Uganda hit with foreign aid cuts over anti-gay law

At least three countries and the World Bank curtail aid amid international outcry

A Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper published a list Tuesday of what it called the country's "200 top homosexuals," outing some Ugandans who previously had not identified themselves as gay.
Rebecca Vassie/AP

Uganda's government has been hit with substantial aid cuts after President Yoweri Museveni enacted a severe anti-gay measure earlier this week.

At least three European countries announced the withdrawal of millions of dollars in direct support to Uganda's government, and the World Bank announced it was delaying a loan to the country. Uganda depends on donors for about 20 percent of its budget.

The Dutch government said in a statement Thursday that it is suspending aid to Uganda's government but will continue supporting nongovernmental groups, joining the governments of Norway and Denmark in taking such action.

Norway is withdrawing at least $8 million but will increase its support to human rights and democracy defenders, while Denmark is restructuring aid programs worth $8.64 million away from the Ugandan government and over to private actors and civic groups.

Jim Mugunga, a spokesman for Uganda's Finance Ministry, said the government is waiting for official communication of the aid cuts.

The World Bank said on Thursday that it had postponed a $90 million loan to Uganda over its anti-gay law.

A bank spokesman said the loan was intended to help the East African nation strengthen its health systems. He said the bank division that lends to the private sector wants to ensure that the development objectives of the project would not be adversely affected by the enactment of the new law.

Washington has also signaled it could cut aid to Uganda over the anti-gay measure, which the White House described as "abhorrent."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday compared the law to oppressive government crackdowns on German Jews in the 1930s and black South Africans during apartheid, saying he was going to direct U.S. ambassadors to look at "how we deal with this human rights challenge on a global basis."

President Barack Obama has called the legislation “a step backward” and warned that it might “complicate our valued relationship” with Uganda.

Museveni enacted the bill on Monday, drawing widespread condemnation from the United Nations and rights watchdog groups, as well as some of the East African country's development partners. In signing the bill, Museveni said he wanted to deter Western groups from promoting homosexuality in Africa.

On Tuesday, the Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper published a list of the country’s “200 top homosexuals,” spurring fears that the new law might license Ugandans to target and even attack gay citizens. In 2011, prominent gay activist David Kato was murdered shortly after he was identified in a similar tabloid.

Ugandan officials have dismissed fears of an anti-gay witch hunt and rebuffed the international outcry, saying that Western governments can keep their money.

Museveni on Wednesday told African leaders attending a summit in the Congolese capital Kinshasa that although the matter of gay rights is "dear" to the West, "even the homosexuals need electricity."

The anti-gay law is widely popular in Uganda, and some analysts believe Museveni's enactment of the bill boosts his popularity ahead of presidential elections in 2016.

Ofwono Opondo, a spokesman for Uganda's government, said Thursday that the aid cuts show Ugandans "that the world does not owe them a living."

"It's actually a trap for dependence," he said, talking about donor support. "It's actually good that they removed the aid, so that we can live within the means we have."

Uganda's law calls for life imprisonment for those convicted of engaging in gay sex. It also creates the offenses of "conspiracy to commit homosexuality" and "aiding and abetting homosexuality," both of which are punishable by seven years behind bars. Those convicted of "promoting homosexuality" face similar punishment.

Despite the harsh reaction from U.S. officials, Ugandan gay activists have accused some of their country's political and religious leaders of being influenced by American evangelicals who want to spread their anti-gay campaign in Africa.

A prominent Ugandan gay group singled out Scott Lively, a Massachusetts evangelical, and sued him in March 2012 under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows noncitizens to file suit in the U.S. if there is an alleged violation of international law.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

Related News

Gay Rights, Human Rights

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


Gay Rights, Human Rights

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter