See the Ugandan Cult Massacre Where a Rev Sister Killed 700 Followers

Do you know that on March 17, 2000, the World Woke up to horrifying news of the death of over 700 followers of the movement for the Restoration of Ten Commandment of God church in Kanungu village, Kanungu district in southwestern Uganda. This action was led by a catholic Reverend Sister by name, Sister Credonia Mwerinde.

See the Ugandan Cult Massacre Where a Rev Sister Killed 700 Followers

Sister Credonia Mwerinde, born 1952 was the high priestess and co-founder of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, a sect that splintered from the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda. Sister Credonia Mwerinde was a former shopkeeper, brewer of banana beer, and sex worker. She was also a member of a religious group devoted to the Virgin Mary. She and two other group members approached Joseph Kibweteere in 1989, and said that the Virgin Mary had instructed him to take them in. kibweteere did, and he was particularly struck by her claim of a Marian apparition near his home, which related to a vision he himself had five years earlier. Together Mwerinde and Kibweteere would found the movement in 1989.

Mwerinde was part of the trio that led the sect, which included Kibweteere, and Dominic Kataribaabo, an excommunicated priest. However, Paul Ikazire, a sect leader who later returned to the Catholic Church, describes her as being the true power in the Movement. He said, “ The meetings were chaired by Sister Credonia, who was the de facto head of the group. Kibweteere was just a figurehead, intended to impose masculine authority over the followers and enhance the cult’s public relations.” Mwerinde was also the source of the sect’s predictions of an apocalypse and the pronouncements that salvation could only be found with the Virgin Mary messages.

The cult movement preaches millennial Armageddon, claiming that the world would end on December 31, 1999. The movement grew rapidly and at its height membership was estimated as being between 5,000 and 6,000. Defrocked Catholic priests and nuns joined and worked as theologians. The apocalypse was predicted to occur with the advent of the new millennium.  After the movement was evicted from Rwashamaire, it moved to an estate Mwerinde’s father owned in the Kanungu District. With the year 2000 approaching, sect members sold their properties and turned the profits over to the group’s leadership.

Then came the events of March 16, 2000

In the events leading up to that fateful night, Sister Credonia had told his followers that the world was going to end on December 31, 1999. When it did not happen, the cult leaders decided to end it their way.

When the world did not end by January 1, a crisis occurred in the movement. Members began to ask questions and demand the return of their money and property. Police investigators believe that Movement leadership, particularly Mwerinde, began a purge of their followers culminating in the destruction of their Kanangu Church on 17 March 2000 in fire that killed over 700 followers.

On March 16, 2000 cult members and their families were herded into a church hall named the Ark, in reference to biblical Noah’s ark, all doors and windows were boarded up and nailed shut, and it was set ablaze.

The dead, men, women and children, were buried in mass graves around Kanungu, not far away from the church, and in compounds of properties associated with the cult in Kampala.

Many of Sister Credonia’s followers and even some of the renegade Catholic clerics believed she had spiritual powers following her claims to have seen apparitions of the Virgin Mary who directed her to spread the message of strict adherence to the 10 commandments to avoid apocalyptic damnation. That was the basic teaching of her brand of Christianity.

How the massacre occurs

As it turn out, the world did not end, and Sister Credonia, now stuck with disillusioned and impoverished followers hatch a plan to get rid of them.

On the morning of March 17, 2000, in Kanungu, the final massacre took place. The last 700 surviving members, mostly women and children, were summoned by Mwerinde into the “Ark”. A crude church that was lined with gasoline containers. The doors and windows were sealed.

Investigators believe that Robert Kanangura, the farm manager, may have set the ark ablaze. Everyone inside the “ARK” perished in an intense fireball. By that point, Mwerinde had slipped away, and it thought to be in neighbouring Congo.

They were all burnt alive. The cult leaders; Sister Credonia, Kibwereere, Fr. Kasapurari and Fr Kataribabo to date remain unaccounted for. Father Ikazire had abandoned the cult earlier and was readmitted into the Catholic Church.

A Newsweek investigation led to new findings on the tragedy. According to interviews with relatives, neighbours, local officials, ex-cult members and survivors, Sister Credonia was violent, vindictive, possibly mentally unstable, obsessed with fire and had killed before. One possible motivation may have been to handle dissent after the cult’s nominal leader died.

In the following weeks, Ugandan police found 4 mass graves in the countryside branch compounds of the cult. 979 bodies were counted.

One theory is that Sister Credonia and subordinates were squelching an insurgency. Cult recruits upon joining sold their worldly good and gave the proceeds to the leadership. They did so in the belief the world would end in 2000. When that did not come to pass after the new year, investigators reasoned, members must have demanded refunds.

But doubt has been cast on that theory. The cults own constitution, written by Sister Credonia, states the world will end “before the completion of the year 2000”. A young cult member, Peter Ashibihibwe, 17, said ‘All she said was there would be no year 2001”. Ashibihibwe survived the fire because he had snuck off the compound that morning in search of sugar cane.

Authorities are still baffled as to how Mwrinde was able to keep the earlier cult massacres across the Ugandan countryside a secret.

Disappearance and aftermath

Sister Credonia is assumed to have survived the church conflagration. Ugandan authorities believe that she left the sect’s Kanangu compound in the early hours of March 17. In April 2000, police issued an international warrant for her arrest in connection to the sect killings.

Surprisingly in September 2011, Sister Credonia and several other prognosticators who incorrectly predicted various dates for the end of the world were jointly awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for “teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.

Lastly, as of 2023, they have not been located and no one has been prosecuted in connection to the massacre. The 48-acre plot of land used by the cult has been incorporated into a tea plantation, but the owner has announced plans to create a memorial on parts of the property.

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