Kanungu village in the green hills of southwestern Uganda was unheard-of before the night of March 17, 2000, when some 530 followers were burnt to death in a church, ‘as a shortcut to heaven’.
Inside the church of the doomsday cult – Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God – were bodies of the adherents and their children after the killing that has come to be known as the Kanungu massacre.
The church’s leaders – Credonia Mwerinde and Joseph Kibweteere – had before the massacre been accused of being behind several mysterious disappearances of both the cult’s followers and their livestock.
After the killings, the Uganda Human Rights Commission, in a periodical report, stated that the initial suspicion was that the massacre was mass suicide by the adherents who were convinced about going to heaven through fire, “but later it was established that it was planned and executed by the cult leadership. The victims of the inferno included children too young to make independent decisions”.
Closer home, just a few years after serial killer Phillip Onyancha confessed that he had killed 17 women and targeted to kill 83 more to hit the 100 target, a city lawyer, Mr Paul Magu, killed his wife and three children before throwing himself in front of a bus heading to Nairobi from Garissa to make his death look like an accident.