Ioannis Gatsiounis

Mayoral Hopeful Defends Practice of Vote-Rigging in Uganda

In Uncategorized on March 5, 2011 at 5:29 am

March 7, 2011

This Youtube clip contains highlights from an interview with Kampala mayoral candidate Peter Sematimba.*

On polling day a few days prior, ballots pre-ticked in the businessman/pastor’s favor had been discovered, leading to violence and rescheduling of the election (now set for March 14).

Our interview also ended in bitter dispute (starting at around the six-and-a-half-minute mark of the link above), with Sematimba following up his almost plausible-sounding claim that he was not guilty of cheating by passionately defending Uganda’s destructive habit of vote-rigging.

He did so on the grounds that Uganda is only 49 years old.

I have always found apologists for mediocrity troubling, especially when they are leaders or aspiring leaders.

What leader of a now-developed country that turned independent around the time of Uganda has succeeded by excusing pernicious permutations of the status quo? And here I was hearing it from a pastor who told me he wants to fix not “some things” in the city, not even “many things,” but “all the things.”

With due respect for Uganda’s impressive gains in key areas over the years, a true 21st century leader – the kind of leader Uganda sorely lacks – understands that while it may take a nation more than 50 years to fix some things, vote-rigging should not be among them.

And so I hope you will excuse me for chiding the mayoral aspirant for defending his country’s moral decay. (In viewing the clip some of you, especially those who have come to count on me to call to task the avaricious and powerful without fear of consequence, will no doubt be disappointed to find that I did not voice out more firmly, and I can see your point. Admittedly, I had one eye on salvaging the interview to ask some hard-hitting questions, and besides, it got to a point where it seemed wiser just to let the wily preacher do the preaching.)

The morning after our abbreviated discussion, Sematimba’s assistant called me requesting to redo the interview, but on one condition, that it not be recorded.

* Since posting this clip, a reader of this blog notified me that it looked like I was doing all the talking, when in fact the clip was edited to omit the candidate’s self-absorbed monologues. I will, however, post a clip in its near entirety in the days ahead for those BreakLines readers with time to kill.

  1. Hi Mr. Gatsiounis,
    I have a couple of comments on your video/blog post, but before I begin I’d like to say that I in no way support the actions of Sematimba or the views he seems to endorse, but I found several things in your interview to be incorrect, politically, and perhaps, ethically.
    1. I feel as though you are right with regard to your lightbulb analogy, however, in no manner is it correct to generalize the development of a nation to that experienced by the US in the past. On this note, I felt it correct for Sematimba to state that you shouldn’t expect Uganda to do in 49 years what it took the US a long time to do, and to expect it do to so in this time span, is, I believe, ignorant on your part. Uganda, socially, culturally, and politically, is not the US and I sincerely doubt that it will mirror the US, at least in the near future. It is unreasonable to expect Uganda to adopt the beliefs of the US – culturally, the views of most Ugandans are far more conservative and close-minded, when compared to the US’s willingness to accept people of different beliefs, values, and creeds, and to uphold true democracy.
    2. I believe that you let personal bias get in the way of your interview, as evidenced by the stalemate at around 6 and a half minutes. It is not right for you to assert your views as an interviewer – what may have been wiser to do would have been to question him, and then to criticize his views, perhaps in written form. Sematimba is of a different culture with a different outlook on the way life should be lived, and while, I don’t agree with his views, I feel it ignorant for you to expect him to agree so readily.
    3. Furthermore, the cuts made in your video which you state are “self-absorbed” monologues said by Sematimba, should have been left in. Throughout the interview, you don’t make eye contact with him, which shows your hostility, and you seem to ignore his views entirely. I feel as though you should have left these monologues in, as by leaving them out you call your objectivity as a journalist into question.

    Lastly, I’d just like to say that I was surprised by your clear attack on Sematimba and his beliefs, as your work is usually more objective in nature. Again, I don’t agree with Sematimba, but think that asserting views within the interview perhaps isn’t the best method of convincing, as you are, after all, a journalist.

    I don’t mean to offend you in any way, so forgive me if that’s the impression I give. Sorry for ranting, but I’d like to have the subject approached more objectively.

  2. Roger,
    Thanks for your email.
    Please allow me to clarify: I am not of the opinion that Uganda should in all aspects of its development achieve in 49 years what it took the US 200 years to do. However, it is perfectly reasonable to – and detrimental not to – expect nations 49 years after independence to resist and firmly denounce the culture of vote-rigging, which is wrong no matter the cultural context. Success of nations has much to do with the collective standards they establish through political will. For me it was most curious to hear a mayoral candidate rationalize the habit of vote rigging here, and the gloves came off. The clip may not flatter me but then I’m not interested in padding my image. I do accept and thank you for sharing your interpretation of the interview, even if I don’t entirely agree.
    Warm regards,

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