Further U.S. Efforts to Protect Human Rights in Uganda

Our hopes for a more peaceful and just world depend on respect for the rights and dignity of all people. It is for this reason that our foreign policy champions human rights and opposes violence and discrimination that targets people because of who they are and whom they love. President Obama's groundbreaking Presidential Memorandum of December 6, 2011 reflected this commitment by directing the federal government to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT people abroad.  

We have seen extraordinary advances for LGBT rights in the United States and in many countries around the world. But some governments have challenged this progress, with results that not only endanger local LGBT communities, but also pose a setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice, and equal rights.   

The Government of Uganda's enactment of the “Anti-Homosexuality Act” is precisely such a step in the wrong direction. As President Obama made clear in February, the enactment of the AHA is more than an affront to the LGBT community in Uganda — it calls into question the Government of Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of all its people, and complicates our bilateral relationship.

After thorough consideration, the U.S. government is taking a number of actions to underscore the critical importance we place on human rights and fighting against discrimination, protecting vulnerable populations, respecting freedom of expression and association, and advancing inclusive governance. In particular:

  • Restricting entry to the United States. We want human rights abusers, worldwide, to know their misdeeds are not unnoticed and would-be human rights abusers to understand that there are consequences for engaging in such actions. The State Department is therefore taking steps consistent with its current authorities (including Presidential Proclamation 8697) to restrict the entry into the United States of specific Ugandan individuals involved in serious violations or abuses of human rights, including those determined to have committed such violations or abuses against LGBT individuals. While we will not identify the individuals whom we have watch-listed in line with confidentiality requirements, this step makes clear our commitment to sanctioning individuals determined to have perpetrated human rights abuses or who are responsible for such acts in the future. In addition, the United States will also take steps consistent with current authorities to restrict entry into the United States by Ugandans who are found responsible for significant public corruption.
     
  • Ceasing support for Uganda’s community policing program. We are very concerned about the extent to which the Ugandan police may be involved in abusive activities undertaken in the name of implementing the AHA. These concerns relate to the April 3 raid on a U.S.-funded public health program at Makerere University, as well as credible reports of individuals detained and abused while in police custody. Therefore, even as we continue to press the police at every level to fulfill their responsibility to protect all Ugandans, we will also be discontinuing a $2.4 million program in support for the Uganda Police Force community-policing program.
     
  • Redirecting certain financial support for the Ministry of Health (MOH) to other partners. We remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting the health needs of the Ugandan people, but we seek to invest in partners and programs that share our commitment to equal access and our evidence-based approach to medicine and science. We are accordingly shifting a portion of our financial support for MOH salaries, travel expenses, and other items to health-related activities being undertaken by non-governmental partners in Uganda. These modifications will focus on MOH central headquarters staff in order to avoid negatively affecting health care workers and direct service providers in Uganda. 
     
  • Relocating funds for a planned public health institute and other measures relating to health programming. For similar reasons, we are relocating to another African country the planned establishment of a National Public Health Institute, for which we would have provided approximately $3 million in funding. We have also relocated a National Institutes of Health genomics meeting from Uganda to South Africa. 
     
  • Cancelling a military aviation exercise. We have also cancelled plans to conduct the Department of Defense’s Africa Partnership Flight exercise in Uganda. This was intended to be a United States African Command (AFRICOM)-sponsored aviation exercise with other East African partners.   

These steps are in addition to the measures that we announced in March. Among other things, we took steps at that time to redirect funding away from program implementers whose actions called into question their willingness to serve all people in need, to shift certain military and intelligence engagements to other locations, and to suspend certain near-term invitational travel for Ugandan military and police officials. 

In taking the measures that we have described, the U.S. government is mindful of the wide range of issues encompassed by our relationship with Uganda — including our development and humanitarian support for the Ugandan people, our efforts to counter the murderous Lord’s Resistance Army, and a partnership that advances our security interests in the region. We will seek to advance these interests while also working with both governmental and non-governmental partners to end discrimination against LGBT people in Uganda and around the world — a struggle central to the United States’ commitment to promoting human rights.

Grant Harris currently serves as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs on the National Security Council. Stephen Pomper is the Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the National Security Council.
Related Topics: Sub Saharan Africa
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