EU Downplays Ugandan Sanctions Over Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

April 3rd, 2014

LGBT advocates in Uganda are split over the question of foreign aid cuts in response to the country’s adoption of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act. Many have argued that any actions taken against Uganda should be aimed at addressing the much larger human rights problems in what is increasingly becoming a one-party kleptocracy. Sexual Minorities Uganda executive director Frank Mugisha and others have cautioned against aid cuts:

“We can’t afford to create new victims,” (Mugisha) said on Twitter this week. “We should go after the crazy politicians! Not innocent Ugandans.”

…Edwin Sesange, director of the African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group, said in a Gay Star News comment piece: ‘Aid in various forms helps all ordinary Ugandans, including LGBTI people who we are campaigning for. “Therefore the consequences of not being able to access those services financed by foreign aid will directly impact gay, lesbian, trans and bi Ugandans wellbeing. Our parents, sisters, brothers, friends and other relatives will also become victims. By contrast, most proponents of homophobia in Uganda can afford luxurious lives without depending on some foreign aid funded projects.”

He added: Politicians and the anti-gay vigilantes are using this threat from developed countries as a way of convincing people the west is using foreign aid and its influence to spread homosexuality to Uganda. We need to change this argument such people can understand the role of the western countries has is fighting homophobia, not making people gay. Western leaders need to assess the risks of their strategies before LGBTI people pay the consequences.”

Meanwhile, Ugandan critics question why the West is ignoring the protracted government-sponsored violence against opposition leaders and their supporters and focusing all of their attention on the LGBT population.  This is the best way to understand the situation on the ground that the European Union Ambassador to Uganda Kristian Schmidt is trying to address in this interview with NTV Uganda yesterday.

Europe is not here to exchange money for African values. This is not the nature of our partnership. Our partnership is one of equal partners where what we do in the area of development cooperation is discussed and agreed with our Ugandan partners.

The discussion that we have on human rights are not conditional, and that’s why it’s important to note that we are not threatening. We didn’t threaten with aid cuts during the process of legislative adoption of the bill. This is not how Europe operates.

J. Lester Feder at Buzzfeed has more on the assurances Ambassador Schmidt says that he is seeking from the Uganda Government:

During an interview in his office in the Ugandan capital on Wednesday, Schmidt would not specify what assurances the E.U. sought from the five cabinet officials he met with behind closed doors last week. But, he said, he was “very” satisfied with the conversation and expected to resume the discussion after Ugandan officials returned from a summit between E.U. leaders and African leaders being held this week in Brussels.

“I am satisfied with the fact that … there were five ministers [in the meeting] … ready to give us assurances, that the law wouldn’t mean violations of privacy, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, [and] the way medical care will be extended in facilities that are already caring for men who have sex with men,” Schmidt said. And while the E.U. believes the “law is discriminatory from A to Z and it has to be repealed,” he said, “there are ways to limit the damage. I want to keep working on that [through dialogue].”

…”We do not try to buy African acceptance for European or universal values through our development cooperation,” he said. “Because what happens when you try to do that, you get the [backlash] that we’re seeing…. It’s not productive to present it as a trade off.”

It’s hard to see what meaningful assurances government could offer when arrests like these are continuing across Uganda and suspects are being paraded before TV cameras:

Two men suspected of engaging in homosexuality acts have been arrested in Oyam. Oyam District Police Commander, Najibu Waiswa says 22-year-old Maurice Okello and his alleged partner, 18-year-old Anthony Oluku were caught red handed. Police claims the two admitted to having been involved in acts of homosexuality.

Meanwhile, Frank Mugisha is tweeting this morning that police have raided an NGO at Makarere University which receives PEPFAR funds from the US over services it provides to LGBT people:


April 3rd, 2014

I wouldn’t care if it looks like you are buying off the country. If they don’t want to accept the very real fact that LGBT exist and are not a threat to their society then every country has every right to cut off aid. As far as innocents i would say that actual number of innocents hurt is very few. A large majority of the nation appears to support the bill and even children have been brainwashed into either believing the law or at least pretending to for the cameras. When people have started turning in others for being gay I find that they deserve what they get.


April 3rd, 2014

As a liberal Democrat, I find it quite galling when a foreign country seems to think that they are somehow entitled to aide from the US, EU or anyone else.

The donating country has every right to decide to give or not give. The donating country also has every right to set conditions if they so please.

As for the powerful in Uganda having money and not needing the aide, where do people think the powerful Ugandans get their wealth? In corrupt third world countries like Uganda stealing money from foreign aide budgets is extremely common. In Uganda’s particular case, it has been cited as a reason in and of itself to cut aide.

Cutting aide to Uganda has very direct consequences for those in power behind this anti-homosexuality bill. Limiting the aide, limits the amount that they can steal. The EU, US and the Ugandan officials all know this. It is the huge elephant in the room every time these discussions come up.

The West knows that certain percentages of the donated money will be stolen. In many ways, it is nothing more than a backhanded bribe.


April 3rd, 2014

It is true that denying aid to Uganda will hurt Ugandan gays as much as everyone else. The argument that we shouldn’t be demanding they conform to our values in exchange for aid is bogus. We caused a lot of harm to the black population of South Africa when we and most if not all of Western Europe cut aid and trade with that nation. The hideous policy of apartheid finally came crashing down and the same thing will happen in Uganda.

Ben in Oakland

April 3rd, 2014

If the people of Uganda support this law, then they ought to support the consequences of this law.

Ferdinand Marcos was the president of the Philippines forever. For a job that paid something like 50,000 per year, he managed to salt way hundreds of millions of dollars. I suspect that a good portion of that was US aid dollars.

I am more and more of the opinion that aid should only come in the form of actual help, not dollars,


April 3rd, 2014

I think severe monetary and travel sanctions on the leaders are vital in these cases. What are they going to complain about to the Ugandan Media?

“The Evil Colonialists are not allowing me to access my millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts!!! Plus, they will not allow me to visit my villa on the French Riveira!!! How am I supposed to live like one of you peasants????”

Not sure how well that will sell in whatever their Peoria is.


April 3rd, 2014

No HIV prevention or treatment program can function under the law. The government not only requires that medical personnel break confidentiality but allows confiscation of medical records. All HIV prevention programs should be defunded.

Medical assistance for most vaccinations, vector (mosquito, fly, etc) and parasite eradication, and many other medical programs could still function, and should be funded and MONITORED in-country by the funders.

New development projects should not be funded. Ongoing development projects should be examined on a case by case basis, and many could be defunded. The remaining ones should be monitored in-country by the funders.


April 3rd, 2014

I know there are major differences, but it still feels a bit hypocritical to support cutting aid to Uganda *and* criticize Southern Baptists, etc. for threatening to stop supporting World Vision.


April 3rd, 2014

Yes Hyhbt, I understand your qualm but there is ONE major difference that makes all the difference. When you give to WV you basically adopt a child. Part of the giving process is cultivating a relationship with the child.

In the WV fiasco, fundamentalists with a warped sense of justice and majorly skewed moral priorities chose to abort the child (pun intended) rather than see a gay married couple processing paperwork for WV.

In the Uganda case, the money basically goes into a black hole. (no pun intended this time)

And I can’t help but think of one OTHER major difference.

Hiring gay people vs. killing gay people… hiring gay people vs. killing gay people… hiring gay people vs. killing gay people.

No other way to slice it, they are not anywhere near on the same level.


April 3rd, 2014

Whilst the savages running Uganda won’t be hurt as much by aid cuts, this nazi-esque law is hugely popular. The Ugandan people have nothing but deep hatred for LGBTs, so it’s time they reaped what they sowed – economic hardship.

The carrot utterly failed to make them see reason, so maybe we should try the stick.

Mark F.

April 3rd, 2014

Nobody is entitled to foreign aid. I have long opposed tax funded government to government foreign aid. To all countries, especially with the United States running billion dollar deficits. What private people do with their money is their own business, however.


April 4th, 2014

Europeans selling out minorities in order to appease and maintain their rosy relations with tyrants and murderers?

My, I’m surprised. Truly shocked. This has never happened before.

Mark F.

April 7th, 2014

Africa has received hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign aid over the years. It is rich in resources , but many countries are still crapholes. Millions are living in shanty towns while political leaders have big mansions and stash away millions. We need to stop enabling this dysfunction.


July 2nd, 2014

I get too surprised when the USA thinks Uganda can’t survive without their aid. For your information, Uganda now has oil and gas, even without oil, we are meeting 85-95% of our budget. Stop your crazy thinking. With homosexuality its Np in Uganda and our president warned you that you will loose

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