Ugandan sect 'inspired' by Oz cult

News 24/April 20, 2000

London - Ugandan cult leader and murder suspect Joseph Kibwetere was inspired by an Australian doomsday group, according to documents found at his home, The Guardian newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Police issued arrest warrants for Kibwetere and five other leaders after a fire in a cult chapel in the village of Kanungu killed 530 people on March 17. Following the fire, authorities unearthed a series of mass graves in nearby villages, turning up 394 more corpses. Many of those victims had been strangled or stabbed.

Unconfirmed reports say Kibwetere fled Kanungu just before the fire. The documents, found at Kibwetere's home, show that he held four meetings with William Kamm, leader of a New South Wales doomsday group called the Marian Workers of Atonement, the newspaper said.

The men met between October 6 and 10, 1998, when reports of manifestations of the Virgin Mary - an aspect common to both cults - were becoming frequent throughout Uganda, The Guardian said.

The newspaper did not say how it found the documents, a mixture of dispatches from Kamm's Australian headquarters, included transcripts of Kamm's speeches and a prayer for satanic exorcism.

Kibwetere's wife, Teresa, told The Guardian that the couple attended talks on supernatural manifestations led by Kamm, who's spiritual name was "Little Pebble".

"We were interested in his visions of His Blessed Mother," she was quoted as telling the newspaper. "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 Australian cult leader made a strong impression on his father.

"He said that Little Pebble had filled him with new hope," the younger man said.

Kamm's organisation was founded in the early 1970s. He claimed to be in contact with the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, and said they offered him a constant stream of prophetic messages. Kamm also told followers he would become the next pope.

There are a number of similarities between the groups. Members of both sects used the symbol of the ark, and both told friends and relatives the Virgin Mary was coming to take them to heaven, The Guardian reported.

The newspaper reported that Australian cult-watch groups said it was common for doomsday groups to feed off each other, but it did not mean Kamm was responsible for the fire and subsequent deaths.

Authorities believe the Uganda killings were sparked by an internal revolt after the cult's prediction that the world would come to an end on December 31, 1999 was proved false. After that, police believe cult members began asking that their possessions, which they'd given to the group upon joining, be returned.

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