What you need to know:
- The World Bank says the law fundamentally contradicts the Group’s values of inclusivity
An announcement by the World Bank suspending funding to Uganda over the enactment of anti-gay law has irked a section of Members of Parliament, who yesterday accused the US-based lender of double standards and hegemony.
In an August 8 statement, the World Bank, one of Uganda’s biggest lenders, announced a pause on approval of any new public finance projects over the adoption of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023.
The World Bank says the law fundamentally contradicts the Group’s values of inclusivity.
While the legislators acknowledge this will cause shocks and setbacks on many projects, they remain unbowed and maintain the country will not compromise on its values and laws.
They say Uganda can do without the gay-conditioned aid or opt for alternative sources of much-needed funding.
In an interview yesterday, Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa, who tabled the law questioned why the group did not respond to other human rights abuses, a signal of hypocrisy.
“Parliament has enacted harsher laws like the Public Order Management Act that literally took away associational rights and freedoms of Ugandans but they were quiet and didn’t withhold funding. Do they mean gay rights are superior to other rights?” he wondered
The Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023 came into force in May eliciting condemnation from development partners and western allies who have since threatened to impose sanctions.
The law criminalises homosexual acts, recruitment and promotion.
Mr Chris Obore, the director for communication and public affairs of Parliament, said: “If the World Bank is withdrawing funding as a punishment to the people of Uganda for standing firm on their cultural and social values then that is the decision of the World Bank.”
He added: “We only need to remain proud of our values like the Chinese, Koreans, Indians, Arabs and others are because there can never be a homogeneous world.”
Ms Santa Sandra Alum Ogwang, the Oyam District Woman MP, said: “It is so bad for the World Bank to tag their funding to the anti-gay law because we are a sovereign country, we make our own laws. We do not make laws for them and so they should not make laws for us. We are an independent state.”
Mr Jimmy Lwanga, the Njeru Municipality MP in Buikwe District said: “We are surprised to see that a financial institution like World Bank coming up to protect the rights of the minority LGBT, not focusing on the general rights of all people and how the gay rights are affecting other cultures…let them withdraw their support. We are not changing our stand.”
The legislators urged the government not to bow to the pressure, but rather plug all leakages of funds like corruption and reduce public administration expenditure to optimise the locally generated funds.
A 2021 study by the Inspectorate of Government established that the country loses Shs10 trillion to corruption. This is 19 percent of the budget for the current financial year. If addressed, the legislators say it will cover the gap left by the World Bank’s punishment.
Mr Ocen Peter, the Kole South MP, said: “Uganda should do away with corruption. Uganda has money but it is corruption taking away the money. If the money World Bank is giving is related to gay things let Uganda leave the money.”
To reduce public expenditure, Mr Mugema suggested a reduction of the size of Parliament and other officials.
Mr Frank Kabuye, the Kassanda County South MP, who expressed concern about the withdrawal causing economic shocks, said this may be a blessing in disguise for the country to address wasteful expenditure and unnecessary borrowing to address the skyrocketing public debt.
Dokolo South MP Felix Okot Ogong said: “It is a paradigm to a new direction. We should now cut our coats according to our cloth. This means that in the budgeting process, we should budget according to what we have.”
Some legislators such as Mr Basalirwa suggested that the country should focus on alternative sources of funding suggesting that the Arab world and the Middle East would make great new partners and offer support which is unconditional and interest-free.
Mr Anthony Akol, the Kilak North County MP, said the government should opt for a diplomatic way to address the matter since the World Bank supports major development projects.
For example, in the current financial year, the government is counting on Shs2.2 trillion loan from the World Bank to improve infrastructure in Greater Kampala.
Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba said: “Uganda heavily relies on foreign aid from the World Bank and other multinational institutions to facilitate a number of development projects.”
He added: “If the World Bank as one of our creditors clashes with our commitments to our funding, then we will definitely suffer as a country. It has been helping a lot with KCCA roads, water projects and many other projects will be greatly affected.”
In August 2016, the World Bank suspended lending to Uganda due to failure to kick start projects in time, poor absorptive capacity, corruption, mismanagement of projects, inability to do feasibility, social and environmental studies as well as human rights abuses in project areas. The suspension was lifted in May 2017.
Compiled by Priscilla Maloba, Jane Nafula, Rogers Magala, Andrew Kaggwa Odaka, Lydia Felly Akullu & Karim Muyobo