In response to a new Ugandan law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality, the United States on Thursday canceled a regional military exercise in Uganda, imposed visa restrictions and cut funding for a Ugandan police program.
"The idea is to send a signal to perpetrators and would-be perpetrators that we are indeed monitoring, that we are indeed prepared to take measures, and that there are consequences," a senior Obama administration official told Reuters.
Ugandan politicians have taken aim at the country’s gays, with some critics of saying American evangelical groups encourage the harsh new statutes. Some Ugandan newspapers have published the names of people they say are gay.
The new law, passed in February, punishes first-time offenders with 14 years in jail. It also sets life imprisonment as the penalty for acts of "aggravated homosexuality." The bill originally proposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts, but that was later removed amid international criticism.
Senior U.S. administration officials, speaking before the White House announced the latest sanctions, said the stepped-up measures were carefully targeted at those responsible for abuses related to implementation of the anti-gay law and involved in corruption.
The officials said the steps would not directly impact HIV/AIDS and food programs that benefit ordinary Ugandans, although the White House did divert funds for a health institute to another country. It said the new restrictions would not interfere with other U.S. efforts in the region.
“None of these steps diminishes our commitment to providing development and humanitarian support for the Ugandan people, or our partnership with the Ugandan government to counter the murderous Lord’s Resistance Army and improve security in Africa,” a White House statement said.
The Lord’s Resistance Army, an armed group of fundamentalist Christians operating in several countries in central Africa, faces accusations of widespread violations of human rights. The U.S. has supported the Ugandan government’s efforts against the LRA.
Al Jazeera and Reuters