Ugandan anti-gay law could affect relations with Ireland

Activists in East African country fear pogrom after tabloid outs homosexuals

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni signed the anti-gay bill into law on Monday. Photograph: Getty Images

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni signed the anti-gay bill into law on Monday. Photograph: Getty Images


The signing into law of an “extremely disappointing” anti-gay bill in Uganda could damage relations between Ireland and the east African country.

The new legislation, which has received international condemnation, imposes jail terms of up to life for “aggravated homosexuality” - including sex with a minor or while HIV positive. It also criminalises lesbianism and makes it a crime to help individuals engage in homosexual acts.

Ireland previously suspended all direct bilateral aid to Uganda after €4 million in funding was stolen by senior government officials. Irish Aid has said direct funding will not resume until Uganda has strengthened its internal financial controls.

This afternoon Minister of State for Development Joe Costello said the new law is unlikely to hasten any bilateral relationship between the two countries.

“The situation now that has developed is extremely disappointing we did a lot of work to try and persuade president Museveni from going down the road that he has pursued and we’ve been working also with the European Union with other members in that respect in Uganda.

“I will await a report from our embassy before we see what further action may be necessary in relation to this matter but certainly I cannot see it hastening any bilateral relationship with our two countries in relation to overseas development aid.”

The United States secretary of state John Kerry warned that Washington could cut aid to the country and said the signing of the bill marked a “a tragic day for Uganda and for all who care about the cause of human rights”.

Norway and Denmark have already decided to hold back aid and today Sweden’s finance minister Anders Borg also warned the new legislation could represent a financial risk for the east African economy.

“It represents a financial risk for Uganda to get this type of reputation,” said Mr Borg, who was in Uganda yesterday and today.

Meanwhile, the country’s leading tabloid the Red Pepper today published a list of what it called the country’s “200 top” homosexuals, including photographs and personal details such as places of work.

Activists feared the article, which carried the headline “Exposed”, marked a new pogrom against the gay community. “They are exposing people at a very dangerous time,” said Julian Onziema Pepe, a spokesman for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG).

Additional reporting: Reuters