Uganda Cult Warrants Issued

The Associated Press, April 6, 2000
By Andrew England

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) - Uganda issued arrest warrants today for six doomsday cult leaders believed to have survived their sect's fiery end, which killed hundreds of their followers.

Police have failed to identify the bodies of Joseph Kibwetere, Credonia Mwerinde, Dominic Kataribabo and three less prominent leaders among the cult's dead, although many of the victims' corpses were burned or rotted beyond recognition.

"We believe they are alive and in hiding," said Erasmus Opia, acting director of the Criminal Investigation Division in Kampala. "We have no evidence to the contrary."

The six have been charged with murder, said Richard Buteera, director of public prosecution. Police have uncovered at least 924 bodies at several cult compounds.

The suspects face death by hanging if caught and convicted.

Uganda also has obtained international warrants through Interpol, in case any have fled the country, Opia said. No sightings of the cult leaders have been reported since the March 17 fire at the sect's chapel - and investigators have given no sign of having clues as to their whereabouts.

The other warrants were for Joseph Kasapurari, John Kamagara and Ursula Komuhangi - charged because articles of registration and other documents identified them as officials of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, Opia said.

An explosive chapel fire in Kanungu burned alive 530 people, revealing to the world the deadly activities of the doomsday cult.

Subsequent searches of sect compounds in southwestern Ugandan villages turned up 394 bodies, many of them children, piled in mass graves and thrown into a pit latrine.

Buteera said there was no breakthrough that led to the charges - only an accumulation of details already disclosed.

"We now have enough information to take this action," the prosecutor said.

Only one sect follower is known to have survived the church fire, a 17-year-old boy who slipped out that morning.

Among those with warrants against them, Kibwetere, a 64-year-old excommunicated Roman Catholic, was known as "The Prophet" to his followers, and the sect's official leader.

Mwerinde, however, was suspected to be the true mastermind of the cult. Known as "The Programmer," the 48-year-old ex-bar worker wielded clout in part by claiming to have direct contact with God and the Virgin Mary.

Kataribabo, 32, was an excommunicated Roman Catholic priest. Some local residents believe he died in the gasoline-fueled fire at the church.

The search for bodies has been suspended for lack of proper equipment, such as rubber gloves for the inmates put to work exhuming the mass graves.

Prosecutors said they expect further arrest warrants, but would not elaborate.

Police have already taken in for questioning a regional official accused of squelching reports of the sect's activities.

The AP obtained documents today showing that top authorities in Kampala sent local police a "very urgent" warning in January that the sect was reported to be kidnapping children and burying those who died in mass graves.

Local police dismissed the kidnap warning as "a little bit unfounded" and rejected the mass grave claim entirely.

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