HELSINKI- The 28 members of the European Union have collectively agreed that cutting aid to Uganda over the anti-homosexuality law is unnecessary, and that other options should be explored to resolve the difference of opinion over the law.
They also say President Museveni is a ‘strategic security ally’ in the Great Lakes and the East African region.
Mr Pekka Haavisto, Finland’s minister for International Development, said on Tuesday that the Anti-Homosexuality Law enacted in February is “extremely stupid”, but sanctions would be unhelpful.
“Pressure and boycott is sometimes a very ineffective way of causing change,” he said in an address at a Media on Development and Child Rights conference organised by Plan Finland - a children rights International NGO.
Journalists from Finland, Africa, Asia and Latin America are attending the conference.
The EU, the minister said, has been closely monitoring the situation in Uganda following the controversial Anti-homosexuality Law but has not suspended development aid because that option is unnecessary since President Museveni is am important partner on regional stability initiatives.
“[Mr] Museveni is very important in regional stability - he has all these strategic partnerships on the South Sudan and with the Americans in Somalia - Museveni has been important; you cannot just make a decision [to cut aid],” said Mr Haavisto.
Uganda has the biggest peacekeeping contingent, about 7, 000 UPDF soldiers, in Somalia and in December sent troops to stem a feared genocide in South Sudan.
The minister’s assurances, which were reportedly separately discussed during the recent EU-Africa summit, comes after three individual member of the bloc – Norway, Sweden and The Netherlands – individually either suspended or diverted planned development assistance to the Uganda government. The US on the other hand is reviewing its overall relationship with Uganda, and has frozen or scaled back some of its interventions.
President Museveni during last week’s thanks-giving prayers at Kololo for the enactment of the impugned legislation said Uganda does not need foreign aid, adding that he signed the law, among other things, to re-affirm the country’s sovereignty.
In Finland on Tuesday, minister Haavisto, revealed that the Belgian Prime Minister Elio Dio Rup strongly raised concerns about the Anti-Homosexuality Law during the EU -Africa Summit, but bloc’s members agreed to lobby for the legislation to be repealed or amended.
The EU also recognised that it could not hold President Museveni personally culpable for assenting to the law.
Therefore he said, it was better to find other ways of changing the situation “without cutting development aid”.
Finland does not provide direct budget support to Uganda and although it joined the protest over the law, it decided not to cut its assistance to the civil society.
President Museveni recently signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which invited condemnation from the West. Countries including the US, Norway, Sweden and Netherlands cut aid or have revised their bilateral relations with Uganda.
Before signing the Bill, President Barack Obama had threatened that the law would compromise the good relations between Uganda and the US.
However, President Museveni signed the law, saying he wanted to re-affirm Uganda’s sovereignty. Uganda is the second country after Nigeria to sign the anti-gays law in Africa.