This month I will share stories on Black History Month – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. History isn’t always pretty and sometimes we sanitize that which makes us uncomfortable. Here I will share all facets of Black History and try to focus on people not necessarily in the history books.
The Bad – Credonia Mwerind and Joseph Kibweteere
Credonia Mwerind and Joseph Kibweteere were founders of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, a group that split from the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda.
The origins of Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God can be traced to Paulo Kashaku, the father of Mwerinde. He claimed his deceased daughter, Evangelista, came to him and said he would have visions of heaven. In 1988 Kashaku claimed he saw Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Joseph. Mwerinde also claimed to have visions and was involved in a Virgin Cult.
Kashaku had Mwerinde spread the message on the orders of the Virgin Mary. She did in 1989 and also met Kibweteere and told of her visions. Kibweteere claimed to also have had a vision five years before and not to be outdone, Mwerinde claimed to have had a vision in a cavern near his house. They had another vision and founded the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God to spread the Virgin Mary’s message about the apocalypse.
The group grew quickly and included defrocked priests and nuns. When Dominic Kataribabo, a respected and popular priest with a PhD from the United States, joined, the movement really started to gain popularity. In the late 1990s members were living in a community in pineapple and banana plantations. After selling their properties, members would pool their money in the commune. They built houses and a school.
Meanwhile Mwerinde claimed to have receive messages from the Virgin Mary through a hidden telephone system that communicated through everyday objects. The year 2000 was decided to be the date for the apocalypse.
In 1997, the group filed with the Ugandan government that it had 5,000 members, even though a previous government official warned about registering the cult. A year later the sect was closed for sanitary reasons, and claims of use of child labor and kidnapping. One former member escaped claiming some followers were buried alive, children were killed, married couples were denied sex, and there was starvation due to days of fasting.
The government then allowed the movement to reopen. And as the year of the apocalypse grew closer, the members began to prepare by selling all of their property.
When Jan. 1, 2000 came and nothing happened, the movement began to fall apart.
The movement began to lose income as donations dwindled. Some members began to rebel and demand their money back. Mwerinde and Kibweteere, seeing things falling apart, declared that March 17, 2000 was the actual end of the world date. They then had a huge party for the members where they roasted three bulls and drank 70 crates of soda. The leaders announced another party for March 18 as to throw off authorities as to their plans. Several days before March 17, 50 liters of sulfuric acid were purchased by Dominic Kataribabo.
On March 17, members arrived to pray and sing at their recently boarded up church in Kanangu. Soon after there was an explosion and the church was burning. All 530 in the church were killed. Four days after the fire, authorities found more bodies in the latrine of the Kanungu compound, a compound in Buhunage, at Dominic Kataribabo’s estate at Rugazi, and at lay leader Joseph Nymurinda’s farm. Forensics investigations indicated that they had been murdered weeks before the fire. Other than the fire victims, the majority of the other victims were poisoned. The final death toll from the cult was 778.
Due to the bodies at other sites, the church being boarded up, and the presence of incendiaries led police to believe the deaths were the result of mass murder and not a mass suicide. They theorized that the rebellion in the group from the misdated apocalypse led leaders to plan the murders.
At first it was believed Mwerinde and Kibweteere died in the fire. Now authorities think they are alive and an international warrant is out for their arrest.
Joseph Kibweteere. (n.d.). In Murderpedia. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://murderpedia.org/male.K/k/kibweteere.htm
Rumanzi, Perez and Kembabazi, Emily. (2011, May, 28). 11 years after Kibwetere, sad memories still fresh. Daily Monitor. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://www.monitor.co.ug/SpecialReports/688342-1170390-9nhft5/index.html