The cult of the Restoration of the Ten Commandments appears to have had its origins in the late 1970s when a group of schoolchildren claimed to have received visions of the Virgin Mary on a soccer field in the town of Kibeho, Rwanda. A cult of the Virgin, combining Roman Catholicism with aboriginal religious traditions, formed and spread to southwest Uganda. It was here that Credonia Mwerinde, a store proprietor and brewer of banana beer, said that the Virgin Mary appeared to her in 1984.

In 1989, Mwerinde met Joseph Kibwetere, a school administrator and politician, and informed him the Virgin required his aid in spreading a message: people must restore value to the Ten Commandments and strictly follow their admonitions if they were to escape damnation at the end of the world. And the end was near: According to Mwerinde's visions, the world would end on December 31, 1999/January 1, 2000.

The convictions of Mwerinde and the newly inspired Kibwetere proved to be convincing, and membership in Uganda swelled to 5,000. The rules for the program dictated by the Virgin Mary through Mwerinde were extremely strict. Cult members were forbidden to communicate other than through sign language. They were to labor in the fields to grow their own food, and had to fast regularly. On Mondays and Fridays they were allowed only one meal. Soap, a sinful indulgence, was forbidden.

The continued existence of the world after January 1, 2000, caused dissension to grow in the ranks of the cult. Many members, having followed the command to sell their property and belongings and give all proceeds to the cult, wanted their money back.

On March 15, 2000, the cult held a great party in the town of Kanungu, roasting three bulls and providing 70 crates of "soft drinks" for their members. Although facts remain unclear, apparently more than 1,000 were poisoned or otherwise murdered, doused with sulphuric acid, and set on fire. The bodies of Credonia Mwerinde and Joseph Kibwetere were not found among the charred remains of their faithful members. A witness in Kanungu told police that he had caught sight of the two leaving the festivities with suitcases in hand and wondered at the time why they would leave before their party had ended.


Fisher, Ian. "Exploring the Deadly Mystique Surrounding a Uganda Cult." New York Times on the Web,April 1, 2000.

Sieveking, Paul. "Shallow Grave." Fortean Times, July 2000, 34–38.

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