(Almost) the First Jewish Ugandan Parliamentarian

At one time, Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, who spent five years at the seminary of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and a year in Israel, was planning to run for Parliament in Uganda – perhaps one day to run for President.

January 2010 was a time of great political fervor, a crazy time in every district of Uganda. Rabbi Sizomu ran as candidate from the Bungokho North Constituency for the Forum for Democratic Change, a leading opposition party. With the hope of stimulating development and easy access to social services – for the Abayudaya and non-Abayudaya alike – he campaigned from village to village to tell the people about his political ideals and expectations. He gave speeches at school patios, soccer fields and places of worship.

Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, an excellent orator, had ample support from Muslim, Jewish and Christian voters. This was clear from the mass gatherings and traditional dances of the villagers, gathered to welcome him. The ululations of the women could be heard everywhere.

Although he was competing with the incumbent Muslim Gudoi Wojje and much of the constituency was Muslim, Sizomu had high hopes of winning the election.

After spending a budget of more than $34,000 (millions were spent in the most recent presidential election), there was great hope that with his hard work and the efforts of the campaign agents, Rabbi Gershom Sizomu would win and be the first Jew in the Ugandan Parliament.

All these ambitions and dreams were brought to a halt when Sizomu’s political rival was declared winner. This was viewed as an injustice by Sizomu’s supporters, who claimed that the opponent’s thugs had beaten his agents, stuffed their own ballot boxes with illegal votes and stolen some of Sizomu’s boxes from their precincts.

Rabbi Gershom Sizomu claimed that the results of the ballot count were not fair and filed charges against his opponent. After various court proceedings and the testimonies of several witnesses, Sizomu still lost. His supporters believe this was only because of the great influence of his opponent. The Court charged him 500,000,000 Ugandan Shillings (over $200,000); a demand that was withdrawn after Sizomu said he was going to file an appeal at the High Court of Uganda.

After swallowing this bitter pill, the Abuyadayan community is back to normal and Sizomu continues to be a community spiritual leader as well as Rosh Yeshiva at Nabugoye Hill, where – with the help of donors – he plans to train future rabbis to work in Uganda and Africa at large.
(Tags: Abayudaya, Rabbi, Leader, Politics)

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