In a surprising move that has stirred controversy within pro-gay advocacy groups, the European Union (EU) has declared its intention to maintain financial support for Uganda, even in the wake of the contentious enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.
In an official statement addressed to the European Parliament and released on Wednesday, Ms. Jutta Urpilainen, the European Commissioner for International Partnerships, asserted that suspending EU financial assistance to Uganda due to the law, which imposes severe penalties for specific same-sex activities, would result in withholding vital aid from vulnerable communities.
“At this juncture, the EU believes that withholding financial support from Uganda would have adverse effects on the most vulnerable populations, including LGBTQI individuals. EU disengagement might also create voids that could potentially be filled by other entities that do not share EU values,” the statement read in part.
Ms. Urpilainen added, “Hence, the EU will persist in utilizing every avenue for engagement with Ugandan authorities and civil society, including within the framework of development cooperation and broader partnerships, to ensure that every individual, irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity, is treated with equality.”
Ms. Urpilainen revealed that high-ranking EU officials had already expressed profound concerns regarding the enactment of the law and had raised the issue with the Ugandan government, Parliament, and President.
The EU’s stance, which has been confirmed by its representatives in Kampala, is likely to provide some relief to the Ugandan authorities.
Since the law was passed, Uganda’s Western allies have been critical of the government.
United States President Joe Biden labeled the law a tragic violation of universal human rights, and his administration, led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, threatened sanctions, including visa restrictions on Ugandan officials.
The US has since imposed visa restrictions on certain officials. The World Bank has taken the strongest action, announcing a freeze on all new public financing to Uganda last month.
In response to these threats from Western allies, President Museveni and other government officials have openly defied the pressure.
For instance, in reaction to the World Bank’s decision, President Museveni stated that Uganda would reduce its borrowing but would not yield to pressure.
The EU’s decision came shortly after Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, leader of the National Unity Platform (NUP) party, called upon the EU and the US to cease funding the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) government.
In June, Mr. Tomas Tobé, Chairperson of the European Parliament’s Development Committee, wrote to Josep Borrell Fontelles, Vice President of the European Commission High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, condemning the anti-homosexuality law as an unacceptable and “flagrant violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
Tobé expressed concerns about the law’s far-reaching implications, including undermining efforts to combat HIV and damaging Uganda’s reputation as a destination for foreign investment and development assistance.
He urged the EU to take action under the ‘essential elements’ clause of the Cotonou Agreement and increase support for Ugandan human rights defenders and lawyers challenging the law in court.