FOLLOWERS of a mad woman, who claims to have visions of a suspiciously white Virgin Mary on the 12th of each month, took up clubs and stones when Burundi police tried to prevent them gathering on Tuesday on the hilltop where 30-year-old Zebiya Ngendakumana sees the apparition.
After a violent clash, according to the BBC, at t least six people were killed and 35 wounded.
The authorities were worried her sect could threaten public order. It was formed more than a year ago, and has since has developed a following across the country and in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kayanza Governor Athanase Mbonabuca said hundreds of sect members, some “armed with clubs and stones”, resisted police attempts to prevent them from meeting on the hilltop.
All the dead and most of the injured are believed to be followers of Ngendakumana, with four policemen seriously wounded.
The sect has had a tense relationship with Burundi’s government since its formation, says Florentine Kwizera of the BBC’s Great Lakes Service.
Last year, police destroyed a sanctuary of the sect in Kayanza – its stronghold – and its followers retaliated by breaking up a Sunday service at a local Catholic church, she said.
Most Burundians are Catholic but the official church has distanced itself from the sect.
The sect has also urged its followers to boycott the government’s community service programme.
It is not clear why it is opposed to the programme, which sees residents of towns and cities engage in activities such as cleaning streets and refurbishing schools every Saturday.
Hat tip: Leo Igwe, who will be in London later this month to give a talk on ‘Breaking the taboo of atheism in black communities’. Leo will also be a special guest at the National Secular Society’s Secularist of the Year event. The talk is being hosted by The London Black Atheists group.