President Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone has urged the West to consider ‘culture, tradition [and] religious beliefs’ in Uganda before cutting aid money following the country's new anti-gay law
Sierra Leone President Ernest Koroma has added his voice to the Uganda aid cut debate, saying ‘it is not right for issues to be imposed lock, stock and barrel from the international world’.
His remarks come after several European countries have frozen or redirected aid money in response to the signing of a new anti-gay bill by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Monday (24 February).
Sweden has also said it is considering freezing its aid donation to Uganda.
Speaking to reporters in Abuja, Nigeria, President Koroma said: ‘We have to ensure that the communities are sensitised well enough. It is not right for issues to be imposed lock, stock and barrel from the international world.’
‘We have to take into consideration our culture, tradition, religious beliefs and all that.’
Sierra Leone is one of several African countries to permit female same-sex activity but forbid male same-sex activity. The law referring to sodomy dates back to 1861 when the country was under British colonial rule, and is ‘seldom enforced’.
Koroma continued: ‘I believe that on issues like this, like it is happening in other sensitive areas, time should be given to countries to engage.
‘I believe with engagement with our communities, sensitization and other public awareness programmes, we will get at a consensus.
‘When a country arrives at a consensus, I think the country should be led by what it believes is right for the country and not what is necessarily right for the international community because of the variations in our traditions.’
Ugandan LGBTI activists have spoken against aid cuts, saying they will only make it harder to fight against the new law.
There has been widespread global backlash to the bill, which imposes life imprisonment for repeat offenders, and US state secretary John Kerry has said America will be reviewing its relations with Uganda.