Obama administration takes action against Uganda for anti-LGBT law

John Kerry

The Obama administration confirmed Monday a series of cuts in aid to Uganda in response to the recent enactment of an anti-LGBT law by the African nation. The announcement comes one month after Secretary of State John Kerry said Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s signing of the law had prompted an “internal review of our relationship with the Government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values.” According to a White House blog post by Grant Harris, special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs on the National Security Council, and Stephen Pomper, senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights on the National Security Council, the following steps have been taken as a result of that review:

  • We are shifting funding away from partners whose actions don’t reflect our values, including the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU). The IRCU’s public stance on homosexuality could foster an atmosphere of discrimination that runs counter to efforts to provide an effective and non-discriminatory response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. While the IRCU will receive $2.3 million to ensure uninterrupted delivery of treatment to the 50,000 people under its care, we will shift the remaining $6.4 million of IRCU’s funding to other partners.
  • An effective HIV strategy must reach and treat key at-risk populations. However, the act’s provisions against “promotion” and abetting homosexuality leave questions about what researchers, health workers, and others may do under the law. As a result, we are suspending the start of a survey to estimate the size of key at-risk populations that was to be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Uganda’s Makarere University. Proceeding with the survey could pose a danger to respondents and staff.
  • The act potentially threatens the safety of LGBT tourists in Uganda and the liberty of those who show support for Uganda’s LGBT community. Therefore, approximately $3 million in funding designated for tourism and biodiversity promotion will be redirected to NGOs working on biodiversity protection.
  • We will shift the Department of Defense-sponsored Africa Air Chiefs Symposium and East Africa Military Intelligence Non-Commissioned Officer course to locations outside of Uganda. Certain near-term invitational travel for Ugandan military and police has been suspended or canceled.

Museveni’s decision to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Act further enhancing penalties against homosexuality has prompted international condemnation and criticism from President Obama himself. Violators of the law face a 14-year prison sentence for a second conviction, and up to life in prison for repeat offenses. As first reported by BuzzFeed, key members of Congress were briefed on the cuts in funding to Uganda on Sunday. According to Harris and Pomper, additional steps may be taken to support the LGBT community in Uganda and encourage the law’s repeal, as well as deter other countries from enacting similar laws. The announcement coincides with an order by Obama to deploy military aircraft to be based in Uganda and support for the African Union Regional Task Force’s counter-Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) mission. “Ensuring justice and accountability for human rights violators like the LRA and protecting LGBT rights aren’t mutually exclusive. We can and must do both,” Harris and Pomper wrote. Actions against Uganda come after Vice President Joe Biden said during a speech to supporters of the Human Rights Campaign in Los Angeles that promoting LGBT rights abroad must remain a key focus of American foreign policy. “Find me a country in the world that singles out a set of citizens, and I’ll guarantee you that country is where justice does not live,” Biden said Saturday, adding that countries around the world are looking to the United States as an example on LGBT rights. “In every aspect of American foreign policy, we should have as the focus in our foreign policy that we lead not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example,” Biden said. “That’s what makes us different. That’s what makes us strong.”

Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's political editor and White House correspondent. He can be reached at jsnow@metroweekly.com.

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