Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sister Credonia Mwerinde, Serial Killing Ugandan Cult Leader - 2000


Sister Credonia Mwerinde, leader of Ugandan Marianist cult of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments located in Kunungu murdered hundreds of her followers on March 17, 2000 by locking them in a worship facility called the ark that was pyrotechnically rigged. All doors and windows were secured so that none could escape and then the building was set afire. The official death toll was set at 738. The fire was so intense that the many of the victims’ skulls exploded. Their corpses, many of them children, were buried in several mass graves. Sister Credonia disappeared and has not as of this date been apprehended.

Newsweek reporter Lara Santoro travelled to Kunungu to investigate the crimes. Santoro learned that as a young woman, Credonia was obsessed by fire. She had torched the possessions of a man who had failed to acquiesce to her romantic desires. Later on Credonia operated a bar and was once discovered by locals in the act of scrubbing blood stains from the floor of her establishment. It was suspected she had slaughtered a passing motorist. Locals told the Newsweek reporter that Credonia was believed to have murdered, with poison, her three elder brothers in order to secure their inheritance.

[Sources:Lara Santoro “Priestess of Death,” Newsweek International, Aug. 6, 2000; “Credonia Mwerinde and her Ugandan cult,” The Ross Institute Internet Archives for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements, undated; book: Ann Magna, Female Terror: Scary Women, Modern Crimes, Virgin Books, 2002]

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EXCERPT: Newsweek’s reconstruction of Mwerinde’s career gives a glimpse into her mindset. Early on the woman, dubbed “The Programmer”, displayed a violent streak, monetary greed and arsonist tendencies. In her early 20’s, she set fire to the household belongings of a local official who had spurned her. Her family sent her away for treatment. On her return she admitted she had been “mentally disturbed”. This revealed by Nalango Rukanyangira a childhood friend. In those years, Mwerinde owned a bar in Kanungu. A letter written by a close family friend discloses that Mwerinde once seduced then killed a passing motorist and kept his money. In another instance, she led her followers to the banana plantation of a relative who refused to join the cult. The group burned the plantation. Police also suspect that she may have poisoned her three brothers off, one by one. Until she was the sole owner of the property that became the cult headquarters. “She is crazy, and she is a murderer,” states Dr. Thaddeus Barungi, chief pathologist in the investigation.

EXCERPT: Mwerinde harbored an obsession with demonic intrusion into the cult. “She said the devil was everywhere,” recalls former member Kasambi. Any object entering the compound from the outside - medicine, clothes, food - had to be exorcised with prayer.

[“Credonia Mwerinde and her Ugandan cult, News summary: based upon “Priestess of Death” (Newsweek International / August 6, 2000 by Lara Santoro), Cult Education Institute]

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“The only thing that made Credonia really happy was making money, her sixth and last husband, Eric Mazima, said.

Father Paul Ikazire, a priest who spent three years as one of the cult’s leaders before returning to the Roman Catholic Church, recalls how Sister Credonia dominated the sect. “The meetings were chaired by Sister Credonia, who was the de facto head of the cult,” he said.

“I perceived her as a trickster, obsessed with the desire to grab other people’s property, but she never sold hers.”
[Cult Leader said to have stolen funds,” The Age (Victoria, Melbourne, Australia), Apr. 3, 2000, p. 12]

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EXCERPT: Mwerinde often retired alone to a room to write and receive “programs from the Virgin Mary,’’ Mugambwe says. She would then emerge with the declaration: “I’ve been receiving messages from God that the Virgin Mary is annoyed. People are sinning too much and God is going to end the world because of the sins.”

[Juvenal Mugambwe, son of the cult’s founder, Joseph Joseph Kibwetere] said Mwerinde beat his sisters and forced 60 children to live in a 15-by-40-foot backyard shed. The windows were nailed shut and the children forced to sleep on the dirt floor. They frequently were infected with scabies. Mugambwa became her enemy.

“When I offered them sweets, they refused, making a sign that I was Satan,’’ he said. After three years of abuse, Kibwetere’s extended family forced Mwerinde and the three women from the house. Kibwetere went with them.

[Craig Nelson, “Uganda Toll Tops Jonestown,” Associated Press, Mar. 31, 2000]

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EXCERPT: On Aug. 24, 1988, Mwerinde claimed to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary in a cave in the south-western village of Ngakishenyi, said her former common-law husband, Eric Mazima. A week later, she left him.

Mazima challenged her carefully cultivated image  as a religious devotee, saying she claimed her visions and turned to religion only after the couple’s joint business went bankrupt. Until then, he said, she ran a shop in Kanungu that sold banana beer and a fiery local liquor, and had been regarded as notoriously promiscuous.

“She went to church only once a year,” he said Thursday in an interview. “Sundays were days of making business. She was after money.”

[Craig Nelson (AP), “Sect leader’s estranged wife says husband didn’t control cult,” The Anniston Star (Ga.), May 31, 2000, p. 5A]

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Wikipedia – Founding: The earliest origins of the movement have been traced back to Credonia Mwerinde's father Paulo Kashaku. In 1960 he claimed to have had a vision of his deceased daughter Evangelista, who told him that he would have visions of heaven. This prediction passed in 1988, when he saw Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Joseph. His daughter Credonia also had similar visions and was involved in a Virgin Cult.  In 1989 Kashaku instructed her to spread the message across Uganda on the orders of the Virgin Mary. In that year she would meet Joseph Kibweteere and tell him of their communications.

Joseph Kibweteere claimed to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1984. Credonia Mwerinde also had a similar vision in a cavern near Kibweteere’s house in Rwashamaire, Uganda. In 1989 the two met and formed the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, with the mission to spread the Virgin's message about the apocalypse. The group grew rapidly and also attracted several defrocked Catholic priests and nuns who worked as theologians, rationalizing messages from the leadership. Two of the arrivals were the excommunicated priests Paul Ikazire and Dominic Kataribabo.

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Mwerinde claimed to receive messages from the Virgin Mary through a hidden telephone system that communicated through everyday objects. [“The preacher and the prostitute,” BBC News, Mar. 29, 2000]

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EXCERPT: Excavations immediately revealed the bodies, many with knotted cloths still ringing their necks.

EXCERPT: Pathologist Thaddeus Barungi said the latest bodies to be unearthed at Kataribabo's house in Rugazi had been dead for more than a month. "These ones seem to be more decomposed than the earlier ones," he said. Many of the victims were children. Police said that analysis of liver samples from five victims suggested they had been poisoned. [“Death cult activities 'ignored,’” BBC News, Mar. 30, 2000]

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EXCERPT: The Search for clues leads into the heart of the cult itself. The leaders’ doomsday prophecy foretold “rivers running red” and food turning into poison. Former members recall filling out forms asking them to commit martyrdom.[“Ugandan cult held a dark and deadly mystique; Members saw ‘easy answers to the difficult questions,’” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.), Apr. 2, 2000, P. A18]

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EXCERPT: Before the tragedy, Kibweteere allegedly had said that he overheard a conversation between Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. Mary had stated that the world would come to an end unless humans started to follow the Ten Commandments closely. The group initially believed that the end of the world would occur on 1999-DEC-31. During 1999, members had sold their possessions, presumably in preparation for the end times when they would be transported to heaven. They slaughtered cattle and had a week-long feast. When the end did not come, Kibweteere changed the date to 2000-DEC-31. Later, he taught that the Virgin Mary would appear on MAR-17 and take the faithful to Heaven. [B.A. Robinson - ReligiousTolerance.org]

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EXCERPT: Credonia Mwerinde (1952-2000), [was] a barmaid with some reputation for sexual promiscuity (who later claimed to be a former prostitute: most probably a false claim, and a conscious attempt to replicate the role of Mary Magdalene.) [Massimo Introvigne, “Tragedy in Uganda: the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, a Post-Catholic Movement,” Cesnur.org]

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EXCERPT: Mr. Rugambwa and his mother, Theresa, who bore Mr. Kibwetere 16 children during 40 years of marriage, said the man they had known for decades as a pious Catholic devoted to good works started to change drastically after three women approached him at a service one day in 1989. The three women – Credonia Mwerinde, Ursula Komuhangi and Angela Mugisha – were already leaders of a Christian cult devoted to the Virgin Mary, who, they said, had instructed him to take them in. [Henri E. Cauvin, “Fateful Meeting Led to Founding of Cult in Uganda,” The New York Times, Mar. 27, 2000]

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EXCERPT: According to survivors of the movement, sect members demanded the return of possessions they had surrendered to the cult after the world failed to end on Dec. 31, as the leaders had predicted – a demand said to have triggered the killings.
[“Sect’s handbook had seductive and deadly message,” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.), Apr. 5, 2000, p. A19]

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EXCERPT: “It was Mwerinde who had all those people killed, said the Rev. Paul Ikazire, a Roman Catholic priest who had left the church and joined Mwerinde’s sect from 1991 to 1994. He said she was “obsessed with the desire to obtain the property of her followers.”
[“Uganda looks for answers; Questions remain about details of cult mass murder,” Boca Raton News (Fl.), Apr. 2, 2000, p. 9B]

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According to the BBC: “She is said to have persuaded Kibweteere to take his [12] children out of school and sell his three other properties, car, and milling machines to feed the growing numbers of disciples. “On one occasion she claimed the Virgin Mary had told her all children under five should be killed, and a sacrifice was needed immediately, according to the Kibweteeres’ daughter Edith. “When village elders told Kibweteere in 1992 that he must remove himself and his cult, Credonia Mwerinde’s father offered his farm in Kanungu, west of Rwashamaire.” [Paul Likoudis,Cult Suicide Exposes Deep Troubles of Church in Uganda,” Catholic Culture.org,  The Wanderer Printing Company, Apr. 20, 2000]

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At least 1,186 by Credonia Mwerinde murders known (so far):

Pre-cult murders:

3 older brothers – murdered at different times
Motorist murdered in Credonia’s bar

Pre April 17, 2000 cult murders, by locations of mass graves:

Buhunga – 153 murdered
Rugazi – 155 murdered
Rushojwa – 81 murdered
Buziga near Kampala – 55 murdered

April 17, 2000 Kanungu massacre – 738 murdered

Excellent scholarly source: [Jean-François Mayer, “’There Will Follow a New Generation and a New Earth’: From Apolyptic Hopes to Destruction in the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of  God,” Part II, essay 9; in James R. Lewis, ed.,  Violence and New Religious Movements, 2011, Oxford UP]

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~ CHRONOLOGY ~

1952 – birth of Credonia Mwerinde. Paulo Kashaku, father, also a visionary.
1980 ca. – Vision of Mary by Blandina Buzigye at Nyabugoto Rock (“Eibaare Rya Bikira Maria,” the stone which looks like an image of the Virgin Mary)
1984 – Mr. Kibweteere first announced the Virgin Mary had appeared before him in 1984.
Aug. 24, 1988 – Credonia Mwerinde also had a similar vision in a cavern near Kibweteere’s house in Rwashamaire, Uganda.
1989 – “Despite her craving for money, Credonia went bankrupt with her bar in 1989. At that time, she also broke off with Eric Mazima. Soon after, Credonia converted to Catholicism, and claimed only a few weeks after, that she had had a vision of the Virgin Mary in a cave in the Nyakishenyi mountains.”
1989 – CM and two other members of a Marianist sect visit Joseph Kibwetere at Rwashamaire and following a church service, tell of CM’s vision. “Meeting Joseph Kibwetere for the first time, the three women told him that he had been anointed to help them spread the word of God, that the Virgin Mary had led them to him, a Roman Catholic known among many Ugandans for his piety, prayer and good works.” “The three women – Credonia Mwerinde, Ursula Komuhangi and Angela Mugisha – were already leaders of a Christian cult devoted to the Virgin Mary, who, they said, had instructed him to take them in.”
1989 – formation of Movement at Rwashamaire. The message was preached in Catholic churches.
1989 – soon-to-be excommunicated Rev. Dominic Kataribabo, joined.
1990 - cult is registered as a religious movement with the authorities in 1990; 200 followers, mostly women and children, were already living at the Joseph Kibwetere property.
1991 – First edition of “A Timely Message from Heaven. The End of the Present Time”
1992 – “After the Movement was evicted from Rwashamaire, it moved to an estate Credonia Mwerinde’s father owned in Kanungu District.” “In 1992 the cult and its leader packed up and left for Kanungu.” “After the police in 1992 had, once again, been called in to settle yet another family feud, the elders of the village told Kibwetere that he ought to move and take the cult with him.”
1992 – end of the world prophesied for 1992.
1993 – “In 1993, the cult could finally build its own headquarter, along with a church.”
1994 – Paul Ikazire, defrocked Catholic priest, leaves the cult along with 72 followers.
1995 – end of the world prophesied for 1995. “When the apocalypse again missed its schedule, the cult circulated a note explaining that Christ had deferred the date to Dec. 31, 1999 this year.”
1996 – “When Credonia Mwerinde’s father died in 1996, he was buried next to the mother, and Mwerinde had the now sadly known church built near the family grave site.”
1996 – publication of 3rd edition of Timely Message from Heaven: The End of the Present Times. 3rd ed. Karuhinda, Rukungiri and Rubiziri, Bushenyi (Uganda,) 1996.
Dec. 17, 1997 – Movement registered as NGO with Ugandan government.
1998 – “Movement shut down for unsanitary conditions, use of child labor, and possibly kidnapping children, but the sect was allowed to reopen by the government.” “1998 when government closed down one of its schools for unhygienic conditions”
Dec. 23, 1998 – Movement incorporation authorized by Ugandan government.
Dec. 31, 1999 – Date of the end of the world prophesied.
Feb. (circa) 2000 – mass murders begin. “The poison was given to them at the evening meal. “It was a fast acting poison.” said Barundi, the pathologist.”
Mar. 15, 2000 – Dominic Kataribabo purchases 13 gallons of sulphuric acid.
March 16, 2000 – “The day before the fire, a parcel from Kanungu arrived at the home of Mr. Kibwetere’s family. It contained books and documents from the cult, its certificate of registration, a copy of the 10 commandments of the cult and other items.”
Mar. 16, 2000 – cult members were treated to an unprecedented celebration: 70 crates of Coca-Cola were ordered and a bull slaughtered.
March 17, 2000 – Arson at Kanungu “Ark” of the Movement, killing 738. “It is thought that cult members believed they were finally entering Noah’s Ark to survive the three days of the apocalypse and that the boards were to protect them and keep out the unredeemed.”
Mar. 24, 2000 – Buhunga compound exhumations, 153 corpses.
Mar. 27, 2000 – Rugazi; bodies in field behind Dominic Kataribabo’s house.
Mar. 28, 2000 – Dominic Kataribabo’s field exhumations, 74 bodies exhumed.
Mar. 29, 2000 – D. Kataribabo’s house exhumations, 81 corpses.
Mar. 30, 2000 – Rushowa exhumations, 80 corpses.
Apr. 6, 2000 – police issued arrest warrants for Kataribabo, Joseph Kibwetere, Credonia Mwerinde, and three other cult leaders.

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For more cases of this type, see: Occult Female Serial Killers

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