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Uganda’s anti-gay law causes significant cuts to foreign aid

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signs an anti-homosexual bill into law at the state house in Entebbe on Feb. 24.

JAMES AKENA/REUTERS

Uganda's new anti-gay law is costing the East African country millions of dollars in lost foreign aid.

The law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality, which President Yoweri Museveni signed on Monday, has been met by waves of protests from rights groups and pointed criticism from Western governments and the United Nations.

On Wednesday, Denmark said it would redirect the equivalent of $10-million intended for the Ugandan government to human rights and private sector organizations.

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"I stand committed to continue to support Ugandan civil society – not least to the organizations that seek to promote democracy and human rights," Trade Minister Mogens Jensen said in a statement.

Norway has said it would hold back $9-million in aid while also increasing funding for human rights and democracy groups.

"For several years the human rights situation in Uganda has been deteriorating. We are concerned, as are local organizations, that the new law will lead to the persecution of sexual minorities in the country," Foreign Affairs Minister Børge Brende said in a statement Monday.

Sweden has said it will reconsider redirecting some $10-million in planned assistance to Uganda.

"I want to emphasize that our aid is not given unconditionally," said Hillevi Engström, Minister for International Development Co-operation. "We continuously review our forms of co-operation with all our aid recipients, including Uganda. Uganda's decision to enact this legislation may, of course, affect the way in which we conduct development co-operation in the country."

The Netherlands suspended a $10.5-million subsidy to the Ugandan government, which consisted of support for the country's justice sector and said it planned to propose international measures, including through the European Union.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned that Washington could cut aid to the East African nation over the new law.

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"We are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values," Mr. Kerry said in a statement on Monday.

The Canadian government has condemned the Ugandan law and said it "will serve as an impediment in our relationship with the Ugandan government" but has not announced any concrete measures.

"Canada has repeatedly raised our concerns with the government of Uganda, and we have done so again," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement on Monday. "Our engagement on human rights issues will only become more persistent. We will continue to support efforts to decriminalize homosexuality and combat violence against people on the basis of their sexual orientation."

Meanwhile, a Canadian aid organization that works to combat child hunger in Uganda said the government's new law will not affect its operations.

"We don't do any advocacy. It's almost like it's a moot point for us because our programs are focused solely on income generation and education of children," said Jennifer Watson, a spokeswoman for Canadian Feed the Children, which delivers programs through local partners in Uganda.

With a report from The Associated Press

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