Thursday April 3 2014

EU-govt meeting is commendable

The fresh outlook within sections of the donor community regarding development assistance to Uganda is encouraging and progressive. Following interactions with Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa last week, the European Union ambassador to Uganda, Mr Kristian Schmidt, pledged to prevail over his colleagues by urging them to refrain from unilateral actions that are geared towards cutting development assistance to Uganda.

At least three European countries threatened to withdraw their financial support towards Uganda following the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. The enactment of the law remains a source of controversy that has since drawn negative reactions, especially from Uganda’s development partners and the country’s civil society.

Before the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was passed by Parliament, the donor community and the civil society in Uganda passionately argued against passing the Bill; and after it was passed, they appealed to President Museveni not to sign it into law. Their argument was that the law is unnecessary and retrogressive because of its potential to violate human rights.

In view of the discussions with government that are meant to fend off unilateral action by EU member states, Mr Schmidt hopes that the outcomes of their talks will lead to a mutual agreement to address the concerns that have been raised since the enactment of the anti-homosexuality law.

Even with the current moves, it appears that there is no substantive common ground on the matter. However, the attitude and willingness to seek a mutually binding position in a respectful manner is welcome. The previous attitude of threats and counter threats is futile and will only prolong the paralysis. In fact, the US and the World Bank will do well to take the path the EU is opting for.

Since the enactment of the law, the World Bank has cut about $90 million meant for rehabilitation of major hospitals. The US recently suspended funding for a pending HIV survey that was designed for high-risk populations like sex workers. With these rather hasty aid cuts already hindering access to healthcare services and hurting hundreds of thousands of Ugandans, it is important that all concerned parties exercise restraint and let sobriety prevail.

The planned EU-Government dialogue is a move in the right direction and all development partners ought to take a similar path.