Uganda’s Kanungu cult massacre that killed 700 followers

Judith Ariho does not shed any tears as she recalls the church massacre in which her mother, two siblings and four other relatives were among at least 700 people who died.

Exactly 20 years ago, in south-western Uganda’s Kanungu district, they were locked inside a church, with the doors and windows nailed shut from the outside. It was then set alight.

Two decades on, the horror of the event is still too much for Ms Ariho, who appears to only be able to cope with the trauma by closing herself off from the emotion.

The dead were members of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God – a doomsday cult that believed the world would come to an end at the turn of the millennium.

“The end of present times”, as one of its books phrased it, came two-and-a-half months later, on 17 March 2000.

Twenty years later, no-one has been prosecuted in connection with the massacre and the cult leaders, if they are alive, have never been found.

Anna Kabeireho, who still lives on a hillside that overlooks the land that the cult owned, has not forgotten the smell that engulfed the valley that Friday morning.

“Everything was covered in smoke, soot and the stench of burnt flesh. It seemed to go right to your lungs,” she recalls.

“Everybody was running into the valley. The fire was still going. There were dozens of bodies, burnt beyond recognition.

“We covered our noses with aromatic leaves to ward off the smell. For several months afterwards, we could not eat meat.”

Kanungu is a fertile and peaceful region of green hills and deep valleys, covered in small farms broken up by homesteads.

The journey down into the valley that was once the headquarters of the Movement has to be taken by foot.

From down there, it is easy to see how the religious community would have maintained their lives away from the eyes of neighbours.

Birdsong bounces off the hills and there is the sound of a waterfall in the near distance. It is the ideal setting for a contemplative existence.

But nothing remains of the building that was doused in petrol and set alight. At the edge of the spot where it stood is a long mound of soil, the only marker for the mass grave in which the remains from the inferno were buried.

Source:BBC

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