Ugandan activists to U.S.: Thanks for heeding our advice

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera (Photo courtesy of Amnesty.fr)
Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera (Photo courtesy of Amnesty.fr)

LGBTI rights activists in Uganda cheered the United States for following  their advice on how to avoid harming the Ugandan people while penalizing anti-gay Ugandan officials for the country’s harsh new anti-gay law.
In line with our guidelines. Very impressive. Thanks for the support,”  tweeted Ugandan LGBTI activist Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera after the U.S. announced its plans yesterday.

“Gay bashing will get all bashed. America hits back,” the LGBTI rights group Spectrum Uganda wrote on its Facebook page.

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (Photo courtesy of Rafto Foundation)
Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (Photo courtesy of Rafto Foundation)

“For me it’s not only about Uganda, it’s about other countries where politicians think they can use discrimination and homophobia for political purposes and get away with it,” Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), told BuzzFeed.
The new U.S. actions that Ugandan activists praised included:

  • Restricting entry to the United States by unnamed “specific Ugandan individuals involved in serious violations or abuses of human rights, including those determined to have committed such violations or abuses against LGBT individuals.”
  • Halting a $2.4 million program for Ugandan police.
  • Shifting some U.S. aid for central Ugandan Ministry of Health operations to non-governmental health service providers.
  • Moving a planned public health institute from Uganda to South Africa.
  • Cancelling a military aviation exercise.

Those in addition to U.S. actions announced in March, including:

  • A $6.4 million cut in funding to the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, which is a prime support of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.
  • Converting $3 million in funding for Ugandan tourism and biodiversity protection into funding for non-governmental organizations supporting biodiversity in Uganda.
  • Moving planned military-related meetings to locations outside Uganda.

The new U.S. actions are in line with recommendations made in March by the Ugandan coalition of groups opposing the anti-gay law, specifically with regard to cutting aid:

Logo of Uganda's Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law
Logo of Uganda’s Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law

“Our position on this is very clear. We do not support General Aid Cuts to Uganda. We do not want the people of Uganda to suffer because of the unfortunate Political choices of our government. However, we support Strategic Aid Cuts to specific sectors, such as the Dutch Government’s decision to withdraw funding from the Justice Sector.
We encourage urgent review of aid to organizations and government institutions that have failed to demonstrate respect for Human Rights and those that have been actively supporting this bill.
We DO NOT support cuts in support to NGO’s and other civil society institutions that offer life saving health services or other important social services to the People of Uganda.

Predictably, the Ugandan government spoke out against the U.S. decision.
“Uganda is a sovereign country and can never bow to anybody or be blackmailed by anybody on a decision it took in its interests, even if it involves threats to cut off all financial assistance,” government spokesman Ofwono Opondo told Reuters.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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