Police Storm Mubende Cult

Africa News Online, New Vision (Kampala), April 4, 2000
By Simon Kaheru

Kampala - The Police and other security operatives over the weekend dispersed a cult gathering in Kikandwa, Mubende, on suspicion that wanted Kanungu cult leader Joseph Kibwetere was hiding there.

Kikandwa cult leader Mutume Nabbi Ssali Kilwisa alias Omutaka, fled the security raid on Saturday night, leaving behind 60 followers. Officials found no direct lead to Kibwetere's whereabouts or his ever taking refuge at the fenced one-acre camp.

Security officers, however, recovered a number of exercise books in which Ssali had written "visions and instructions God had given" him. Ssali's followers believe he heals diseases and has "holy visions." He claims God chose him to "spread the word of ddini eye nnono (traditional religion)" and that "this world" would end on December 31 this year. A new one begins with the same people but new spirits inside them. Kibwetere's Movement for the Restoration of the 10 commandments also preached the world would end soon. Kibwetere and his accomplices murdered at least 1,000 followers, beating the world record by one cult.

The Mityana District Internal Security Officer, Lt. Richard Hashima, said Ssali's camp was known to sometimes hold up to 400 followers at a time.

"We were monitoring Ssali. When we got information that Kibwetere or people connected to Kanungu might be hiding there, we moved in. Ssali appears to be a conman, but we cannot take chances," Hashima said.

By early Sunday afternoon, Ssali was out of hiding, and the 60 followers had left. Kikandwa Police officer Cpl. Adungo Adenyo said two minibuses with 50 followers arrived that morning, but were sent back.

"We were still sending off the original group when new ones poured in. One of them claimed to be a supplies officer from Nasser Road. Most of them came from Kampala and Mpigi," Adungo said.

The followers' register said many faithful came from Mpigi, Nateete, Rubaga, Naguru and Kitintale.

The New Vision spoke to Ssali on Sunday afternoon as two of his six wives sat on the cement floor of the two-room building he occupies at one end of the camp. His wives, children and followers live in low roofed mud-and-reed grass-thatched huts.

Ssali, who speaks only Luganda, said 30 followers lived in the camp permanently, the rest from time to time.

"We send them home; they come back because of pain. I use holy water God gave us in the rocks. There is a cross on the rock to show it is holy. I heal AIDS," he said, pointing at a white 20-litre jerrycan on the verandah.

The Police confiscated books and albums from the camp, one of which contained photographs of five upmarket houses under construction. "We have to check each and every inch of his (25 acres)of land Police said.

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