Monday, October 31, 2011

UK Premier threatens to suspend aid over anti-gay Bill

By Richard Wanambwa


United Kingdom has warned countries that have banned homosexuality, saying UK aid to such nations is likely to end if such discrimination is not checked. Uganda being inclusive on the list of nations that have or intend to ban homosexuality stand to lose the annual foreign aid from UK.

During his tenure in office as UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown announced Britain’s aid amounting to 70 million pounds each year for a period of 10 years which would stand at 700 million pounds. But David Cameron has threatened to withhold aid from governments that do not reform legislation banning homosexuality.

The UK prime minister said he raised the issue with some of the states at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia. “Britain is one of the premier aid givers in the world. We want to see countries that receive our aid adhering to proper human rights. It is one of the things that determine our aid policy, and there have been particularly bad examples where we have taken action,” Mr Cameron said.

Human rights reform in the Commonwealth was one of the issues that leaders failed to agree upon at the summit. Mr Cameron said those receiving UK aid should “adhere to proper human rights”. Ending the ban on homosexuality was one of the recommendations of an internal report into the future relevance of the Commonwealth.

Mr Cameron’s threat applies only to one type of bilateral aid known as general budget support, and would not reduce the overall amount of aid to any one country. Malawi has already had some of its budget support suspended over concerns about its attitude to gay rights.

No pressure
Concerns have also been raised with the governments of Uganda and Ghana. But he conceded that countries could not change immediately, and cautioned that there would be a “journey”. “This is an issue where we are pushing for movement; we are prepared to put some money behind what we believe in. But I am afraid that you can’t expect countries to change overnight,” he said.

Cameron said he had spoken with a number of African countries and that more pressure had been applied by Foreign Secretary William Hague, who deputised him during parts of the summit. Some 41 nations within the 54-member Commonwealth have laws banning homosexuality. Many of these laws are a legacy of British Empire laws.

Malawi recently had £19m of its budget support suspended following various infractions including poor progress on human rights and media freedoms and concern over the government’s approach to gay rights.

The Bill to ban homosexuals in Parliament was brought forward by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati. However, midway, it raised controversy leading to both internal and external supporters of the gay rights to question Uganda’s interest in enacting such a law.

Mr Bahati, the mover of the Bill, was at one point locked out of the conference in America because of his perceived anti-gay stand. Information Minister Mary Karooro Okurut refused to comment on the issue while referring this paper to Fr. Simon Lokodo, the Minister of Ethics and Integrity whose mobile phone was switched off.

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