The United States on Thursday announced that it is finally taking further steps to punish the Ugandan government for the passage of a law that passes down a life sentence in prison for homosexual behavior and bans all advocacy for gay rights.
After a series of initial responses in April, in which the U.S. announced that it would be taking such steps as cutting funding to programs in support of Ugandan tourism and biodiversity, the Obama administration had been quiet for months about what other repercussions the government would face. On Thursday, the White House announced that four more steps would be taken to pressure the Ugandan government to repeal the law.
Most prominently, the “Department of State is taking measures to prevent entry into the United States by certain Ugandan officials involved in serious human rights abuses, including against LGBT individuals,” National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said in a statement. “In addition, the United States will take steps, consistent with current authorities, to prevent entry into the United States by Ugandans who are found responsible for significant public corruption.”
However, just who precisely has been banned from the United States won’t be public knowledge in the near future. “While we will not identify the individuals whom we have watch-listed in line with confidentiality requirements, this step makes clear our commitment to sanctioning individuals determined to have perpetrated human rights abuses or who are responsible for such acts in the future,” a White House blog post further explaining the new steps said. The post also did not explain what is meant reaches the level of “significant” public corruption.
The U.S. will also be ceasing support for Uganda’s community policing program over concerns of how the funding will be used, to the tune of $2.4 million. These concerns, the White House said, are over the April 2 raid of the Makerere University Walter Reed Project (MUWRP), an HIV/AIDS clinic that which received funding from the U.S. military. The raid was a result of the organization conducting “promotion of homosexuality,” Ugandan police said at the time.
Other steps being taken include redirecting to another, yet to be named African country the establishment of a National Public Health Institute, and relocation of a National Institutes of Health genomics meeting from Uganda to South Africa. Funding for the Ugandan Ministry of Health is also being redirected from “financial support for MOH salaries, travel expenses, and other items to health-related activities being undertaken by non-governmental partners in Uganda.” This will affect mostly MOH central headquarters staff, seeking to avoid the service providers in the field.
Finally, the U.S. will be cancelling a military aviation exercise in Uganda which was supposed to take place with other East African countries and the U.S. Africa Command. However, “[n]one of these steps diminishes our commitment to providing development and humanitarian support for the Ugandan people, or our partnership with the Ugandan government to counter the murderous Lord’s Resistance Army and improve security in Africa,” Hayden concluded. “We will seek to advance these interests even as we continue—in Uganda and around the world—to oppose discriminatory practices and champion human rights for all.” That tension, between the security interests that the Ugandan government helps shore up and the American commitment to human rights, is one that has plagued the U.S. relationship with Uganda for years.
The anti-gay law first passed in February, after being amended from offering the death penalty to members of the LGBT community to life in prison instead. President Yoweri Museveni signed the bill over the warning of President Obama that consequences would ensue. Since then, the United States has taken several steps to punish the Ugandan government, while not affecting the civilian population negatively, while other countries and institutions — including the World Bank, Norway, and the Netherlands — have cancelled funding to projects in the country.