The IRCU’s Council of Presidents
A Ugandan religious organisation has been forced to let its staff go after the US government cut its funding because of the group’s support for the persecution of gays and lesbians.
The Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) has over the years received tens of millions of dollars through USAID as part of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
The multi-denominational organisation, however, not only brought its conservative religious views into the fight against the HIV epidemic but also openly backed the oppression of LGBT people.
Catholic, Anglican and Muslim religious leaders, often through the IRCU, played a major role in supporting and lobbying for the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. This included the organisation taking out newspaper ads calling for President Museveni to approve the legislation.
In February, the group welcomed the president’s signing of the law, stating in a press release that it “will go a long way in combating activities aimed at recruitment, funding and promotion of homosexuality in Uganda, and protecting the National Constitution, our African Culture; and Moral and Religious values.”
IRCU also supported the Ugandan government’s legal defence of the law last month in the Constitutional Court, which ultimately annulled the legislation for procedural reasons.
Despite it’s ongoing anti-gay activities, it was only in March that the US State Department announced that it would “demonstrate our support for the LGBT community in Uganda” by removing funding to the organisation.
The Observer reported that the group is now “on its knees” following the withdrawal of US grants to the value of $34.5 million, which accounted for around 90% of its budget. IRCU’s staff complement of 55 people has now been reduced to five people.
USAID is said to be continuing to support the HIV/AIDS projects that IRCU was overseeing, but has cut the organisation out of the loop. IRCU remains defiant and says it plans to find alternative funding.
“The Americans misunderstood the role of faith leaders in society. They thought that because they are religious leaders, they couldn’t stand against the law because it infringed on human rights issues,” commented IRCU General Secretary Joshua Kitakule.
“This is a law that deals with morality and religious leaders will always condemn sin but can’t discriminate against anyone because when we go to mosques or churches, they never ask who we are but preach against the sins that we commit,” he said.
Kitakule accused the US of pressuring European aid agencies to also withdraw their funding.