|This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2009)|
|Disappeared||17 March 2000|
|Occupation||Former Leader, Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God|
Joseph Kibweteere was one of the leaders of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, a group that splintered from the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda and became infamous after 778 of its members were found dead. Although it was initially assumed that Joseph died in the incident the Ugandan police shortly afterwards issued a warrant for arrest against Joseph Kibweteere and the other leaders of the group. In 2014 it was announced by the Uganda National Police that there were reports that Kibweteere was hiding in Malawi.
Many details of Kibweteere's life, and especially death, remain unclear. What is known is that he came from a strongly pious Catholic background and was likely wealthy by Ugandan standards. The second idea comes from the fact he ran for political office in 1980 and had enough land to donate for a school of his own design. The Catholic school he founded and led was apparently orthodox and at that point he had a positive image in the community. In 1960 he married a woman who would prove to outlive him.
The Uganda he lived in suffered from both religious and political upheaval which likely influenced him. The strongest of which may have been religious movements that emphasized miracles and Marian apparitions. In 1984 he claimed to be experiencing sightings of the Virgin Mary. This vision had been brought to him by Credonia Mwerinde.
Around 1989 he came into contact with a woman named Credonia Mwerinde, a prostitute who claimed she was looking to repent for her sins. She had a background of claimed experiences dating back further than Kibweteere. Credonia claimed that she could see the virgin Mary when looking at a stone on the mountains. The stone looked the spitting image of the Virgin Mary. Her father claimed to have had a vision of his dead daughter Evangelista as early as 1960. His children and grandchildren would be affected by this. By 1989, Credonia and her Ursula were travelling through Uganda spreading the family's message. When Credonia met Joseph he welcomed her with open arms and shared his own experiences. This would lead to their forming the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God.
After the death of Credonia's father, he became leader of the group. In the 1990s they strongly emphasized apocalypticism in their booklet A Timely Message from Heaven: The End of the Present Time. Hence he led an elite group of six men and six women deemed to be the "new apostles." These apostles had an equal number of women because of the emphasis they placed on Mother Mary as instrumental in sweeping them toward heaven. The group stated several dates where it would be the end of the world, however, several of these dates passed by with no sign of an apocalypse. Reportedly he stated that the year 2000 would be followed by "year 1 of the new world." These and other claims had little effect on the wider world. For the most part he remained an obscure figure in Uganda and never formally split with the Catholic Church.
In March 2000 the group began slaughtering cattle and buying massive amounts of Coca-Cola. These events did not initially raise alarm, but they were preparation for a feast before death. On March 17, Kibweteere apparently died in the group's mass suicide. A member of Kibweteere's family stated that Joseph's actions were completely influenced by Credonia Mwerinde.
A great deal remains unclear about his story and the movement. The BBC reported that Kibweteere had been treated for bipolar disorder a year or so before the group suicide. At the time the Ugandan authorities considered him a fugitive and mass-murderer because they believed him to have escaped. The date and nature of the apocalypse they expected is debated. There is one camp that indicates they believed it would come in 1999 and that the 2000 suicide was caused by the failure of that prophecy. This would seem confirmed by some of their activities of 1999, but in their literature 2000 is often seen as the end year. The nature of his role and significance to the events is also disputed. Due to the circumstances of events, satisfactory answers to these and other questions may never be forthcoming.
- Cult in Uganda Poisoned Many, Police Say New York Times July 28, 2000
- NTVUganda; "Kanungu Massacre: Report claims Kibwetere is hiding in Malawi"
- Seven Years Since the Kanungu Massacre
- Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God.
- BBC Report
- ABC Report
- Religious Tolerance.org on the Movement