Friday, 28 February 2014


A man protests Uganda's anti-gay bill in New York City.

Several international donors threatened and a few have confirmed they will cut aid to Uganda after the government passed a controversial law targeting homosexuals. But there is now a clear opportunity for the donor community to invest in protecting the human rights and health of the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community.

But first — and in order to send a strong message — Ugandan and international LGBTI allies will need support to fight this bill in court; and donors such as the U.S. Agency for International Development can increase rule of law funding on an emergency basis to help support this effort, according to Chloe Schwenke, vice president of global programs for Freedom House and former USAID senior advisor for LGBTI global policy.

Seasoned LGBTI activists in the country contacted Freedom House to express their fear and the profound threat they are currently facing, she said — but it’s not too late to fight the legislation in constitutional court, as it contravenes Uganda’s constitution.

“There are plenty of lawyers in Uganda who are LGBTI supporters who could step in and do this with the right funding,” Schwenke said.

The call for further action isn’t limited to Freedom House, as many aid groups and NGOs around the world are also joining the campaign.

“The international community must collectively denounce this law, and there must be serious consequences for the government of Uganda,” Santiago Canton, director of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights Partners for Human Rights, said in a statement.

Donors appalled

International donors are already reviewing their aid policies toward the country, with some of them hinting at reallocating the money to civil society organizations in response to the law signed by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Monday, which strengthens existing penalties for homosexual acts — already illegal in Uganda — with up to life in prison for a repeat offender.

Following Norway’s aid cut and redirection announcement, both the Netherlands and Denmark are reported to be considering slashing their aid package to Uganda, saying they would also redirect the nearly $20 million of aid currently earmarked for Ugandan state programs instead to activities in the private sector and with civil society organizations.

Sweden will consider redirecting its $10.7 million in aid to Uganda to other programs or countries when it completes an evaluation this spring, while members of the European Parliament called for an end to a political agreement with Uganda over the law — which EU High Representative Catherine Ashton described as “draconian.”

The United States and Canada, two of Uganda’s largest bilateral donors, are also reviewing their relationship with the anti-gay Ugandan government over the new law that makes it a criminal offense to sponsor or encourage homosexuality, and even criminalizes failure to report homosexual practices.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged it be repealed and said in a statement on Monday that Washington is “deeply concerned about the law’s potential to set back public health efforts in Uganda, including those to address HIV/AIDS, which must be conducted in a non-discriminatory manner in order to be effective.”

HIV aid now illegal?

As far as the legislation’s potential impact in on health initiatives, UNAIDS pointed to the example of a “drop-in center” — a discreet office in an urban neighborhood where gay men can go for counseling, HIV testing and medical care, that may now be considered illegal under the new law.

But this is another way donors can positively support the Ugandan LGBTI community at this time, Schwenke suggested. Health budgets are a massive part of foreign assistance, though many health programs routinely exclude LGBTI from receiving funds.

On Friday, the World Bank will vote to approve $90 million in funding for the Ugandan health sector, she noted, which could also be an opportunity to send a clear message.

“This is crucial funding for maternal health and family planning, so the bank could put a conditionality on this financial aid that ‘you must be able to demonstrate inclusion of sexual minorities,’” Schwenke said.

Not just Uganda

The debate over whether donors should or shouldn’t cut aid to countries with homophobic policies was most recently raised once again when President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria signed in January a law that criminalizes same-sex unions and other homosexual activities.

And this isn’t the first time the aid community has taken a strong stance against the adoption of harsh anti-gay law.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, for example, has in the past threatened to withhold aid from governments that refuse to reform legislation banning homosexuality, and temporarily suspended aid to Malawi in 2011 over concerns about its attitude toward gay rights.

So what would happen if the United States decides to adopt targeted sanctions, such as visa refusals for specific officials who promote hate and violence against homosexuals?

Thursday, 27 February 2014


MISA Zambia yesterday successfully launched for the first time the African Media Barometer (AMB) Report for Zambia at Protea Hotel in Lusaka. During the launch, MISA
Zambia Acting Chairperson Hellen Mwale bemoaned the slow media law reforms process. She said that the delayed enactment of the constitution and the repeal of the most oppressive and archaic piece of legislation the Penal code was a source of concern. She acknowledged some of the progress in the area of media reforms as including the establishment of the Independent Broadcast Authority (IBA) and government support towards the establishment of a non-statutory media regulation body the Zambian Media Council (ZAMEC).

Ms Mwale also expressed worry at the violence targeted at journalists in the year 2013 and also citizens who had divergent views or sought to express displeasure over certain government policies. She said the attach on citizens who gathered to pray and protest the removal of subsidies in Lusaka at a Church called BIGOCA was one such incident. She also noted that Radio Mano is one of the stations that faced continued harassment during the year which included blocking of guests from appearing on the station on more than three occassions.

And the Deputy Minister of Information Poniso Njeulu said that government was grateful that MISA Zambia and FES had produced the report as government would use it to build on its efforts to address media freedom.

He also added that government had scheduled the next Parliamentary sitting to enact the Access to Information (ATI) Bill. He urged members of the public to take advantage of the Constituency Development Funds (CDF) to establish Community Radio Stations in order to enhance information flow and access to information.


Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, signs into law a bill
toughening penalties for gay people.

Once regarded as an example of enlightened African leadership, Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, is currently something of an international pariah. His decision to sign a bill into law that imposes harsh penalties for homosexuality has resulted in cuts to the country's generous aid budget.
The US described the adoption of the law as a tragic day for Uganda, and the secretary of state, John Kerry, announced that "all dimensions" of US engagement with the country would be reviewed, including the aid budget.
Britain is not following suit. The Department for International Development said all direct support to the Ugandan government had been cut in November after a corruption scandal, but a spokesman said the £97.9m in this year's budget would not be withheld. "The UK remains committed to supporting the people of Uganda," he said. The money will now be channelled through alternative routes, including international aid agencies that met the UK's human rights principles.
Other European donors have taken a tougher line. Norway said it would be withholding $8m in development aid, and Denmark will divert $9m away from the government. "We cannot distance ourselves too strongly from the law and the signal that the Ugandan government now sends to not only persecuted minority groups, but to the whole world," the Danish trade and development minister, Mogens Jensen, said. Austria said it was reviewing its assistance.
Uganda has traditionally been one of the largest recipients of international aid. According to the Overseas Development Institute, the country received $1.6bn (£960m) in 2011, making it the world's 20th largest aid recipient. Between 2006 and 2010 the US was the biggest donor, providing $1.7bn, followed by Britain with $694m.
Uganda's recent growth has reduced its aid dependence and the country hopes its newly found oil reserves will bear fruit in 2016. With aid a decreasing share of government revenues, the hold donor countries have over Museveni has weakened. Uganda is also an important strategic ally, providing troops to Somalia in their fight against al-Shabaab.
While Western donors have been scrambling to react to the passing of the bill there has been almost no response from other African leaders, many of whom have similar legislation. South Africa, one of the few African countries to protect the rights of gay men and women and allow gay marriage, has issued a statement calling for clarification from various countries about their laws on sexual orientation, a government official said on Tuesday.
International relations department spokesperson Clayson Monyela said in a statement: "South Africa believes that no persons should be subjected to discrimination or violence on any ground, including on the basis of sexual orientation."
The African Union offices in Addis Ababa have been similarly silent. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, called on African leaders to respect gay rights when he addressed their summit in January 2012, but they have been reluctant to tackle the issue.
"Let me mention one form of discrimination that has been ignored, or even sanctioned, by many states for far too long … discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity," Ban said. "This has prompted some governments to treat people as second-class citizens, or even criminals."
Ban's call for action was met with silence. Activists have attempted to raise the issue with the African Commission on Human and People's Rights, but this, too, has met with little success.
Homophobia is entrenched in Africa. The Uganda daily Red Pepper plastered its front page with a single headline: Exposed! Uganda's Top Homos Named. Photographs of some allegedly gay men ran alongside the text.
There has, however, been one small ray of hope. A Zambian court has cleared a prominent rights activist, Paul Kasonkomona, of encouraging homosexuality after he called for gay rights to be recognised. He was arrested in April 2013 and charged with soliciting.
"This is a great victory for freedom of expression," his lawyer, Anneke Meerkotter, said. "The mood in the court was one of great relief."


Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s authorisation of the Parliament’s so-called “kill the gays” bill has led Washington officials to announce a review of U.S. aid to the African country.
While the new law no longer provides the death penalty for LGBT people, as it did when parliament first introduced it, it escalates existing penalties on homosexuality, allowing the state to imprison people for life if they engage in “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as repeated instances of gay sex between consenting adults or acts involving minors, disabled, or HIV-positive people.
The European Union, the United Nations and the Catholic Church have all strongly condemned the new law, which escalates existing penalties for homosexuality.
“Now that this law has been enacted, we are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the Government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programmes, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Monday.
Some European countries, including Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands, have already halted financial aid to Uganda in protest, while others, like Austria and Sweden, are similarly reviewing their aid commitments. Prominent U.S. policymakers are calling on the United States to temporarily cut off the 456.3 million dollars in aid to Uganda that Congress has appropriated for the coming fiscal year.
“We need to closely review all U.S. assistance to Uganda, including through the World Bank and other multilateral organisations,” U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy said Tuesday. “I cannot support providing further funding to the Government of Uganda until the United States has undergone a review of our relationship.”
Ugandan health and sanitation programmes in particular rely on foreign aid support, especially when it comes to combating HIV/AIDS. Uganda has an HIV prevalence rate of 7.2 percent, a rate that is roughly doubled for men who have sex with men.
“We are also deeply concerned about the law’s potential to set back public health efforts in Uganda,” Kerry said, “including those to address HIV/AIDS, which must be conducted in a non-discriminatory manner in order to be effective.”
As the new Ugandan law prosecutes organisations aiding LGBT individuals, a high-risk group for HIV transmission, Uganda’s actions could have an adverse affect on Ugandan organisations that partner with and receive funding from PEPFAR, the United States’ flagship anti-AIDS programme.
“From a purely operation standpoint … we know that the law itself has specific ramifications for PEPFAR assistance,” Timi Gerson, the director of advocacy for American Jewish World Service (AJWS), a development organisation with operations in Uganda, told IPS. “They’re going to have to look at how this law is going to impact its ability to run those programmes.”
Gerson is hesitant about freezing all aid to Uganda, however.
“AJWS doesn’t support the cutting of fundamental aid to those countries. We don’t support stopping aid to ordinary Ugandans,” she said.
“I wouldn’t talk about cutting aid, I would talk about shifting aid. I think the real question is how you would do that on the ground in light of the situation, so that has to be first and foremost in the [U.S.] review.”
U.S. evangelical influence
Some pro-LGBT advocates are more ambivalent about U.S. aid funding in Uganda, however. They point to an unacceptable trend of U.S. funding being administered by socially conservative Christian groups that have long espoused an anti-LGBT agenda, creating an environment where anti-LGBT legislation enjoys widespread support.
U.S. funding often ends up in the hands of conservative religious groups via a complex system of grants, sub-grants and further sub-grants awarded by sub-grantees.
“[The conservatives] are doing a lot of excellent work when it comes to services like orphanages and very good, well-funded schools,” Rev. Kapya Kaoma of Political Research Associates, a social justice advocacy group, told IPS.
“The conservative schools have very good libraries, unlike other schools, but have books that present a conservative angle regarding Ugandan politics. That is an advantage for them.”
Kaoma noted that organisations headed by people like Martin Ssempa, a vehemently anti-LGBT Ugandan pastor, have received 60,000 dollars in sub-grants from organisations receiving U.S. PEPFAR funds. (Ssempa also opposes the use of condoms.)
“I hear these calls to suspend aid and I am conflicted about that,” said Kaoma. “I don’t think that’s the best way to go, as suspending aid only hurts the poor and not the rich. Museveni won’t lose a single thing.”
Instead, he advocates sanctions on Ugandan individuals responsible for the law – and on U.S. evangelicals who he says have fuelled Uganda’s anti-LGBT movement.
“The alternative is selective sanctioning targeting the people who are responsible, all the anti-gay speakers,” he said.
“If they can be sanctioned, there can be a law that says no money can move from any U.S. organisation to an [anti-LGBT] group in Uganda – then they will start feeling the pinch. If they cut aid, it could just increase hatred against LGBT people as retaliation.”
Kaoma said that he is particularly eager to prevent certain individuals from entering Uganda. He lists prominent U.S. evangelicals such as Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, Don Schmierer and Lou Engle as having directly influenced Uganda’s anti-LGBT law.
In March 2009, Lively held a conference for Ugandan political, clerical and civic elites, where he spoke to them about the “gay agenda”. Lively claimed that gays were responsible for the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide, and asserted that they were now targeting Uganda by trying to “convert” Ugandan children.
Kaoma attended and filmed the 2009 conference, featuring Lively, Brundidge and Schmierer. A week later, Ugandan parliamentarians circulated the first draft of recently enacted law.
“The original bill reads like Scott Lively speaking again,” Kaoma said.
The Centre for Constitutional Rights, a U.S.-based watchdog, is currently representing Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBT advocacy group, as it sues Lively in a U.S. court for his alleged influence on the legislation.
Lively has conducted similar anti-LGBT activism throughout Africa as well as in Ukraine and Russia.