Uganda claims that US sanctions will harm ‘the most vulnerable people’

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Uganda has warned that “regrettable” US sanctions over a recently introduced anti-gay law may harm “the most vulnerable people” in the country.

In a statement the foreign affairs ministry suggested that “some of the halted funding and programmes in Uganda are those that will affect the most vulnerable people that the US government purports to support and aims to protect.”

This is in line with guidance issued by the Kampala-based Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights & Constitutional Law, which has warned that general aids cuts would harm the people rather than the government.

Uganda’s Parliament and President Yoweri Museveni this year signed into law the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which includes penalties of up to 14 years in prison for “repeat offenders”.

In response, the US government announced sanctions on Friday, with a spokesperson stating that these would not harm America’s “commitment to providing development and humanitarian support for the Ugandan people”.

Reports also suggest that the new law already prevents LGBT Ugandans from benefitting from US aid.

In April, Ugandan authorities raided the US-funded Makerere University Walter Reed Project, researching into HIV-prevention and treatment, and arrested an employee allegedly for “recruiting homosexuals”.

Although health minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda pledged that health services would continue to be offered without discrimination after the passing of the law, testimonies from a report last month by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International claim that services are being denied to LGBT patients.

The report also criticised the police force, US funding for which will be cut by these sanctions, noting that “LGBTI people have faced a notable increase in arbitrary arrests, police abuse and extortion”.