The Ministry of Internal Affairs has revealed that 80 Ugandans, followers of a religious cult based in Soroti, were returned from Ethiopia after being deceived into believing they would meet Jesus in Ethiopia.

According to Simon Mundeyi, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the followers belonged to the Church Christ Disciples in Soroti. In February, their pastor, Simon Opolot, claimed that they would encounter Jesus after a 40-day fasting period and instructed them to sell all their belongings, citing the imminent end of the world.

“They were fasting for 40 days, and on the 41st day, they were to meet Jesus Christ,” explained Mundeyi.

Upon learning of their arrival, Ethiopian officials detained the group and kept them confined until their return documents were processed.

“With the assistance of the Ethiopian government, we facilitated their return, and they have all returned safely to Uganda,” stated Mundeyi.

He added that a joint security and intelligence team has classified Pastor Simon Opolot as a wanted man, and efforts are underway to apprehend him.

Security is puzzled by the fact that almost half of this group of Ugandans are educated people who have been serving as teachers and civil servants in Soroti and neighbouring districts.

The Internal Affairs Ministry said that members of this group risked death if Ethiopian authorities had not taken care of them, because they were fragile after travelling a long distance without meals.

Opolot’s acts are similar to PR Paul Makenzie in Kenya who convinced his followers to fast to death to go to heaven. At least more than 150 people were discovered dead and buried in a forest.

Cults have unfortunately been a recurring issue in Uganda. In 2000, a tragic incident occurred when approximately 700 members of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God in Kanungu perished in one of the most devastating cult-related massacres in the world.

The cult’s members, who believed in the imminent end of the world at the turn of the millennium, were locked inside a church. The doors and windows were nailed shut from the outside, and the building was set ablaze.