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News+Politics
World Bank Withholds Money From Uganda Over Anti-Gay Law
February 28, 2014
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Demonstrators in Uganda celebrate the country's anti-gay bill passing into law on Monday. (REUTERS/Edward Echwalu)

When Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed an anti-gay bill into law on Monday, we reported that there would likely be repercussions from the international community. Well, less than a week later, the country is facing a large blow.

On Thursday, the World Bank postponed a $90-million loan earmarked for Uganda's health system, citing the recently signed law that increased punishment for gay people in the African country.

The law imposes 14-year sentences for first time offenders, but those found guilty of "aggravated homosexuality" — which includes repeated homosexual acts as well as acts where one partner is a minor, disabled person or person with HIV — will face a life sentence.

"We have postponed the project for further review to ensure that the development objectives would not be adversely affected by the enactment of this new law," a World Bank spokesman told AFP.

And in an editorial published yesterday in the Washington Post, Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, defended sanctions against countries that pass discrimination into law, writing, "At the World Bank Group, we will have a full internal discussion over the coming months about discrimination more broadly and how it would affect our projects and our gay and lesbian staff members. My view is that the fight to eliminate all institutionalized discrimination is an urgent task."

Uganda relies heavily on international aid. This particular loan was supposed to be used for maternal health, newborn care and family planning. 

Unsurprisingly, the Ugandan government is not taking the news lightly. 

"There was a time when the international community believed slave trade and slavery was cool, that colonialism was cool, that coups against African governments was cool," Ofwono Opondo, a spokesperson for the Government of Uganda, told the BBC. "I think the best way forward is constructive engagement but... I think Uganda and Africa in general should stand up to this blackmail."

Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands have already announced that they will be withholding aid from Uganda. Other countries — including the United States, which contributes about $400 million a year to the country — are reviewing their policies.

Canada has also condemned Uganda's anti-gay law. On Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said this in a statement: “Canada has repeatedly raised our concerns with the government of Uganda, and we have done so again. 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.”

According to the Canadian International Development Platform, a data-focused think tank, Canada sent about $41 million in aid to Uganda in 2012. 

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