Suicide: Police Suspect Bombs

African News Online, March 22, 2000

Kampala (New Vision, March 22, 2000) - The Police have dismissed earlier reports that the cult leaders used petrol to incinerate their followers. Stephen Okwalinga, the south- western regional Police Commander said, "Our findings so far indicate that it was not petrol. They must have used explosives. Fire begun at six different points, but what's more puzzling is that we have received information that the cult leaders bought two jerrycans of concentrated sulphuric acid," he said.

There are conflicting reports about whether the cult leaders died in the inferno or poisoned themselves and died in the pit.

The Police said they suspected the leader of the sect, failed politician and self-styled prophet, 68-year-old Joseph Kibwetere, also died in the blaze. "Some people said he was there," Stephen Okwalinga told Reuters. "Unless we find him alive, we think he was there."

The bodies of two other senior members of the sect, including a former Catholic priest, Father Dominic Kataribabo, had been identified among the corpses, a Police spokesman said.

Other cult leaders were still being sought in four other locations used by the organisation in southwest Uganda.

"We are looking for other possible leaders who may be here in Uganda," Okwalinga said.

Local residents said cult members had been arriving from the other centres several days before the blaze.

In Kanungu, hundreds of cult members, many with their children, were last seen entering the prayer house on Friday morning dressed up in their finest white, green and black robes.

It was there that they were to await salvation, while the rest of the world would be destroyed for not obeying the Ten Commandments.

But while it appeared clear that the cult members willingly walked into the church, many local residents believe the leaders duped their followers into attending the prayer meeting by telling them they were about to be saved. They believe the cult members were murdered and that the windows and doors were nailed shut to prevent their escape.

More suspected dead cult members were discovered in one of the buildings at the scene on Monday.

The Minister for Internal Affairs, Edward Rugumayo, using a torch peeped in the dark pit and counted about seven decomposing bodies.

The pit is located in a church building, which doubles as a residence for the cult leaders. A shocked Rugumayo said, "My God, this is unbelievable. The perpetrators of this crime will have to be brought to book." Rugumayo, on Monday, flew aboard a chopper to the Movement of the Restoration of the Ten Commandments base at Kataate, Kanungu premises.

A total of 330 skulls and charred remains of the suicide victims were on Monday buried in a mass grave using a bulldozer. The church was also broken down.

During the burial, there was a huge cloud of dust and a stench of rotten flesh.

A man who identified himself as Frank Muchunguzi from Karuhinda, a village about two kilometers away, told The New Vision that he was among a group of workers who participated in digging the pit in 1997.

Muchunguzi said, "The pit is 35 feet deep, 19 feet long and 6 feet wide. We dug it in 1997. We were later ordered to fill up most of it and then a residence/church was built on top of it."

The building on top of the pit was the home of the 12 cult leaders. It had 12 rooms with bathrooms and toilets.

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