U.S. takes further actions against Uganda for anti-LGBT law

Photo: Barack Obama. Credit: Jakub Szymczuk/State Department.

Photo: Barack Obama. Credit: Jakub Szymczuk/State Department.

The Obama administration will take additional steps against Uganda for their enactment of an anti-LGBT law, including restricting entry to the U.S. by Ugandan officials involved in anti-LGBT human rights abuses.

National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden announced Thursday the additional measures, building upon a series of cuts in aid to the African nation announced earlier this year.

“As President Obama has stated, the Government of Uganda’s enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) runs counter to universal human rights and complicates our bilateral relationship. We announced in April a series of initial responses, and we have since considered how further to reinforce our support for human rights of all Ugandans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” Hayden said in a statement.

“Today, we are announcing several additional steps. Specifically, the Department of State is taking measures to prevent entry into the United States by certain Ugandan officials involved in serious human rights abuses, including against LGBT individuals. In addition, the United States will take steps, consistent with current authorities, to prevent entry into the United States by Ugandans who are found responsible for significant public corruption,” Hayden continued. ” We are also discontinuing or redirecting funds for certain additional programs involving the Ugandan Police Force, Ministry of Health, and National Public Health Institute, and cancelling plans to hold a U.S. military-sponsored aviation exercise in Uganda.”

According to the White House, such cuts include a $2.4 million program in support for the Uganda Police Force community-policing program. Financial aid supporting the Ministry of Health’s central headquarters staff, including salaries and travel expenses, will also be shifted, but so as to avoid negatively affecting health care workers and direct service providers in Uganda. 

Earlier this year, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act further enhancing penalties against homosexuality, prompting international condemnation and criticism from 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. Obama had encouraged Museveni not to sign the bill, and White House press secretary Jay Carney described to the day the bill was signed as a “sad day for Uganda.” A recent report published by Ugandan activists details an increase in violence against LGBT Ugandans as well as loses of property, homes and income.

“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,” Hayden continued. “We will seek to advance these interests even as we continue—in Uganda and around the world—to oppose discriminatory practices and champion human rights for all.”

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin sent a letter dated June 2 to President Obama urging him to take immediate and concrete steps to hold Uganda accountable. According to Ty Cobb, HRC’s director of global engagement, today’s announcement sends a clear message that the U.S. “will not tolerate foreign governments engaging in state-sponsored acts of homophobia and transphobia against their own people.”

“We must put all world leaders on notice that such efforts have no place in the 21st century, and there will be severe consequences for engaging in them,” Cobb said in a statement. “This creates an important precedent for leaders and governments considering implementing similar laws. It is important that the Administration continues to review our diplomatic relationship with Uganda, as well as with other nations such as Nigeria and Brunei, which have also taken disturbing steps backwards.”

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

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