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Uganda rabbi says defeat in election not kosher
Gershom Sizomu claims rival party’s thugs stuffed ballot boxes in election to parliament and beat his agents.
By Anna Cavell, The Jerusalem Post
Published: February 21, 2011
KAMPALA – Uganda’s only rabbi is contesting the outcome of Friday’s election to
parliament, saying the vote was rigged.
According to results released on
Saturday, Rabbi Gershom Sizomu came second with 14,872 votes in the race for MP
for Bungokho North constituency in the Mbale District, trailing behind the
winner, Yahaya Gudoi, from the ruling NRM party with 16,744 votes.
told The Jerusalem Post yesterday that his party agents were beaten and chased
away from more than eight polling stations in the constituency in the east of
Standing for the opposition Forum for Democratic Change party,
preelection polls had the fourth-generation Ugandan Jew in the lead to win this
weekend. Witnesses said, however, that cars full of men armed with guns and
sticks approached polling stations with pre-ticked voting papers and “stuffed”
Witnesses said that when party agents tried to prevent this
from happening they were beaten. At least nine party agents are said to have
been attacked in this way.
Sizomu’s team said one of them was beaten
unconscious while others suffered bruises and chest pains.
and intimidation is said to have begun in the morning, with supporters of the
rabbi being threatened as well as party agents.
One witness, Dan Kutosi,
who was at the Bufumbe headquarters polling station, said that along with
attacking party agents, the thugs were trying to destroy the banana plantations
of the rabbi’s supporters.
Uganda’s general election resulted in another
term for the incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 25
years. He took 68 percent of the vote, according to the Electoral Commission,
with his closest challenger, Dr. Kizza Besigye, winning 26%.
former ally of the president, has alleged fraud and has in recent days
threatened to encourage his supporters to protest if the process was not free
International election observers noted numerous problems with
voting in the election – including failure to seal ballot boxes and a huge
number of voters who found that they were not on the register at the polling
stations where they came to vote.
The chief of the EU observer mission
said, however, that despite administrative and logistical failures, he was
pleased that the process had been an improvement on the previous election in
Sizomu is from a small community of just 1,500 Ugandan Jews known
as Abayudaya, who live in eastern Uganda, near the town of Mbale. He was
ordained in 2008 after studying in both the United States and Israel.
popularity in the region extends well beyond the Jewish community; he had an
imam supporting him on the campaign trail and is popular with both Catholics and
One reason for his popularity is thought to be the fact that his
community receives money from Jewish organizations around the world.
the region where he lives, many people still live without running water or
electricity. The Abayudaya Jews don’t use the money they receive from abroad
just for their own benefit; the schools they’ve helped to improve and the health
clinic they recently built with these donations are open to all
This pluralistic approach has won Sizomu a lot of local support.
A central component of his campaign has been his pledge to try to raise more
money from abroad to improve life for all members of his constituency and not
just the Abayudaya.
A report about Friday’s violence has been made to the
Mbale Police, who say they are investigating the issue.
pledged to take the matter to court, if necessary.
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