New, ugly twist in Uganda deaths

MSNBC News, March 24, 2000

KAMPALA, Uganda, March 24 - Ugandan police have found the corpses of 163 people, including women and children, buried in a compound used by the same doomsday cult whose members died in a fire last week, a local member of parliament said Friday. The bodies were found in Buhunga, about 40 miles from the church at Kanungu where over 500 cult members died when their church was set ablaze a week ago, Jim Muhwezi told Reuters.

"THEY MUST have died in a matter of the last few weeks," Muhwezi said. "It would appear wherever they had a church they had a killing."

A local police officer said the corpses he had seen appeared to have been strangled.

"They used pieces from their robes, black and green ones, to strangle them," Inspector Jjuko told Reuters by telephone.

"We exhumed all of them and buried them all. They were decomposing but still intact," he said, adding that doctors had examined the bodies and would give a full report later.

Muhwezi said local police had told him they had found 20 corpses in one grave and the rest in a second bigger grave.

The discovery reinforces suspicions that the victims of the Kanungu blaze, who were initially thought to have committed suicide en masse, were in fact murdered by their leaders.

The bodies of six other people, also apparently recently murdered, were found in a pit latrine in the compound at Kanungu this week.

Officials have said the cult - whose members thought the world was about to end - used five sites in southwest Uganda. There has been no word of excavations at any of the other sites so far.

A young member of the church told local papers this week he had seen cult leader Joseph Kibwetere leave the church at Kanungu just before the fire, but police say they have no evidence that 68-year-old Kibwetere was alive.

Relatives and former members of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God said they were forbidden by their leaders to speak or have sex and were forced into hard labor without payment.

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