On Sunday, the Obama administration finally followed the lead of European countries and NGOs by cutting aid to Uganda. In addition to withholding funds from Uganda’s Inter-Religious Council, which helps combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the US will suspend programs that might endanger gays and lesbians:
[B]ecause the law makes “promoting homosexuality” illegal, a U.S. funded study to help identify populations at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS has been suspended. The study, which was going to be conducted by a Ugandan university and the Center for Disease Control, has been suspended out of fear that both staff and survey respondents could be put in danger. [And] because any LGBT person or LGBT ally who now enters Uganda is at risk, money intended for tourism programs will be redirected. And finally, the Department of Defense had several events scheduled in the country later this spring and those will be moved to other locations.
Some worry that Obama’s escalating efforts this week to help Uganda hunt down the elusive warlord Joseph Kony sends a “mixed message” (NYT):
“Who wouldn’t want to get rid of this brutal rebel group?” said Sarah Margon, acting Washington director of Human Rights Watch, in a reference to the Lord’s Resistance Army, the guerrilla group led by Mr. Kony that has terrorized civilians in Uganda, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. “But they’re not a direct threat to [Ugandan president Yoweri] Museveni right now, and what he gains by this is continued American support to his military, and legitimacy, just when he signed this [anti-gay] law.”
In a recent interview with Towleroad, Ugandan activist Richard Lusimbo discussed how tricky it’s been to cut aid to Uganda:
“If aid is just cut in general terms, the local person is going to suffer. This includes LGBTI people. It will promote the isolation of the LGBTI community and we will continue to be marginalized. People like David Bahati that have been promoting homophobia are going to go on the radio and say, ‘Look, people are dying because of the homosexuals. We can’t have medicine in hospitals because of homosexuals. We can’t have good water because of homosexuals.’ These are government responsibilities but because our economy hasn’t reached a point where President Museveni can support this, we are still depending on foreign aid.”
Lusimbo added: “We need to look at sectors where the government will feel a direct pinch. If that funding that the US gives to the army, if that were stopped, then that would have a direct effect. Donor countries should rethink and go back to the drawing table and look at how they could actually fund.
The concern is if aid is cut due to the anti-homosexuality bill, the pinch could have a trickle down effect on Ugandan taxpayers, Lusimbo said. “We have seen billions disappear in scandals. The money sent through the prime ministers office to support the development of Northern Uganda, didn’t go to any work, it was just swindled away. Ugandan taxpayers money was used to pay it back.”