World Bank Delays $90 Million Loan to Uganda
February 28th, 2014
The World Bank yesterday announced that it was delaying a US$90 million loan to Uganda’s health system, citing the country’s draconian new Anti-Homosexuality Act that President Yoweri Museveni signed into law on Monday.
“We have postponed the project for further review to ensure that the development objectives would not be adversely affected by the enactment of this new law,” World Bank spokesman David Theis said in an email.
…The World Bank, a poverty-fighting institution based in Washington, usually refrains from getting involved in countries’ internal politics or in issues such as gay rights to avoid antagonising any of its 188 member countries.
World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, however, sent an email to bank staff saying the bank opposes discrimination, and would protect the safety of all employees.
He said passage of the Ugandan law was not an isolated incident, as 83 countries outlaw homosexuality and more than 100 discriminate against women.
“In the coming months, we will have a broad discussion about discrimination with staff, management, and our board on these issues,” Kim said in the email. “Now is the right moment for this conversation.”
The bank’s executive board was set to approve the loan today. The $90 million loan is part of a larger $1.56 billion portfolio the bank has with Uganda. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim wrote an op-ed discussing the broader problems of discrimination of all kinds around the world and how that played into his decision:
These recent anti-gay laws, and many others that have been on the books for years, are acutely ironic. Just 15 years ago, a small band of gay men and women — largely in the United States but also in Europe and parts of Africa — fought with all their intellect, energy and creativity to expand access to treatment for all people with HIV/AIDS. In 2000, just 50,000 people in the developing world received AIDS treatment. Today, largely thanks to the work of these gay activists and others, more than 10 million people are being treated with AIDS drugs — most of them African.
At the World Bank Group, we will have a full internal discussion over the coming months about discrimination more broadly and how it would affect our projects and our gay and lesbian staff members. My view is that the fight to eliminate all institutionalized discrimination is an urgent task.
Norway, Demark and the Netherlands announced this week that they are cutting a combined US$27 million in aid to the Ugandan government. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the State Department is currently reviewing its relationship with Uganda. The U.S. currently gives more that $486 million in bilateral aid.
Meanwhile, Museveni is seeking alternative benefactors. He may find one in Russia:
President Museveni has said he will work with Russians because they don’t meddle in the internal affairs of other countries. …[W]hile commissioning a new flight simulator at the air force headquarters in Entebbe on Friday, Mr Museveni told Obama to stop interfering in the affairs of Uganda, adding he will work with Russia instead of America. “Russia has worked in Africa since 1917, meaning they have been here for more than 100 years. I want to work with Russia because they don’t mix up their politics with other country’s politics,” Mr Museveni said.