The government imposed restrictions on minority religious groups it defined as “cults.” Government policy defined a “cult” as a system of religious worship, often with a charismatic leader, which indoctrinated members with “unorthodox or extremist” views, practices, or beliefs. District security committees had the authority to determine whether a group was a “cult.”
Authorities arrested suspected “cult” members who interfered with, or did not participate in, government programs. For example, between August 28 and September 6, authorities arrested and detained more than 160 people in the towns of Kibale, Kamwenge, Mubende, Mbale, Sembabule, Masindi, Kasese, Mitooma, Fort Portal, Namayingo, Ntungamo, and Kisoro for refusing to participate in the national census exercise due to their religious beliefs. Court proceedings for the suspects, who were charged with “interfering with government programs,” were underway at the end of the year, and the suspects remained in custody. On September 6, police in Bugiri District arrested three members of a religious group known as Engiri for allegedly discouraging members of the group from participating in the census. On September 19, a court in Bugiri found the three guilty of “sabotaging government programs” and sentenced them to two years’ imprisonment.
In August local authorities in Sembabule banned a group calling itself “666” from carrying out prayers in the district due to reports this group was disrupting the census exercise. Police arrested leaders Nathan Nalisa and Peter Kasita and charged them with “sabotaging government programs.” The suspects remained in jail at year’s end, pending hearing of the case.
Police arrested “cult” leaders who discouraged their followers from participating in the national identification card registration. For example, on July 17, police in the central region’s Lyatonde District arrested and later released on bail Thomas Tumwesigye, Francis Tumugemwa, and Charles Bitwire, leaders of the “666” group who reportedly discouraged followers from participating in the registration. A police investigation into the matter was pending at year’s end.
On August 1, the resident district commissioner for Ibanda District in the Western Region closed the church belonging to the Engiri group of believers for what the commissioner said was discouraging followers from taking their children to school and getting immunizations.
On August 24, local authorities in Kitgum District demolished a branch of the New Temple of Jerusalem Church following the death of a paralyzed man to whom the authorities said the group was administering reflexology and healing prayers. Local officials stated they were concerned about the healing activities and they demolished the church because its registration permit from the NGO board only allowed it to operate in Gulu and Lira districts and not in Kitgum.
Muslim Centre for Justice and Law (MCJL) officials reported authorities did not reopen the 10 madrassahs that were closed in March and July 2013 on grounds the schools failed to meet national education standards and were unhygienic. In contrast to 2013 reports, MCJL officials clarified that the Uganda Muslim Youth Assembly never filed a suit against the government over the closures.