By Hope Mafaranga & Ismael Kasooha
Last week, we ran a story about cannibalism in Uganda, focusing on Kabarole district. In a continuation of our series, this week, we focus on Kibaale district.
Cannibalism in Kibaale is not a new word to the locals. No one expresses shock over it. “Oh, you are looking for cannibals?” A security officer at my hotel asked.
“Be careful. Some people who came before you on the same mission have disappeared!”
The elderly man said the vice has somehow, thanks to Bisaka’s religion of Obumu (The Faith of Unity). Bisaka is the self-declared god whose spiritual powers have attracted many into his Obumu.
“Bisaka’s power does not tolerate witchcraft, cannibalism, and wrong doers. In fact when he had just started preaching in early 1980s, he used to identify cannibals by just looking at them. He would then warn them to stop,” he said.
“Those who refused would face it rough. My daughter, I witnessed people die! Cannibals really saw what Bisaka was made of. That’s how cannibalism reduced in this area.”
Dosteo Bisaaka was a Catholic catechist till 1980 and left to start his own religion. He is now the leader of more than two million people in Uganda, Rwanda, DR Congo and South Sudan. Owobusobozi Bisaka is revered and worshiped as god and generally feared by all. Even those who criticise him for calling himself god acknowledge his success in identifying and healing witches and cannibals and generally reducing their numbers in the area.
At Bisaka’s Itambiro (palace), I was received by the leaders, Omukwenda Tuhumwire and Omukwenda Turyamureba. Turyamureba said, about 50% who joined Bisaka were witchdoctors and 5%, cannibals.
“This area was really bad but Bisaka kept on teaching people to stop witchcraft and cannibalism and those that came to the Itambiro (Healing place) were saved. They are now good and developmental people in the society,” he said.
“I identify and heal cannibals and witches. I order them to repent and change them to good people. Those who refuse, I curse and they die. I will not allow any cannibal to remain in this area,” said the soft-spoken ecclesiastic whose following spreads across Toro, Bunyoro and Kigezi.
One of the reformed cannibals at Bisaka’s itambiro, who asked not to be identified, narrates: “I was bewitched into eating human flesh. Satanic medicines entered me without knowledge of what I was suffering from. Owobusobozi sent the charms out of me. I was healed instantly.”
Bisaka, the self-declared god (R), with ethics minister Fr. Simon Lokodo (L). PHOTO/Hope Mafaranga
Asked where he got such special power, Bisaka frowned: “I am God! I can see what you don’t see. I can read people’s minds.”
Bisaka was the first to do mass scale healing of cannibals thereby introducing an alternative to exclusion and lynching. The healed were allowed back to their villages or stayed at Bisaka’s matambiro where he established a new moral order and transformed sinners into good people.
“Cannibals are not really responsible for their actions because they are forced into it by satan. If repented and confessed, they change.
The healing begins with a confession. I exorcize the demon and lay hands on their heads and the confessor vomits out all satanic stuff,” he explains.
Crime and withcraft
A councillor in the area, who asked to remain anonymous, said cannibalism is thick in the areas of Kenga, Buraro, Bwikara, Kyaterekera and Kamusegu.
“They exhume bodies to eat them and use the skull for witchcraft. I have witnessed this number of time,” He said.
The O/C Kagadi police station, Joseph Ayesiga, said they get more than four cases weekly. That very week, a teacher of Nyankoma primary school, identified as Irumba, was evicted by locals over allegations that he ate a neighbour’s child. His house was demolished. We arrested 15 people in connection with the case.
But the classic was about Kule Kiiza.
“On 12th May 2013, we arrested Kule Kiiza aged 39 and a Mukonjo from Kyaterekera after one Enid Korukiiko complained that he was trying to eat her.”
According to a statement I saw at the police, case number KD/SRB/501/2013, Korukiiko said rowdy gods awoke her at around 11:00pm in the night and she decided to chase them. But one dog remained to fight her. She made an alarm which attracted the neighbours. When they arrived, the dog turned into a naked man they identified as Kiiza! They grabbed him and beat him. He confessed that he had left his clothes in the bush where they found his yellow shirt and black trousers. They took Kiiza to Kyaterekera police post.
Ayesiga said Kiiza escaped the next day using witchcraft. “The policeman on duty at that post wrote in a statement that he saw a dog entering the cells and he chased it off, only realize that Kiiza was not in the cells,” Ayesiga said.
“We submitted his file to the state attorney who said there was no way a human can turn into a dog,” he explained.
Tereza lives in Kabarole district. Her banana plantantion was cut by residents who suspected her of cannibalism
More people chased
The Chairman of Bwikara sub-county, Godadi Tumwebaze said about four cases are reported every week.
“In Rwentahi village, on 2nd of this month, Steven Matsiko’s wife was chased from Kibingo after she was suspected of bewitching a neighbour’s daughter into madness. I advised her to go away because people turned against her and she ignored me,” Tumwebaze said.
Tumwebaze also talked of one Joseph Kyaligonza.
“He is my neighbour in Kamusegu trading centre. I even attacked him one time and he denied. I have a petition from the residents of Kisungu who put him on last warning. They say they are also monitoring one Eriya and another Kisembo of Nyakarongo,” he said. “I have tried my best including buying one kilogram of meat monthly to the suspected families so that they can stop eating people,” he said.
I've heard about those stories - Tinkasimire By Gloria Musiime
Buyaga County MP Barnabas Tinkasimire says: I thank Owobushobozi Bisaka who has uprooted and healed cannibals. In the mid 1980s, cannibals were feared.
Sometimes the community would arrest the suspects and take them to Police, but they would be released for lack of evidence.
I was also told such people would change into cats if they wanted to eat you. There was a man who one time turned into a cat and wanted to eat his brother.
When his brother picked a panga to chase away a cat, it turned into a human being, pleading ‘my brother, don’t kill me’.
The way forward is to issue threats against them because the Police do not help. Bisaka has helped, but those who have persisted should be forced to relocate.
Scary cannibal stories exposed in many districts