy in Uganda
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