7 December 2000

Kenya Haunted By Strange Sect

Nairobi — Members of a religious organisation whose leaders are believed to be remnants of Uganda's Kanungu doomsday cult, have invaded Lugari district of western Kenya, reportedly causing panic among the residents and concern to the government.

The Kanungu "Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God" sect in March masterminded the mass murder of over 1,000 people in northern Uganda.

Members who escaped a government crackdown are suspected to have seeped into Kenya and established massive following under a different name in the western districts of the country.

Police in western province told PANA by telephone they were investigating the religious body which, they accused of inciting followers to burn down houses of non-members, and stopping their children from going to school.

Provincial police boss, Francis Waithaka, told journalists Wednesday that some women sect members had abandoned their husbands and homes to stay with religious friends at the Church precincts.

The sect is also said to be claiming that the World will come to an end 31 December.

A newspaper vendor, Ben Wafula, was said to have reported to police that his wife had absconded from home, and now lived in the Church compound with their children, who had been withdrawn from school.

The man claimed that after the wife ran away, sect members set his house ablaze destroying all the household goods.

"The government will not allow members of the sect to burn down houses of people opposed to their activities and force children out of school," Waithaka warned.

He appealed to residents to beware of dubious religious organisations with questionable teachings.

Lugari district Commissioner, Hassan Nur Hassan, said the area Security Committee was monitoring the group's activities.

A recent report by human rights groups operating in western Kenya and eastern Uganda, warned that an emerging religious group calling itself "Choma," Swahili for "burn," could be an off-shoot of the Kanungu sect.

The report was released in the eastern Ugandan town of Mbale by Valentiana Moses Aleico of the Uganda Human Rights Group and the group's western Kenya Executive Director, Job Bwonya.

Aleico told journalists that Choma had beliefs and practices markedly similar to those of the Kanungu cult.

"Sect members wear red ties, 'Odinga caps' (in reference to the beaded cap worn by the father figure of opposition politics in Kenya, the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga) and white shirts," he said. "They prefer black trousers and say the uniform binds them to the blood of Jesus."

The two rights activists quoted the sect members as claiming that their leader, had instructed his followers to sell off their property and share the proceeds amongst themselves.

The unnamed sect leader is alleged to be leading an expensive lifestyle, while other members wallow in abject poverty as a result of self-denial.

Members quoted the cult leaders as saying: "Riches are of the earth. You will leave everything here, therefore sell everything you have and share with the other members."

Observers warn that this tallies with the teachings of the Kanungu cult, whose mass killings only rival the 1978 mass suicide by some 912 members of the People's Temple cult in George Town, Guyana.

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