Another Mass Grave Found in Uganda

The Associated Press, March 29, 2000
By Craig Nelson

RUGAZI, Uganda (AP) - Ugandan investigators uncovered 20 more corpses today - all of them children - from a mass grave hidden in the former home of a doomsday sect leader.

The death toll was certain to climb. More corpses were still crammed, limb across limb, beneath the floor of a 10-foot-by-10-foot room.

On Tuesday, 28 bodies were uncovered from the grave, buried beneath the concrete floor of the house that belonged to Dominic Kataribabo, an excommunicated Roman Catholic priest and a leader of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, until three weeks ago. Many of the victims appeared to have been strangled - knotted cloths still ringed their necks as their bodies were pulled from the dank hole in the floor.

Seventy-four strangled, mutilated bodies were uncovered on Monday in a pit in a sugar cane field at Kataribabo's former house.

The latest discoveries bring to at least 619 the number of dead in three compounds in southwestern Uganda that once belonged to the sect. Authorities believe the sect's leaders are responsible for one of the largest mass murders in recent history.

The sect had up to 1,000 members, and officials believe they make up most of the dead, though the identities of the victims remain mostly unknown. Five other compounds in southwestern Uganda belonging to the sect have not yet been examined, police spokesman Assuman Mugenyi said.

Scenes of horror linked to the apocalyptic sect have emerged since March 17, when fire engulfed the chapel of a sect compound in nearby Kahunga.

At least 330 people burned to death. Kataribabo, a defrocked Roman Catholic priest, is believed to have been among the dead - a body thought to be the 64-year-old's was found in the ruins, still wearing a clerical collar.

Authorities initially called the conflagration a mass suicide. But within days, investigators discovered six strangled, mutilated corpses in the latrine of the compound, triggering a murder investigation.

Days after the fire, 153 more bodies were found buried in a Buhunga village compound belonging to the sect. Police discovered the first Rugazi mass grave on Friday, when they came to inspect Kataribabo's compound.

On Tuesday, investigators including a pathologist arrived from the capital, Kampala, to unearth 74 bodies local officials exhumed from a trench in Kataribabo's backyard and quickly reburied.

While tissue and blood samples were drawn, investigators questioned Kataribabo's neighbors and relatives. His nephew, Bart Bainomukama, led them to the foyer, where there were signs of freshly poured concrete. Bainomukama told police that his uncle had said he was digging a pit to install a refrigerator. A hole driven through the floor quickly revealed the sight of a human leg.

Authorities are pursuing the two main leaders of the movement - Cledonia Mwerinde and Joseph Kibwetere, an excommunicated Roman Catholic. The pair had predicted that the world would end Dec. 31. When that failed to occur, authorities believe, sect members demanded the return of possessions they surrendered to join the sect and became an insurgent force that was put down with brutal force.

Most of the victims have been dead for "about a month," police official Geoffrey Bangirana said.

Kataribabo was drawn to the sect soon after its inception in 1990. From a parish pulpit in the valley below his hilltop compound in Rugazi, 160 miles southwest of Kampala, he urged the church to adhere more strictly to the Ten Commandments.

The Rev. John Baptist Kabuki, then-bishop of the Mbarara diocese, did not tolerate Kataribabo's criticism, says Michael Karyango, one of his nephews. The two also clashed over an offer of money for development projects Kataribabo had received from friends he made in California, where he studied theology in the mid-1980s.

Kabuki barred him from receiving the funds, Karyango says. Soon, Kabuki stripped the priest of his duties and Kataribabo joined the sect full-time, later leading seminars at his compound on the movement's secretive, often harshly regimented brand of Christianity.

In the days leading up to the fire, he shed many of his belongings. He sold his house to Bainomukama for $3,300 on March 11. A day later, he and two others left the house after burning religious literature, grass mats and bottles. He told Bainomukama he planned to travel, spread the sect's teachings and buy a $13,200 home in Kampala.

As one by one bodies were unearthed this week from the compound he left behind, neighbors wondered how the strangulation deaths of so many people could go unheard, how the digging of graves and the burials of more than 100 people could pass unnoticed.

Arsene Oworyanawe, Kataribabo's brother who lives in a mud-wall house 30 yards from the compound, said, "I didn't know anything. I stayed in my house at night."

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