Uganda police lack tools to dig up mass grave

Reuters, April 25, 2000

KAMPALA - Ugandan police said on Tuesday they were unable to start examining a possible new mass grave used by members of a Doomsday cult believed to have murdered around 900 of its followers because they lacked equipment.

Officials said on Tuesday they had sealed off a house in a Kampala suburb rented by cult leader "Father" Dominic Kataribabo after locals noticed a strong smell coming from the ground following a heavy downpour last week.

But it was not clear when police would move to dig up the site.

"We are not really equipped for the job and it is unlikely we will be going there soon," police spokesman Eric Naigambi told Reuters. "We are trying to get equipped."

He did not explain what equipment was missing but said a special task force was being created to deal with the issue.

The government was heavily criticised last month for using bare-footed prisoners to exhume nearly 400 corpses from mass graves at homes belonging to the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God in southwestern Uganda.

Around 500 other cult members were burned alive in a church at Kanungu in the same region on March 17.

Overwhelmed by the scale of the murders, police suspended their operations to exhume bodies early this month and said they would only resume digging at suspected mass grave sites when they had beefed up their small investigative team.

The discovery of the suspected mass grave near Kampala came early last week when neighbours complained of a foul smell.

"The soil had fallen in and something foul was smelling from inside," a police officer told Reuters. "We are waiting to dig it up and find out what is causing the smell."

Police have issued arrest warrants for six cult leaders, including Kataribabo, although they admit they do not know if they are still alive or whether they perished in the Kanungu blaze.

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