Activists say the European Union cannot maintain a “business as usual” relationship with Uganda. (Photo: Alexandros Michailidis)
LGBTIQ+ activists in Uganda have denounced the European Union for its decision to maintain funding for the country despite the imposition of its harsh anti-homosexuality law.
On Wednesday, Jutta Urpilainen, the European Commissioner for International Partnerships, told the European Parliament that the EU had raised concerns about the law with the Ugandan Government. She also pledged EU support for LGBTIQ+ equality through various forums and meetings.
In a written statement, she acknowledged that the criminalisation of homosexuality contradicts the principles of equality and non-discrimination outlined in both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
Urpilainen argued, however, that suspending financial aid to Uganda would adversely affect vulnerable populations, including LGBTIQ+ individuals. She added, “EU disengagement could also create opportunities for other actors who do not share EU values.”
The EU reaffirmed its commitment to engaging with Ugandan authorities and vowed to bolster its support for civil society and LGBTIQ defenders.
EU decision in conflict with calls by LGBTQ activists
The EU’s decision contrasts with the World Bank’s recent suspension of new loans to Uganda and the United States government’s imposition of visa restrictions on Ugandan officials in response to the stringent law.
Ugandan LGBTIQ groups have also directly called on the international community to follow the World Bank’s lead and hold the Ugandan government accountable for its actions.
Clare Byarugaba, representing Convening for Equality Uganda (CFE), expressed disappointment, stating, “The recent EU announcement misses a critical opportunity to take more strategic action to protect the fundamental principle of non-discrimination, something the EU and EU member states claim a deep commitment to.”
Frank Mugisha, a notable Ugandan human rights defender, questioned the EU’s rationale for maintaining “business as usual” and called for the reallocation of funds to ensure that those who promote hatred, violence and discrimination against LGBTIQ people, including Ugandan government officials, do not benefit from EU taxpayers’ money.
Reports indicate that at least five individuals have been charged under the Anti-Homosexuality Act since it was signed into law in May, with two of them facing the death penalty for alleged “aggravated homosexuality.”