At the President’s direction, the United States has deployed CV-22 Ospreys, refueling aircraft, and associated support personnel to augment U.S. support for the African Union (AU) Regional Task Force’s counter-Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) mission.
Our African partners have consistently identified airlift as one of their greatest limiting factors as they pursue the LRA across a wide swath of difficult terrain. Providing these assets on a temporary basis, as the aircraft are available, will enhance the AU’s ability to transport personnel and materiel throughout its area of operations, enabling the AU to conduct targeted operations to apprehend LRA combatants. During these periodic deployments, the total number of U.S. Forces deployed to the region will fluctuate up to approximately 300.
The aircraft will be based in Uganda, but will be used in the LRA-affected areas of the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan to support the AU Regional Task Force’s operations. This deployment is just one part of our broader efforts to counter the LRA, which aim to protect civilians in central Africa, provide humanitarian assistance to those in need, and ensure justice for some of the world’s most notorious perpetrators of atrocities.
As we move forward with the deployment of the Ospreys to support the AU, we are cognizant that there are many who share our concerns about Ugandan President Museveni’s recent enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Ensuring justice and accountability for human rights violators like the LRA and protecting LGBT rights aren’t mutually exclusive. We can and must do both.
Accordingly, we have taken the following immediate steps while we continue to consider the implications of President Museveni’s decision to enact the Anti-Homosexuality Act and how to demonstrate our support for the LGBT community in Uganda, deter other countries from enacting similar laws, and reinforce our commitment to the promotion and defense of human rights for all people – including LGBT individuals – as a U.S. priority:
- We are shifting funding away from partners whose actions don’t reflect our values, including the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU). The IRCU’s public stance on homosexuality could foster an atmosphere of discrimination that runs counter to efforts to provide an effective and non-discriminatory response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. While the IRCU will receive $2.3 million to ensure uninterrupted delivery of treatment to the 50,000 people under its care, we will shift the remaining $6.4 million of IRCU’s funding to other partners.
- An effective HIV strategy must reach and treat key at-risk populations. However, the act’s provisions against "promotion" and abetting homosexuality leave questions about what researchers, health workers, and others may do under the law. As a result, we are suspending the start of a survey to estimate the size of key at-risk populations that was to be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Uganda’s Makarere University. Proceeding with the survey could pose a danger to respondents and staff.
- The act potentially threatens the safety of LGBT tourists in Uganda and the liberty of those who show support for Uganda's LGBT community. Therefore, approximately $3 million in funding designated for tourism and biodiversity promotion will be redirected to NGOs working on biodiversity protection.
- We will shift the Department of Defense-sponsored Africa Air Chiefs Symposium and East Africa Military Intelligence Non-Commissioned Officer course to locations outside of Uganda. Certain near-term invitational travel for Ugandan military and police has been suspended or canceled.
We continue to look at additional steps we may take, to work to protect LGBT individuals from violence and discrimination, and to urge Uganda to repeal this abhorrent law.
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.