Months after passage of Uganda’s anti-gay law, US has yet to announce decision on aid review

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Despite recommendations from an interagency review process, the US government has yet to complete a review and adjustment of the amount of aid designated for Uganda.

Shortly after the nation’s harshly anti-gay legislation was signed into law in February 2014, the Obama administration strongly condemned the action and announced plans to review the amount of aid Uganda receives, meaning a likely reduction.

In late March, many news sources reported that the US had elected to reduce its annual aid to Uganda—more than $700 million—by about $10 million. However, on March 28, the White House put out an official press release, titled “No changes in U.S. Assistance to Uganda.” According to the release, “The American people continue to provide over $700 million in assistance to the people of Uganda annually—more than any other donor. Virtually none of this money goes to the government. It goes to our implementing partners who use it to provide direct services to the people most in need. Our commitment to support the needs of the Ugandan people remains strong, just as it has for the last fifty years.”

The delay has caused increasing frustration for many American advocates of public health and LGBT rights, and some are accusing the White House of denying them the opportunity to consult with government officials to assist in deciding how to respond to Uganda’s law. Additionally, details regarding precisely which options are being considered, and the expected timeline, have been increasingly scarce. One source told Buzzfeed, “They haven’t been telling us anything concrete.”

On June 2, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, Chad Griffin, told President Obama in an open letter, “Delay is putting lives at risk.”

He wrote, “More than three months since the enactment of this law, I respectfully ask that you direct the Administration’s interagency review to begin issuing immediate, concrete results that will illustrate the United States’s commitment to protecting human rights in Uganda. President Museveni must understand that there will be continuing and long term political and economic consequences to state-driven homophobia.”

In addition to showing Museveni that the US means business, he continued, “An immediate demonstration of significant consequences, moreover, will put other leaders who are considering similar bills on notice that enacting anti-LGBT laws will effect their country’s relationship with the United States. A further review that incorporates Nigeria, Russia, and Brunei—countries that recently passed heinous anti-LGBT laws—is also imperative to signal to the world that these consequences are not directed solely towards Africa.”

White House National Security Council Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell would not comment on the delay or the reasons for it. However, he later said in a statement, “In response to President Museveni’s decision to assent to the Anti-Homosexuality Act, the United States took immediate steps to demonstrate our support for the LGBT community in Uganda, deter other countries from enacting similar laws, and reinforce our commitment to the promotion and defense of human rights for all people—including LGBT individuals.

“As we move forward, we will take additional steps to demonstrate our opposition to the Act and our support for LGBT persons in Uganda and around the world—recognizing that the struggle to end discrimination against LGBT persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.”

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