Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law and Europe’s Aid Dilemma

Written by | Friday, February 28th, 2014

A number of EU countries have expressed their objections against maintaining development aid for Uganda after its government tightened its repressive legislation against homosexuality in the face of mounting protest voices from the international community. The anti-homosexuality bill that was signed by Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda, on 24 February that introduces an “aggravated homosexuality” offence punishable by life imprisonment. While the “offence” is aimed particularly at “recidivist” homosexuals and HIV-infected persons, the new legislation also makes the “reporting of homosexuals” mandatory.
The anti-homosexuality law instantly drew lots of attention and protests from many countries and jeopardized development aid from several international donor institutions. John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, immediately warned the Ugandan government that the United States would reconsider its relations with the African country, including ceasing assistance programs. Retaliation measures could prove efficient since – with bilateral assistance totaling $485 million in the 2014 fiscal year – Washington is one of the major international donors to Kampala. Norway and Denmark along some other European countries have already suspended aid programs to the former British colony. The Netherlands, for example, also froze the payment of €7 million in annual aid to the Ugandan judicial system, according to a statement from the country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.
However, the decision to freeze financial assistance is not an easy one to take, as Uganda ranks among the world’s least developed countries and depends heavily on development aid. With €2.3 billion of aid every year, Uganda is among Africa’s biggest recipients of international assistance. This is why France, for example, is not in favor of temporary suspension of aid because that generally penalizes the Ugandan people directly. However, in contrast to Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands, France is rather a modest donor to Uganda with its bilateral assistance totaling less than one million euros. While consultations are currently underway between the various diplomatic missions of EU Member States, for the time being, the European Union as a whole is not considering employing sanctions against Uganda by suspending its aid. EU Member States are also expected to adopt a joint declaration over the next few days condemning the law against homosexuality in Uganda.

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