From the onset, one may think that they are Muslims. Both men and women dress in white, and cover their heads in the way Muslims do.
They constructed a number of huts, similar to shrines used by witch-doctors, and three ponds were dug in their premises, with the purpose of cleansing new converts. Their main prayer house is grass-thatched, decorated with portraits of Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary, with copies of the Qur’an and Bible all over the place.
Verses of the holy Qur’an are also pinned up on the walls of this all-white house. At some moments, you can see them prostrating in the same way Muslims do in mosques. Unlike Muslims who recite a number of prayers while bowing, these don’t say a word. When a follower shows up, they move nine times around a fire at the entrance, before they proceed to make a complete bath, remove all clothes and dress up in white.
This is the cult with over 100 followers in Mwalo village in Kyabakuza, at the outskirts of Masaka municipality. It is the cult whose leader, Pascazia Nakafeero, stopped her followers from participating in the recent national census until enumerators invaded the place with armed policemen and forced them to take part.
Nakafeero claimed to have received a vision from angel Gabriel some time back. She was, allegedly, instructed to heal people using the water she collected from Lakes Kyoga, Victoria and George and she put in ponds.
“That angel came to me in a night vision and confirmed to me that his name is Gabriel as referred to by the Christians and Gibril, the Muslim way. He instructed me to respect everyone who comes to me and stopped me from eating pork or going anywhere near a grave,” Nakafeero said.
For anyone to become a follower, he or she is required to pay Shs 50, 000, and Nakafeero said the response was positive.
“At first, no one was paying, but later, angel Gabriel set up a fee of Shs 1,500 which rose to Shs 50, 000,” Nakafeero explained.
When Masaka Resident District Commissioner Linos Ngompek learnt of Nakafeero’s activities, he stormed the place and demanded to know what was going on. He, together with a team of other security people, inspected all the huts and found nothing scaring, apart from the ponds. Asked what the name of her cult was, Nakafeero said she did not have a specific name for this ‘religion’, but all that she knew was that it was started on the instructions of angel Gabriel.
“He [Gabriel] usually comes to me during the night and tells me what would happen the following day,” Nakafeero told Ngompek, adding that she knew about his visit to the premises from the vision she had received the previous night.
After washing their bodies completely, followers put on white clothes and cover their heads. They then head for the biggest hut, remove their shoes and stand around the central pole inside the hut. Prayers start by singing all the stanzas of Ekitiibwa kya Buganda, followed by hymns from the Catholic Church.
Nakafeero told The Observer that she respected all government programmes and she did not have any intentions of opposing the national census or the national ID project. She, however, did not explain why her followers were only counted after the police’s intervention. After carrying out the inspection, Ngompek said he would present this cult’s issue to the next district security committee meeting and discuss the way forward.
“The first mistake these people made is keeping their children in the shrines at the time when they are supposed to be at school,” Ngompek said, adding that Nakafeero’s activities had to be monitored closely to avoid people losing their lives like the case was in Kanungu, when Kibwetere and his group burnt hundreds of people.
Ngompek also cautioned Nakafeero against soliciting money from her followers without giving receipts.