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US legislators push for aid cut to Uganda over gays bill

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By Benon Herbert Oluka

Posted  Friday, March 18   2011 at  00:00
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A United States legislator has introduced a piece of legislation to an influential committee of the American Congress calling for an aid cut to Uganda and other countries deemed to be persecuting people “on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or religious belief.”

Congressman Barney Frank, who introduced the amendment in the House Financial Services Committee, said in a statement on Tuesday the amendment received unanimous backing from the legislators “although most votes in the committee have broken along party lines.”

Highlighting Uganda as one of the countries where the persecution of gays is high, Mr Frank said the committee now urges the Treasury to advocate that governments receiving assistance from the multilateral development institutions do not engage in gross violations of human rights.

“What we have seen in recent years is a pattern of gross violation of human rights in some countries–extreme physical persecution and even execution,” said Congressman Frank.

“In Uganda for example, which was the major beneficiary of our Heavily Indebted Poor Countries debt initiative, there has been physical persecution of people who are sexual minorities,” he added.

Anti-homesexuality Bill
Mr Frank said the US has a fairly influential voice in the development area and should not be supportive of providing multilateral bank development funds to countries which engage in the physical persecution of people because of their religious beliefs, sexual orientation or gender identity,” he added.

The statement says Congressman Frank’s amendment will now be included in the language of House Financial Services Committee Bill, which outlines budget priorities for issues under its jurisdiction.

The US, which is one of the leading donors to Uganda, has been very vocal about what its officials describe as persecution of ordinary Ugandans because of their sexual orientation since legislator David Bahati tabled an anti-homosexuality Bill before Parliament in October 2009.

This is the first time a US official is formally proposing an aid cut premised on the alleged persecution of gays.

The aid cut would heavily affect Uganda, which receives substantial amounts in public and project support, though the country’s donor funding to the budget has reduced from more than 70 per cent in the early 1990s to less than 30 per cent in the current budget.