The parliamentary Defense committee has called for the conclusion of all investigations into the Kanungu inferno, which led to the death of hundreds of followers of the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God’s Church.
More than 600 people are believed to have been locked up in the church, which was founded by Joseph Kibwetere at Nyabugoto and set ablaze.
Preliminary investigations into the inferno unearthed hundreds of deaths involving members of the same church in Kampala and Bushenyi bringing the death toll to about 1000. However, more than 13 years later no conclusive report has been issued about the incident. In September 2012, Chris Baryomunsi, the Kinkizi East MP petitioned parliament on behalf of the orphans and victims of the inferno to compel government to issue a report into their findings on the incident.
As a result, Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker of parliament tasked the Defense Committee to follow up the matter. In its draft report, the Defense committee cites laxity on the party of government. According to the report, despite appointing a seven-member Judicial Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Augustus Kanja to investigate the incident seven months after it happened not report was issued.
Other members are Dr. Emilio Ovuga, Prof. Peter Matovu, and Rev. Canon Mugarura Mutana, the then Chaplain of St. Francis Chapel at Makerere University, Rev. Fr. Dr. Lawrence Lugolobi Ssemusu, then Chaplain of Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi, Dr. Margaret Mungherera, A Lawyer Christopher Ndozireho, and one Sarafiyano Bigirwenkya. The report also notes that while appearing before the committee Kale Kayihura, the Inspector General Police said police investigations into the incident were still ongoing and there was no conclusive report on the tragedy.
The committee also dismisses calls for compensations and resettlement by members of the bereaved committee saying reparation can only be on compassionate grounds adding that, adult inferno victims joined the cult willingly. The report notes that the rationale for compassionate assistance can be based on the assumption that some of the victims of the inferno included minors and others who had been driven into poverty by the cult leaders. The Committee also notes that the petitioners narrowed themselves to orphans and yet there may be other relatives of the victims of the inferno who may have been adversely affected by the deaths and hence a need to broaden the scope of the potential beneficiaries of any such compassionate assistance.
The report adds that information available to the Committee indicated that most of the victims of the inferno moved to the premises of the church together with most if not all of their immediate families implying that the petitioners may be relatives of some of the victims of the inferno but whether or not they were indeed direct defendants of those victims of the inferno remains a subject of investigation. Now the committee recommends strengthening of the National NGO Board arguing that since it is mandated to register and monitor operations of NGOs, there is need to strengthen it so as to bolster its efficiency and effectiveness.
The committee notes that in its interface with the representatives of the National NGO Board, it was clear that the board is grossly understaffed and lowly resourced grossly inhibiting its efficiency and effectiveness. It further notes that this should be coupled with the establishment of functional synergies between the National NGO Board and other state institutions both at the Centre and local governments so as to bolster the monitoring of Non State Actors.
The Defense committee report waits to be tabled on the floor of Parliament.