Police among Uganda cult dead

BBC News, March 20, 2000

Four police officers were among the hundreds who burned to death in an apparent mass suicide in Uganda.

"These are the very people we expect to warn us about these kind of dangers," said Interior Minister Edward Rugumayo, who visited the scene on Monday.

Professor Rugamayo is expected to report back directly to President Yoweri Museveni, who has urged religious and community leaders to guide people away from cults.

Officials estimate that up to 500 people died in the blaze at the headquarters of the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God cult on Friday.

A tangle of charred bodies remained in the makeshift church on Monday in the small trading centre of Kanungu, about 320km (200 miles), southwest of Kampala.

Ugandan newspapers said that a local prison was preparing to arrange a mass burial.


President Museveni said although his government believed in the freedom of worship, it also had a duty to protect people from "dangerous" religious leaders.

"The president was actually angered to learn that the adults who carried out what he called 'this barbarity' had taken children with them and subjected them to this cruelty," his spokeswoman said. Mr Museveni "criticised the leaders of some religious cults, which are increasingly luring unsuspecting people, taking advantage of their property and misleading them into beliefs that endanger their lives," Ugandan radio said.

Police said the adults who died would be treated as suicide victims, but those under 18 would be regarded as murder victims.

Most of the bodies were burned beyond recognition, reduced to husks piled one on top of another and fused together by the heat.

Identification will be almost impossible and it is unlikely an exact death toll will ever be reached.

Police said rescuers who arrived at the scene had been unable to reach the cult members, as the doors and windows had been nailed shut. End of the world

Inspector General John Kisembo said all the evidence pointed to a mass suicide.

"We know that the leaders of the church must have planned it." Witnesses said there were signs that the cult was getting ready for a big event in the days leading up to the fire.

One report said the group's leader, the charismatic former opposition politician Joseph Kibweteere, told his followers to sell their possessions and prepare to go to heaven.

It was not known whether Mr Kibweteere and other leaders, including several ex-communicated Catholic priests and nuns, died with their followers. Evidence of the cult's Roman Catholic roots lay scattered around the compound.

Three statues of Jesus stood in the abandoned offices, while a large crucifix had been laid carefully on green cloth draped across a chair.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.