UK Government rules out imposing travel ban on anti-gay Ugandan MPs

Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire has ruled out imposing a travel ban on Uganda’s politicians who support the country’s anti-gay legislation.

Conservative MP Crispin Blunt argued that Britain should impose a travel ban on Rebecca Kadaga and other senior Ugandan politicians during a House of Commons debate on how the UK should promote LGBT rights in the country.

In December last year, Uganda’s Parliament passed legislation to toughen the punishment for same-sex sexual activity, including life imprisonment for ‘repeat offenders’.

President Yoweri Museveni gave assent to the Anti-Homosexuality Act in February.

Ms Kadaga, the Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament, was seen as the driving force behind the law.

“We have listened carefully in this debate and elsewhere on calls to consider sanctions against those who have supported the anti-homosexuality law,” Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire said on Wednesday evening.

“The United Kingdom has already ended budget support payments to the Ugandan Government following concerns about corruption last year.

“Our development programme to Uganda goes through a variety of channels, including private sector organisations, NGOs and multilateral agencies. And as my Right Honourable Friend the Minister for Africa (Mark Simmons) said in the debate on 12th February, ‘we do not believe imposing travel bans or any other sanctions on supporters of the bill would be effective in promoting a rethink’.”

Mr Swire continued: “It’s worth bearing in mind there is widespread support for the legislation in Uganda. So we must be mindful of the requests made to the international community not to make well-intentioned public statements and threats which many activists in Uganda fear would be counterproductive and likely to worsen the situation of LGBT individuals on the ground or harm efforts to promote LGBT rights.”

Mr Swire added: “The guidelines issued on 3rd March by the Ugandan Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, which includes LGBT groups [and] Sexual Minorities Uganda, do not call for travel bans or other sanctions.”

Conservative MP Crispin Blunt interrupted Mr Swire’s response to say that the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, Dr Frank Mugisha, had previously told him and Foreign Secretary William Hague that he supported a travel ban.

Mr Swire reiterated his position, saying: “I just repeat that the Ugandan Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights, which includes LGBT groups, including Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) do not call for travel bans or other sanctions.”

The Minister added that he was happy to discuss the matter further with Mr Blunt in order to settle the confusion.

Labour MP Pamela Nash, who had tabled the debate, then interrupted to say that SMUG opposes a blanket travel ban for all Ugandans MPs, but that it did support Mr Blunt’s proposals of targeted sanctions against chief backers of the law such as David Bahati and Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo.

Following Ms Nash’s intervention, Mr Swire said he would hold a meeting with Minister for Africa Mark Simmons and International Development Minister Lyne Featherstone to discuss the issue further.