News Column

Gay law may ruin ties with the West

February 27, 2014

KAMPALA: Sweden's Finance Minister, Anders Borg, warned Uganda yesterday that the new bill imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality could represent a financial risk for the east African economy.

President Yoweri Museveni signed the bill on Monday, drawing immediate criticism from Western donors and Washington. Within hours, Norway and Denmark said they were holding back aid. Austria said it would review assistance.

Reflecting the gap between the policies of Western donors and some African attitudes, a Ugandan tabloid's front page carried the banner headline "Exposed" and threatened to out 200 allegedly known homosexuals, an act activists feared marked a new pogrom against the gay community.

Risk factor

"I'm really here to discuss the economy and growth opportunities, but that will be overshadowed, unfortunately, because they have taken this decision," Borg told Swedish news Agency TT, referring to the bill on homosexuality.

"It represents a financial risk for Uganda to get this type of reputation," said Borg, who was in Uganda on Monday and yesterday and met gay activists the day the law was signed.

If the aid cuts become widespread, Uganda, east Africa's third-biggest economy, could be forced to cut spending or borrow deeper. When donors suspended aid in 2012 over graft concerns, Uganda revised its growth outlook downwards.

The new bill strengthens existing punishments for anyone caught having gay sex, imposing jail terms of up to life for "aggravated homosexuality".

US Secretary of State John Kerry said it "complicates a valued relationship", adding that Washington would review ties with Museveni and his government. - Reuters

The Mercury

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Source: Mercury, The (South Africa)

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