U.S. Announces Sanctions Against Uganda As Human Rights Violations Surge
June 24th, 2014
After Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands to immediately announce a combined $37 million in aid cuts, and the World Bank announced that it would delay a $90 million loan to Uganda’s health service. Four months later, the Obama Administration finally came forward with a package of sanctions against the Ugandan government:
The United States will halt $2.4 million in funding for a Ugandan community policing programme in light of a police raid on a US-funded health programme at Makerere University and reports of people detained and abused while in police custody.
In addition, Washington will shift some funding for salaries and travel expenses of Ugandan health ministry employees to non-governmental agencies involved in health programmes.
It will also reallocate $3 million in funding for a planned national public health institute in Uganda to another African country, which it did not name. A National Institutes of Health genomics meeting would be moved from Uganda to South Africa, the White House said.
It also cancelled plans for a US-sponsored military exercise in Uganda that was meant to include other East African countries.
The U.S. will also deny visas to a targeted list of Ugandan citizens, including those “involved in serious human rights abuses, including against LGBT individuals.” But it won’t end its humanitarian support for Uganda or its cooperation with the Uganda Military in its fight against the Joseph Kony-led Lord’s Resistance Army. The U.S. total bilateral aid package to Uganda across several U.S. agencies is estimated to be at about $486 million, including about $36 million in military aid to assist in the fight against the LRA and Uganda’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Uganda warns that the latest round of cuts will hurt the nation’s “most vulnerable”:
“Uganda considers this announcement by the US regrettable as some of the halted funding and programmes in Uganda are those that will affect the most vulnerable people that the US government purports to support and aims to protect,” the foreign affairs ministry said in statement.
…Uganda’s foreign ministry insisted relations would not be harmed.
“There are more areas of cooperation between the Uganda and the US, as the two countries continue to share a lot in common on both regional and international issues,” the statement added.
Since the Anti-Homosexuality Act became law, international observers have reported a “surge” in human rights violations in the country, including forced closures of NGO’s, raids, arrests and at least one murder of a transgender person. Immediately after the bill was signed, it unleashed another wave of anti-gay vigilantism in the Uganda media. Last month, Sexual Minorities Uganda issued a report (PDF: 1.1MB/28 pages) cataloguing “162 reported incidences of persecution perpetrated against Ugandan LGBTI people,” including violence, kidnapping, torture, arrests, blackmail, evictions, firings from jobs, being disowned by families, and suicide. Seventeen people were arrested between February 25 and May 1, compared to just one in all of 2013 and none in 2012.
Meanwhile, the combined weight of previously announced AID cuts is starting to take its toll on the Uganda economy. The Uganda Shilling has fallen nearly 6% since the law was signed in February:
Foreign aid makes up about 4% of Uganda’s gross national income, and is equal to more than a third of government revenues. If its volume continues to decrease significantly, that’s going to be noticeable—already, local traders are predicting dollar shortages.
Uganda’s opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), which has long suffered brutal repression by Museveni’s government, sees a small silver lining in the aid cuts:
During the FDC weekly press conference at the party headquarters in Najjanankumbi, the FDC spokesperson, Mr John Kikonyogo said the negative implications of the sanctions will call for financial discipline and morality among government institutions.
He also said the travel bans will reduce government expenditure on meaningless travel by officials thus ensuring transparency and accountability in government expenditure.