Ireland has announced that it will not reduce its aid to Uganda, despite disapproval of its notoriously harsh new anti-gay laws.
Before President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexual Bill, commonly known as the “jail all the gays” bill, into law, Ireland’s Tanaiste (deputy prime minister) Eamon Gilmore had warned that “the enactment of this draconian legislation would affect our valued relationship with Uganda.” The bill allows life imprisonment for convictions of “aggravated homosexuality,” as well as jail time for first time offenders, promoters of LGBT rights, those providing counseling services, and failure to report known homosexuals to the police.
However, Ugandan LGBT activists have expressed concern about the potential impact of such actions. In addition to worries about the LGBT community being blamed for cuts, many badly needed resources could suffer—for example, the World Bank’s $90 million intended loan, which has been postponed until further notice, was meant to go towards supporting maternal health and building new hospitals. Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda member Frank Mugisha warned that punishing the country with cutting aid could “create new victims.”
Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs agreed, and pointed out that reducing their aid to Uganda will not benefit its most vulnerable citizens, according to the Journal.
The Irish government gives about €16 million ($24 million USD) in development assistance annually, although all aid was suspended for a time in 2012 until €4 million in aid that the prime minister’s office had misappropriated was repaid.
The secretary general of the Department of Foreign Affairs, David Cooney, explained that the developmental aid is not for the benefit of Museveni or the country’s lawmakers. Additionally, as he pointed out, Ireland had asked for—and received—aid from the European Union in the early 1990s, when Ireland itself still criminalized homosexuality.
The Journal reported Cooney as adding, “We have come a long way in this country over a short period. It’s a matter of education and bringing people along…I don’t think our reaction should be that we would cease aid.”