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Wednesday, 29 March, 2000, 20:29 GMT 21:29 UK
Ugandan media seeks lessons from cult deaths

From BBC Monitoring

As more mass graves are discovered linked to the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments cult, Uganda's media have been reporting in detail on the unfolding tragedy.

They have also been attempting to come to terms with what the events mean for Uganda, and how they could have happened.

Witnesses have given their accounts of the horror.

One doctor examined the bodies of six people who were found in a cave 50 metres from the cult headquarters where more than 550 members of the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God died.

Such things were meant to happen in America and elsewhere, but not in sub-Saharan Africa

The Monitor
He described the horror of the scene uncovered by two "ill-equipped policemen".

The Monitor newspaper quoted Dr Sam Birungi from Kambuga Hospital as saying that "two of the bodies had deep axe cuts to the head... two had split stomachs with the intestines oozing out".

Poison

"There were empty bottles in one of the rooms which were unmarked and are suspected to have contained a poisonous chemical probably Dithane, indicating that the victims were poisoned before their death and burnt probably with acid before they were dumped in the pit," he said.

The Monitor also quoted residents in Rukungiri - the scene of the deaths - as blaming district leaders for turning a blind eye to the activities of the cult.
nose
A child tries to block out the smell of the bodies
But Kinkizi Church of Uganda Bishop John Wilson Ntegyereize, who visited the site, said "this is a case of innocent people following wrong leaders".

And Roman Catholics were told not to feel guilty over the cult, which was founded by lay Catholic worker Joseph Kibwetere.

"Feel guilty as a nation but not as a Catholic. I don't feel guilty, I feel sad," Archbishop Paul Bakyenga said during mass.

"These people had left the church... There is a lesson to learn. What is the Lord telling us? Any form of religion that breaks away from the church cannot be godly," he said.

Senseless destruction

The Ugandan Human Rights Commission (UHRC) described the deaths at Kanungu as a "senseless mass destruction of life".

"The commission calls on all Ugandans to desist from abusing the freedom of religion and to jealously guard the fundamental rights of life, property and all other rights included in the country's rule of law," UHRC acting chairman John Waliggo said.

The Monitor newspaper also expressed its dismay in an editorial asking "Why are Ugandans drawn to cults?"

"Such things were meant to happen in America and elsewhere, but not in sub-Saharan Africa where people still have well-grounded social and spiritual anchors," it said.

It told the "self-righteous moralists informed by hindsight, of course" not to ask such questions as "How could anyone be so gullible?"

"Labelling these people stupid nut-heads will not do," it said.

What is necessary, it said, is to examine the appeal of cults, adding that there were other people who "surrendered their minds to politicians and established religions".

"A cult whether religious, political, military, psychological or commercial, is centred on the leader who is venerated to the point of sainthood."

The paper also urged Uganda to follow the West and "have special intelligence officers and sections which monitor, infiltrate and undermine cults. And break them up before they cause havoc".

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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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?
See also:

29 Mar 00 | Africa
Cult death toll climbs
29 Mar 00 | Africa
The preacher and the prostitute
29 Mar 00 | Africa
Quiet cult's doomsday deaths
18 Mar 00 | Africa
When devotion means death
20 Mar 00 | Media reports
Ugandan cult member's warning
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