Ugandan Rabbi Loses Petition Over Votes
Gershom Sizomu is vanquished, but undefeated
Courtesy Moses Sebagabo
In Uganda, where supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye were tear gassed last week in the capital, Kampala, erstwhile parliamentary candidate and Black African Rabbi Gershom Sizomu—the leader of the Abayudaya, a group of Jews who live in the hills outside the provincial town of Mbale—heard the result of a petition he had filed last February. The petition laid out examples of vote-rigging (ballot-stuffing, multiple registration, dead voters) and voter intimidation (falsified returns, assault, police malpractice) during the campaign Sizomu lost to Muslim incumbent Yahaya Wojje, the Ugandan MP for Bungokho North district.
The news: “We tried our best but sadly I report that we lost the petition,” writes Sizomu by email.
Moses Sebagabo, an Abayudaya Jew, told me by phone that hundreds of Sizomu’s supporters turned out for a heavy-security, early morning session of the Mbale High Court earlier today, with many of Sizomu’s voters spilling into a courtyard. “Maybe everything has turned upside down for Rabbi Gershom,” Sebagabo said. “I am home now and everybody is now hiding, because we don’t know what can happen.”
Reached by phone in his home in Nabugoye village, Sizomu was demure but disappointed. “It was clear from cross examination,” he said. “The defense witnesses’ testimony was contradictory.” The matter of the February rainstorm, which had forced Sizomu’s polling station indoors to the Nabugoye synagogue to continue the vote count, may also have affected some of the declaration forms. Lawyers for Wojje, the victor, asserted that the rain had kept agents from signing their approval of vote counts, which disqualified whole ballot boxes at a number of stations, while Sizomu insisted that his agents hadn’t signed because they had been harassed. In addition, some of the allegedly beaten witnesses were treated at the Tobin Health Center, a project of the Abayudaya community which is open to the public. Sizomu says this “raised suspicion” in the court, even if Sizomu pointed out that “there’s no proper reason why [his agents] would not be treated at a health center of their own.”
Courtesy Moses Sebagabo
Sizomu has scheduled a meeting tomorrow with his lawyers to determine if he has grounds for an appeal to a higher court in Kampala. There will be lawyer and court bills to pay, as well as undisclosed damages to go to Wojje—and diminishing hope for this time around. Despite these obstacles, will Sizomu run in 2015? “A politician is a politician,” he said. “I will never be defeated.”
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.