World

World Notes

An African cult's murderous legacy

April 10 2000
World

World Notes

An African cult's murderous legacy

April 10 2000

World Notes

An African cult's murderous legacy

Former prostitute Cledonia Mwerinde and Joseph Kibwetere, a defrocked Roman Catholic priest, often told their followers in the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God that they had seen visions of the Virgin Mary. But as searchers dug up body after body from the ground in a remote farming region in the southwest corner of Uganda, the vision was more one of unspeakable evil. The carnage began to be revealed on March 17, when 530 people died in a tin-roofed prayer house in the farming village of Kanungu when the building was deliberately set on fire with canisters of gasoline. Since then, three mass graves have been found in the area, bringing the total number of cult members who died to almost 1,000. Nearly 300 bodies alone were found in a house and buried in a garden belonging to cult member and former priest Dominic Kataribabo in the village Rushojwa, about 35 km from Kanungu.

Most of the bodies showed stab wounds and signs of strangulation. At first, police said the deaths in Kanungu were part of a mass suicide in which the victims believed they were to be carried off to heaven by the Virgin Mary. But with the discovery of the other bodies, officials are now calling the deaths organized murder. Police say the victims believed the world was going to end on Dec. 31, 1999, and turned all their worldly goods over to Mwerinde and Kibwetere. They may have asked for their belongings back when doomsday failed to arrive. In response, Mwerinde and Kibwetere—now being sought in an international manhunt—may have murdered their victims.

Russian election victory for a spy

Onetime KGB agent Vladimir Putin, who spent much of the Cold War spying on the West, swept to victory in the Russian presidential election. Putin, plucked from obscurity last year and made prime minister by outgoing President Boris Yeltsin, urged his supporters to unite to tackle

the nation’s many problems. Analysts say Putin received widespread support for appearing decisive in waging war against rebel forces in Chechnya.

Many Russians now hope he will focus the same determination on the country’s grave economic and social problems. But the war remains Putin’s toughest challenge. While he has claimed victory in Chechnya, last week 27 soldiers were missing after they were ambushed—an indication that the rebels plan to fight on.

The battle over Elián

Vice-President Al Gore complicated the fight over Cuban refugee Elián González when he backed Republicansponsored legislation that would allow the six-year-old to remain in the United States. Gores announcement, designed to appeal to Cuban-American voters, came as Elián’s father, Juan Miguel González, prepared to travel to Miami to demand custody of his son.

Netanyahu under fire

Israeli police recommended bringing theft charges against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara. In a television interview, Netanyahu claimed that the charges, which stem from $100,000 worth of gifts the couple received when he was in office, were “baseless” and that he and his wife were being “persecuted.”

The terror of rape

A young Bosnian Muslim woman took the stand before the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal at The Hague to describe how she and other girls were raped by Serbian soldiers in 1992. The testimony from the woman, who was 15 at the time, came during the trial of three Bosnian Serb fighters who are charged with running so-called Bosnian rape camps intended to terrorize Bosnia’s Muslims.

Sex-harassment charges

Lt.-Gen. Claudia J. Kennedy, 52, the U.S. army’s highest-ranking woman, filed a sexual harassment suit against another army general, accusing him of groping her. Kennedy claimed the incident took place in her office at the Pentagon in 1996.

Researcher resumes work

Canadian scientist Judith Lapierre, 32, returned to a Moscow research institute after it accepted the facts surrounding a sexual-harassment case in which a fellow scientist attempted to kiss her. The incident occurred at a New Year’s party, during a three-month isolation experiment designed to test interpersonal relations on long space voyages. Lapierre was the only woman among eight international scientists locked into the sealed capsule.