One of the more immediate fallouts of the infamous March 2009 conference put on by three American anti-gay activists in Kampala, besides the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill, was a long and fearsome anti-gay vigilante campaign waged by the tabloids and on television and radio. During the anti-gay hysteria that swept Uganda, several powerful pastors took the opportunity to launch wild accusations against rival pastors in a bid to increase their own power base and financial clout. Three preeminent Ugandan pastors, Martin Seempa, Solomon Male and Bob Kyazze, were charged with conspiracy to falsely defame a rival pastor by accusing him of sodomy.
Today, the African news blog Behind the Mask reports that a Ugandan magistrate has ruled that Ssempa, Male and Kyazze have “case to answer.” In other words, the magistrate ruled that there is ample evidence that a crime may have taken place and that it is now up to the defendants to put on a defense:
Magistrate John Patrick Wekesa ruled this morning in Kampala that the three Christian preachers, Martin Sempa, Solomon Male and Bob Kyazze should start defending themselves against charges of involvement in conspiracy to damage (Pastor Robert) Kayanja’s name by way of a homophobic smear campaign.
The court has set December 19, as the date for the pastors to defend themselves.
The accused pastors, their lawyers, Henry Ddungu and David Kaggwa, together with David Mukalazi and Deborah Kyomuhendo (agents of the accused) face charges of conspiring to injure Pastor Kayanja’s reputation. The two lawyers were included for allegedly commissioning false affidavits.
The defendants face up to five years imprisonment if convicted. Twenty-one prosecution witnesses have testified in court so far this year. The for earlier sodomy charges that had been filed against Kayanja by the three pastors and their lawyers have been closed for lack of evidence.
Martin Ssempa and Solomon Male have been outspoken supporters of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a wide-ranging piece of legislation which would have imposed the death penalty against gay people under certain circumstances, lifetime imprisonment for the rest, and harsh criminal penalties for virtually anyone else who knew them or provided services to them. Ssempa had enjoyed support from several American Evangelical pastors, churches and organizations, including Saddleback pastor Rick Warren and Las Vegas-based Canyon Ridge Christian Church. Warren finally denounced Ssempa and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009 after weeks of pressure, and Canyon Ridge reluctantly cut ties with Ssempa after defending him for several months.
UPDATE: Daily Monitor is out with its article, naming four pastors being tried:
The quartet, Solomon Male of Arising for Christ, Martin Sempa of Makerere Christian Centre, Robert Kayiira and Michael Kyazze of Omega Healing Ministries are jointly charged with Ms Dorothy Kyomuhendo, former State House aide, and artiste David Mukalazi.