Credonia Mwerinde (born 1952) was the high priestess and co-founder of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, a sect that splintered from the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda. Before founding the movement she was a shopkeeper, brewer of banana beer, and a prostitute. Mwerinde was also a member of a religious group that was devoted to the Virgin Mary. She and two other group members approached Joseph Kibweteere in 1989, and said that the Virgin Mary had instructed him to take them in. Kibweteere did, and he was particularly struck by her claim of a Marian apparition near his home, which related to a vision he himself had five years earlier. Together Mwerinde and Kibweteere would found the Movement in 1989.
Mwerinde was part of the trio that led the sect, which included Kibweteere, and Dominic Kataribaabo, an excommunicated priest. However Paul Ikazire, a sect leader who later returned to the Catholic Church, described her as being the true power in the Movement. He said, "The meetings were chaired by Sister Credonia, who was the de facto head of the group. Kibwetere was just a figurehead, intended to impose masculine authority over the followers and enhance the cult's public relations." Mwerinde was also the source of the sect's predictions of an apocalypse and the pronouncements that salvation could only be found with the Virgin Mary's messages.
The Movement grew rapidly and at its height membership was estimated as being between 1,000 and 4,000. Defrocked Catholic priests and nuns joined and worked as theologians. The apocalypse was predicted to occur with the advent of the new millennium. After the Movement was evicted from Rwashamaire, it moved to an estate her father owned in the Kanungu District. With the year 2000 approaching sect members sold their property and turned the profits over to group leadership.
When the world did not end by January 1, a crisis occurred in the Movement. Members began to ask questions and demand the return of their money and property. Police investigators believe that Movement leadership, particularly Mwerinde, began a purge of their followers culminating in the destruction of their Kanangu Church in a fire that killed all 530 inside. Hundreds of bodies were also found at Movement properties across southwestern Uganda. Initially believed to be a mass suicide, police later stated that they were investigating it as a mass murder.
Disappearance and aftermath
Mwerinde is assumed to have survived the church conflagration. Ugandan authorities believe that she left the sect's Kanangu compound in the early hours of March 17. In April 2000, police issued an international warrant for her arrest in connection to the sect killings.
In September 2011, Mwerinde and several other prognosticators who incorrectly predicted various dates for the end of world were jointly awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for "teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations".
- Uganda Cult's Mystique Finally Turned Deadly Ian Fisher New York Times April 2, 2000
- The preacher and the prostitute BBC News March 29, 2000
- Fateful Meeting Led to Founding of Cult in Uganda Henri E. Cauvin New York Times March 27, 2000
- The power behind the cult The Telegraph April 2, 2000
- "Winners of the 2011 Ig Nobel Awards". Boston Globe. September 29, 2011.
- "Wasabi alarm, beetle sex win Ig Nobel spoof prizes". Baltimore Sun. September 29, 2011.[permanent dead link]
- "Religion That Kills", ABC News, 14 February 2001 News story about the phenomenon of cults in Uganda
- Seven Years Since the Kanungu Massacre
- Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God.
- BBC Report
- Religious Tolerance.org on the Movement