More on Germany’s Aid Cut to Uganda; Local Papers React

Jim Burroway

December 3rd, 2012

Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade followed up on last week’s announcement by Dirk Niebel, Germany’s Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), that Germany has suspended its foreign aid to Uganda. Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, told Johnson that the announced cuts were related to direct governmental assistance and wouldn’t affect programs:

“My understanding is that the German government decided to cut direct structural assistance from Germany to the government to the government of Uganda, but that their investments in development and other programs will continue,” Bromley said. “So, it’s not an across-the-board cut, but it’s a temporary suspension of direct structural assistance to the government.”

But Uganda’s Sunday Monitor, the nation’s largest independent newspaper, contends that Germany’s ambassador to Kampala, Klaus Dieter Düxmann, has denied Germany was cutting aid. In an article headlined, “Germany says no to cutting aid,” John Njoroge reported:

“It is not true. We are maintaining development assistance to Uganda,” Mr Düxmann said yesterday. “The embassy will give further communication in this respect in the coming days.”

But a close look at what Ambassador Düxmann said — “We are maintaining development assistance to Uganda.” — does not contradict what Bromley said, nor does it address direct government-to-government structural aid, which the Ugandan news magazine The Observer described as “budget-support aid to Uganda” — in other words, aid that was given directly to the Ugandan government to support specific governmental functions.

In last week’s announcement, Niebel cited a massive corruption in the Ugandan Prime Minister’s office in which funds from Europe were discovered in the private bank accounts of more than a dozen Ugandan officials. German also cited a U.N. report accusing Uganda and Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Parliament’s decision to consider passing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

It’s interesting that, so far, neither The Observer nor Monitor have mentioned the Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a factor in Germany’s announcement.

The pro-government New Vision’s report however was more-or-less straightforward, both in the fact of Germany’s announcement and the reasons why. Of course, being pro-government meant that there has to be some amount of spin:

Uganda has said it is determined to punish all officials involved in embezzling the money, which was meant to fund recovery efforts in northern areas of the country after a lengthy insurgency by the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Germany was equally concerned about legislation that will impose an array of jail terms for convicted homosexuals, including life imprisonment in certain circumstances. U.S. President Barack Obama has branded the bill as “odious”.

“If discrimination against human rights is voted through by the Ugandan parliament, this would have consequences for our cooperation,” said Niebel.

Aid accounts for about 25 percent of Uganda’s annual budget.

Cutting the funds would put public investments in health and education at risk in Africa’s largest coffee exporter.

Of course, New Vision neglects to mention the death penalty, which is still in the Anti-Homosexuality bill despite rumors and false reports to the contrary.

Perhaps Monitor’s confusion over what Germany has done stems from another lengthy article by Eriasa Mukiibi Sserunjogi which was published Saturday under the title, “Why Germany will not cut aid over gay bill.” Basing her thesis on an interview with Markus Loning, commissioner for human rights policy and humanitarian aid in Germany’s Foreign Office on November 22 — a little over a week before last week’s announcement — Sserunjogi wrote that the German government was following the advice of local Ugandan LGBT advocates:

The German government is taking advice from gay rights activists and will not cut aid to Uganda due to the anti-gay bill now before parliament but will pressure individual politicians to block it. A German official says that they have been convinced that aid cuts don’t produce the desired results.

“Activists on the ground are asking us to do it privately and talk to people responsible to see that the law does not pass,” said Mr Markus Loning, commissioner for human rights policy and humanitarian aid at the federal foreign office. Mr Loning was speaking at a conference on homosexuality and religion in Berlin on November 22.

When the Bill was first tabled in the last parliament, Mr Loning travelled to Uganda and talked to the then Speaker Edward Ssekandi and human rights activists.

Another official told us that the German foreign office told President Museveni that bilateral cooperation would cease if the Bill was passed. In short, Germany was threatening to withdraw aid to Uganda.

That threat is now on hold. “We get the backlash when aid is cut or Ugandan public figures are humiliated over gay rights,” Christine Kasha of Freedom and Roam Uganda told the conference. Ms Kasha, who is a lesbian, says gays are also Ugandans and the projects funded by donors help them too.

Sserunjogi’s article is quite sympathetic, particularly when she describes comments made at a conference in Berlin where the documentary film Call Me Kuchu was screened. The documentary described the struggles of the gay community in Kampala to secure even the most basic human rights, and ends with the murder of LGBT advocate David Kato. Sserunjogi wrote:

And the German government takes the issue seriously. “We take interest in human rights because it is an obligation from our history,” said Mr Loning. Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler infamously tortured and killed gays.

Given the experiences of Nazism and later the Germany Democratic Republic in the former East Germany, said Mr Stefan Boberg, the Germans said “Never again”. Mr Boberg specialises in Nazi history and is a guide at the former concentration camp, Sachsenhausen, where tens of thousands died of starvation, labour and execution. Some of them were gays. He said the Nazis tortured and killed gays to “cleanse the German race”. …During the Nazi rule, he said, almost 30,000 men were sent to jail for homosexual practices while the more unfortunate ones ended up in concentration camps.

Sserunjogi also profiled an openly gay Muslim Cleric from South Africa and the Rev. Michael Kimindi from Other Sheep Africa Church in Kenya.

The Observer, for its part, very briefly reported on Germany’s announcement on aid cuts, along with the news that several local civil society organizations will mount an anti-corruption campaign beginning today:

Led by the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda (ACCU), the CSOs [civil society organizations] gave the theme of the week as ‘Act against corruption now’. Other organisations include Action Aid, Uganda Debt Network (UDN), Transparency International, and Uganda National NGO Forum. They said the campaign would help expose the thieves in the country, citing  scandals  in the pension section in the ministry of Public Service, Office of the Prime Minister, and ministry of Local Government (LC bicycles), among others.

In one of the present scams, about Shs 50bn is believed to have been swindled in the OPM, with a host of civil servants, including OPM [Office of the Prime Minister] Principal Accountant Geoffrey Kazinda, already interdicted over the graft. The East African Bribery Report 2012, by Transparency International, ranks Uganda the most corrupt country in the region, with most bribery being recorded in the public service sector instead of private sector.

To give you an idea of the size of the scandal, 50 billion Uganda Shillings is about US$18.7 million.

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