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Western donors cut aid to Uganda in response to anti-gay law

by Alex Whiting | @AlexWhi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 16:00 GMT

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signs an anti-homosexual bill into law at state house in Entebbe, 36 km southwest of the capital Kampala. Picture February 24, 2014, REUTERS/James Akena

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Ugandan law criminalising homosexuality leads several Western donors to halt aid or review aid programmes to show disapproval, pushing down value of Ugandan currency

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Several Western governments have announced cuts in aid to Uganda after President Yoweri Museveni signed a law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality.

The law, signed on Monday, strengthens punishments for anyone caught having gay sex, including jail terms of up to life for gay sex with a minor or while HIV-positive. It criminalises lesbianism for the first time. 

Western donors have been swift to condemn the legislation.

Here’s a quick round-up of donor responses to the news:

Denmark announced on Wednesday it is withholding $9.2 million (DKK 50m) in government to government aid and redirecting it to civil society and the private sector. Future development aid is also likely to be directed away from the government, except aid that pays for water and rural roads, Danish Trade and Development Cooperation Minister Mogens Jensen said.

The Netherlands is cutting $9.6 million in aid to the Ugandan government, originally planned to help improve its judicial system.

Norway has withdrawn $8.3 million in direct government aid, and is diverting funds to human rights and democracy defenders in Uganda. Foreign Minister Borge Brende said Norway is reviewing its entire aid budget to Uganda.

The United States, Uganda’s largest aid donor, is reviewing “all dimensions” of its engagement with Kampala, including its aid programmes, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement on Monday.

Prominent U.S. policymakers have urged the United States to temporarily halt the $456.3m in aid to Uganda that Congress has appropriated for the coming fiscal year.

Austria and Sweden are also reviewing their aid programmes. Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg warned Uganda on Tuesday that the new law could represent a financial risk for the Ugandan economy.

If the aid cuts become widespread, Uganda could be forced to cut spending or increase its borrowing. The Ugandan shilling has tumbled in value against the dollar over fears of more aid cuts by Western donors.

When donors suspended aid in 2012 because of concern over graft, Uganda revised its growth outlook downwards.

Britain does not send direct aid to Kampala and is not cutting its development budget. Its development funds are channelled through international aid agencies and local NGOs, the Department for International Development said.

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