Cult Branches To Be Closed Down

Africa News Online, March 21, 2000
By Felix Osike

Kampala - The Government is to close down all the branches of the doomsday cult of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments whose followers perished in a mass suicide on Friday at Kanungu, Rukungiri. At least 500 people died in the inferno in the church.

Internal affairs minister Edward Rugumayo told the press in Kampala shortly after he returned from the scene yesterday that the Government would also follow up other sects and ensure their registration is subjected to thorough scrutiny.

"We intend to be very strict. The closure of the remaining branches will be automatic and immediate," he said.

The branches are in Rutooma, Rubirizi and Rugazi in Bushenyi and Kyaka in Kabarole.

He said, "We can't stop freedom of worship but we must ensure it's done in accordance with the law."

Rugumayo said pathologists at the scene had by yesterday counted 330 charred bodies, 78 of them of children. He said the rest of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition but the number could be more than 500.

The Police said the Rev. Fr. Dominic Kataribaabo, one Karwango and other two Rev. Sisters also died in the inferno.

Rugumayo said prior to their death, the believers paid their graduated taxes, including arrears and other debts.

He said the Government could not take blame for laxity in security because security officials in that area "did not suspect that these people had any motive other than advancing the cause of their beliefs."

"We were not negligent. The way they behaved towards the community was so friendly that it was not possible for us to suspect them," he said. He said the believers sold their properties under the guise of buying land and vehicles.

Inspector General of Police John Kisembo called for public support to report "some of these fanatics operating in the communities." He said the figure of the dead so far does not include some bodies buried in a pit-latrine near the church.

There are also some bodies beneath one of the walls, which collapsed. He said an excavator had been taken to extract the bodies in the pit latrine and in the rubble.

Kisembo said pathologists were analysing some samples and tracing surviving leaders for interrogation over the murder.

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