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President Museveni talks to the BBC's Martin Plaut
"The cover-up was that they were religious people - no-one was checking on them"
 real 28k

The BBC's Jane Ball
"The true extent of their murderous activities is still not known"
 real 28k

Joseph Pinytek Ochieno, Ugandan People's Congress
"This goes much higher"
 real 28k

Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 05:39 GMT 06:39 UK
Death cult activities 'ignored'
Prisoners
Local prisoners were used to exhume the bodies
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said reports about the activities of a religious cult responsible for at least 660 deaths had been suppressed by members of his own administration.

He said intelligence officers had filed reports about the potential dangers of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments, but these were "sat on" by regional administrators.

Speaking in a BBC interview during a visit to London, President Museveni said he had ordered the National Security Council to mount an investigation into why the reports were suppressed.


President Yoweri Museveni
Museveni: Reports were "sat on"
His admission came after the authorities in Uganda unearthed more than 50 corpses in a third day of digging at a house belonging to Dominic Kataribabo, an excommunicated Roman Catholic priest and a leader of the group.

Father Kataribabo is believed to have been among the dead at the chapel in Kunungu, where the first group of at least 330 bodies were discovered on 17 March.

A body thought to be that of the 64-year-old was found in the ruins, still wearing a clerical collar.

Another 153 bodies were found in a mass grave in Buhunga on Friday.

Questions

Pathologist Thaddeus Barungi said the latest bodies to be unearthed at Kataribabo's house in Rugazi had been dead for more than a month.


Grim toll
17 March: At least 330 bodies found in burnt-out church at Kunungu
24 March: 153 bodies found in mass grave at Buhunga
27 March: 74 bodies exhumed from compound of Kataribabo's house in Rugazi
28 March: 28 bodies found under floor inside Rugazi house
29 March: Another 53 bodies found at Rugazi
"These ones seem to be more decomposed than the earlier ones," he said.

Many of the victims were children.

Police said that analysis of liver samples from five victims suggested they had been poisoned.

Kataribabo had been the parish priest in Rugazi.

His house was used as a transit point for cult members from other parts of the country, who took lessons and attended seminars. Locals said Kataribabo spent most of his time in cane fields and praying.

He was drawn to the sect soon after its inception in 1990, and urged the Catholic church to adhere more strictly to the Ten Commandments.

He soon clashed with church leaders, and after the local bishop had stripped him of his duties, Kataribabo joined the sect full-time.


Neighbour
Curious neighbours had to cover their noses because of the stench of death

On 11 March, he sold his house to his nephew nephew, Bart Bainomukama, and left two days later.

Questions are being asked about how neighbours failed to notice anything unusual going on at the house.

There was freshly-laid concrete inside the building.

Mr Bainomukama told police that his uncle had said he was digging a pit to install a refrigerator.

Excavations immediately revealed the bodies, many with knotted cloths still ringing their necks.

Arsene Oworyanawe, Kataribabo's brother who lives in a mud-wall house near the compound, said: "I didn't know anything. I stayed in my house at night."

Murder inquiry

Authorities initially suspected a mass suicide by members of the sect, which had an estimated 4,000-5,000 members.

But now they are pursuing the two main leaders of the movement - Credonia Mwerinde and Joseph Kibweteere.

The pair had predicted that the world would end on 31 December last year.


Exhumation
Bodies were removed from inside and outside the house
When that failed to happen, authorities believe, sect members demanded the return of possessions they surrendered to join the sect and became an insurgent force that was put down with brutal force.

President Museveni said that such cults "really exploit the miserable conditions of the population - unemployment, things like that".

But a representative of the opposition Uganda People's Congress in London, Joseph Ochienno, told the BBC that President Museveni himself was to blame for the popularity of cults in Uganda.

Mr Ochienno said the government ban on political organisations left people disenfranchised and pushed some into the arms of groups like the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments.

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Uganda's death cults
Click on the stories below for more on Uganda's doomsday cult.
Key stories:
Cult's quiet life
Priest who murdered his flock
The preacher and the prostitute
Story in pictures
Why East Africa?
More on cults
When devotion means death
'Why I joined a cult'
Talking Point TALKING POINT
Should cults be banned?
Africa Contents

Country profiles
See also:

29 Mar 00 | Media reports
Many questions in Uganda cult tragedy
29 Mar 00 | Africa
The preacher and the prostitute
29 Mar 00 | Africa
Quiet cult's doomsday deaths
28 Mar 00 | Africa
More cult victims unearthed
20 Mar 00 | Africa
Analysis: Why East Africa?
18 Mar 00 | Africa
When devotion means death
20 Mar 00 | Media reports
Ugandan cult member's warning
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