Cult papers reveal new massacre link

The Observer (UK)/April 18, 2000
By Giles Foden and Anna Borzello

Documents show Ugandan sect leader 'inspired' by visits from Australian doomsday group

The former Ugandan cult leader Joseph Kibwetere, now wanted for murder, was linked to an Australian doomsday group, the Marian Workers of Atonement, according to documents found at his home by the Guardian.

According to his wife, Teresa, she and her husband attended talks on supernatural manifestations given by the leader of the Australian group, William Kamm - whose spiritual name is "Little Pebble" - in Kampala, Uganda's capital.

Based in Nowra, New South Wales, the followers of 49-year-old Kamm share many beliefs with Kibwetere's cult, the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, at least 330 members of which were killed in a fire in their church at Kanungu, in western Uganda. Many others are believed to have died, but it was impossible to accurately count their charred remains.

Some 395 bodies, mainly of women and children, were later found in the compounds of three buildings run by the cult. Police believe that there are more dead, but have yet to resume their search because of lack of funds and equipment.

According to the documents, Mr Kamm held four meetings at the Kampala police mess between October 6 and 10, 1989 - when reports of manifestations of the Virgin Mary, an aspect common to both cults, were becoming frequent throughout Uganda and neighbouring Rwanda. Mrs Kibwetere said she had been in contact with Mr Kamm before she and her husband went to hear him talk.

"We were interested in visions of His Blessed Mother... Little Pebble sent us these papers and I used to write to him. Then he came to Uganda and we went to see him in Kampala."

The couple's son, Rugambwa, said the visit made a strong impression on his father. "I remember them going, and when my father came back he said that Little Pebble had filled him with new hope."

The manifesto of the Kanungu cult - entitled A Timely Message from Heaven: The End of the Present Times, which was first published in 1991 - also names Little Pebble among those "from various countries who got revelations and visions of the chastisements that are coming".

Satanic prayers

Australian cultwatch groups have expressed a suspicion of links between Mr Kamm's group and the Ugandan cult. "All apocalyptic groups feed off each other, so I wouldn't be surprised to find some of William's messages among the documents. But it doesn't mean that it was necessarily William who made the group go off," said Wally Anglesea, who is based in Australia and has been monitoring the Little Pebble cult for the past 16 years. The activities of the cult, he said, had caused serious concern in Australia. His sister-in-law had been a member during the 1980s. "Yes, they are dangerous.

Categorically, yes. The reason they are dangerous is the combination of weapons and paranoia and apocalypticism. It's a dangerous cocktail."

The documents found in the Kibwetere house are a mixture of dispatches from Little Pebble's Australian headquarters and apparently verbatim transcripts of the talks Mrs Kibwetere says he gave in Uganda. They also include a prayer for satanic exorcism.

The papers suggest that Mr Kamm was accompanied by a J Duff. According to Mr Anglesea, a James Duffy is head of security of the Little Pebble group, and also acts as the leader's bodyguard. A Ugandan, known only as Mr Iga, introduced the visitors. In a meeting on October 6 1989, Mr Kamm reportedly urged those attending - described in the documents as "the congregation" - to "not be surprised that the church in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania or any other place is speaking against apparitions". He then called for those present to "join with Little Pebble of Australia".

There are clear similarities between the Little Pebble and the Kanungu cults, apart from their claims of direct contact with the Virgin Mary (both refer to receiv ing these messages via a "voice box"). The symbol of the Ark is prominent in each of the cults.

The followers of the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God called the church they entered before burning to death their "Ark". They also told friends and relatives that the Virgin Mary was coming to take them to heaven - also promised to Little Pebble's followers on their leader's website.

Papal aspiration

Mr Kamm founded his organisation - sometimes also referred to as Our Lady of the Ark and the Order of St Charbel - between 1970-72. He claims to be in contact with the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ as well as other heavenly beings, from whom he says he receives a constant stream of prophetic messages. These are in a similar format to those purportedly received by Kibwetere and the five other leaders of the Ugandan cult.

Born in Cologne, Germany, Mr Kamm changed his name to Little Pebble in the early 1980s, perhaps in reference to the biblical St Peter, the Rock. He has for many years been in conflict with the established Catholic church in his local diocese of Wollongong and with the archdiocese of Melbourne. Among his many claims - on his website and in the Ugandan documents - are that he will be the next pope, and he claims that when he met Pope John Paul II, the pontiff confirmed it.

The Little Pebble website does show pictures of Mr Kamm meeting the Pope. But on July 17 1985, Archbishop Barbarito, the Pope's representative in Australia, sent the following message to Bishop Murray of Wollongong, who had already declared Kamm's movement inauthentic. The message, directly from Archbishop Edward Martin, then the Pope's chief secretary, read: "I ask you to inform Bishop Murray that though... Mr Kamm met the Holy Father... and took part with others of the faithful at the Mass in the Holy Father's private chapel, nevertheless he did not receive any approval of his alleged 'visions' on the part of the Holy Father."

In 1997, George Pell, Archbishop of Melbourne, issued a statement in which he made it clear that Little Pebble did not have the approval of the archdiocese.

The archbishop's statement ran: "Messages are alleged to have been received from this person in which great emphasis is placed on millennialism, warnings, signs, torments, days of darkness. Alleged private revelations are given importance above the revealed teaching of Scripture and the authentic guidance of the Church. Messages which are not consistent with the Word of God and the constant teaching of the Church are to be rejected."

The Ugandan connection also raises questions about the role of the country's police force in the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God. Five former Ugandan police officers are known to have died in the Kanungu fire, and allegations have been made about local authority complicity in the cult's activities.

The acting inspector general of police, Stephen Oonyu, said that the police mess where the meetings were held had closed "sometime" during late 1989 or in 1990. But he added that any meeting of this kind would have required the authorisation of the inspector general at the time.

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