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Gay Uganda’s plea: ‘Don’t cut aid, you’ll make it worse’

As Netherlands, Norway and Denmark announce aid changes, gay activists have responded to the worldwide call to cut aid to the African country
SMUG's Frank Mugisha has warned aid cuts could lead to more violence.

Uganda gay activists have warned the worldwide call for aid to be cut will make the fight-back against the new law harder.

Several advocates for LGBTI equality fear politicians will directly blame gay people if aid is cut and increase hatred against them.

After Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni signed the anti-gay bill into law on Monday (24 February), the Netherlands has announced it has frozen aid while Denmark and Norway is redirecting its assistance so it directly helps non-governmental organizations and human rights groups.

Sweden has said it will reconsider the nation’s program, while US President Barack Obama has warned the anti-gay law will force him to reconsider the reported $400 million (€291m) in donations to Uganda.

The UK cut around £27 million ($45m, €33m) aid to Uganda last year after investigations were launched into accusations of the prime minister’s corruption.

And with many other donors threatening to cut aid, Uganda’s economy has taken a hit with the shilling dropping for three straight days.

Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, has said he does not support aid cuts.

‘We can’t afford to create new victims,’ he said on Twitter this week. ‘We should go after the crazy politicians! Not innocent Ugandans.’

In February this year, prominent Ugandan LGBTI rights activist Abbey Kiwanuka petitioned the Dutch foreign affairs committee to use other ways to persuade Uganda not to make the bill law instead of cutting aid.

His pleas were turned down.

Edwin Sesange, director of the African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group, said in a Gay Star News comment piece: ‘Aid in various forms helps all ordinary Ugandans, including LGBTI people who we are campaigning for.

‘Therefore the consequences of not being able to access those services financed by foreign aid will directly impact gay, lesbian, trans and bi Ugandans wellbeing.

‘Our parents, sisters, brothers, friends and other relatives will also become victims. By contrast, most proponents of homophobia in Uganda can afford luxurious lives without depending on some foreign aid funded projects.

He added: ‘Politicians and the anti-gay vigilantes are using this threat from developed countries as a way of convincing people the west is using foreign aid and its influence to spread homosexuality to Uganda.

‘We need to change this argument such people can understand the role of the western countries has is fighting homophobia, not making people gay.

‘Western leaders need to assess the risks of their strategies before LGBTI people pay the consequences.’

And Val Kalende, a Ugandan-born activist living in California, say many other activists are fearing the community will become a target for more violence.

‘African LGBTI activists know too well what the consequences of aid cuts would be – especially the backlash against LGBTI people,’ she said.

‘LGBTI activists in Uganda remain convinced withdrawing foreign aid from Uganda’s public sector will not make Uganda a better place for LGBTI citizens; certainly not for the rest of Ugandan citizens.’

The new anti-gay law punishes homosexuality with up to life in prison.

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