This book tackles one of those topics most of us would rather not discuss or least of all read about. The Uganda Cult Tragedy – a private investigation develops the reader’s curiosity by just looking at it – what with title and also the cover picture, which shows people exhuming bodies. It is a publication about the March 17, 2000, Kanungu cult inferno, that gives even the tiniest details of how this fateful happening, a master plan of The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God alias The Movement came to be.
The text is an in-depth account of the origin, rise and demise of The Movement from its infant years in the early 1980s to the time of the massacre that was masterminded by Credonia Mwerinde, Joseph Kibwetere, Fr. Dominic Kataribaabo and Joseph Kasapuraari whose profiles are documented herein. It also highlights the tragedy of believers of this cult, whose death shook the very foundation of religion in Uganda leave alone the number of lives it seared.
In these seven chapters, the writer also reveals how the Kanungu cult was so hell-bent on being self-sustaining that it had its own separate church, school and even medical care where herbal medicine, ‘holy water’ and prayer were administered to the sick. At some point the writer wonders who legalised the cult’s operations, where the authorities were as it expanded and why was there never any alarm against its operations before it was too late? Probably if the government inquiry into the massacre finally publicises its report, answers to these questions will be availed.
And though not with the best of presentations, the book highlights the extremes by which the cult followers led their lives in a way that every commandment was dissected to minute detail during teaching and all of them had specific punishments once broken. You will find facts that The Movement taught that Uganda had been warned about the End [of the world] because it was going to become the second Israel (pg 18). After the year 2000, which was proclaimed as the end of this generation, there was to be year one and not 2001.
In it are also detailed quotations and verses from the prayer book used by The Movement; A Timely Message from Heaven: The End of the Present Times, an instrument by which the teachings of the cult were propagated. This was an unpublished version of teachings that the cult leadership had begun on translating into local languages to pass the message across more appropriately.
The book also shows how cult followers led their lives like a clock ticking off, like a time bomb waiting to explode as they waited for the end of this generation, the three days of darkness and the beginning of a new generation of only the rescued ones, that is the believers. Having analysed the life of The Movement in this text, which is classified in the ‘current affairs’ genre, the most overriding deduction that comes to mind is that the life of The Movement followers was one characterised by secrecy and mystery whereby mystery overrode revelation.
But it is questionable how much of this investigation is worth believing, considering the author might be emotionally involved since people he knew closely belonged to The Movement while some perished in the inferno. It is notable that he is at some points more subjective than objective.