Uganda aid to continue despite controversial anti-gay bill

Denmark will continue to send support to Uganda despite their anti-gay sentiments, but sexual minority groups to get bigger share

Every year, Denmark sends 300 million kroner in support to Uganda, the third largest annual donation the east-African country receives.

But since 2009, the Ugandan parliament has been leading a crusade against gays and lesbians in the country, and the debate over Danish support hit fever pitch in March when the Ugandan parliament began discussing whether homosexuality should be punishable by death.

The development minister, Christian Friis Bach (Radikale), has been criticised by for his leniency in the matter but said that the best course of action was maintaining a presence in Uganda. He contended that cancelling the support would only make matters worse for sexual minorities in the country.

Bach met with the foreign minister, Villy Søvndal (Socialistisk Folkeparti), and Ugandan sexual minority rights advocate Frank Mugisha on Tuesday, and they have decided that while development aid should continue to flow to Uganda, it could be restructured to focus more on the gay rights issue. The plan could especially hinge on the use of non-government organisations (NGOs) operating in Uganda.

Bach’s prospective move is backed by human rights organisation Amnesty Denmark which has campaigned for better rights for gay and lesbians in Uganda.

“The homosexual organisations in Uganda work under very difficult conditions,” Amnesty’s campaign coordinator, Helle Jacobsen, told Politiken newspaper. “That is why it is essential for us that Denmark funnels a part of their aid to these organisations directly, as well as applying political pressure on the government in Kampala.”

The political pressure Jacobsen referred to is in connection to the Ugandan parliament’s imminent vote on the notorious bill, reintroduced in February 2012, which would allow homosexuality to be punishable by the death penalty.

But Bach maintained that even if this were to happen, development aid should still be sent to the country, which is set to receive 1.3 billion kroner over the next five years.

“If we cease our projects, such as for better education and clean drinking water, people in Uganda will feel that they are being punished and will vent their anger at the homosexual community,” Bach told Politiken newspaper.

Aside from Uganda, there are many other countries in Africa that prosecute homosexuality, including Sudan, Mauritania, Tanzania, Sierra Leone and parts of Nigeria and Somalia.