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U.S. 'reviewing' Uganda aid, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands halt aid

Feb. 25, 2014 at 2:14 PM   |   Comments

KAMPALA, Uganda, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- U.S. and Canadian officials say they are reviewing relations with Uganda because of a new law they say violates human rights by cracking down on homosexuals.

The development comes one day after Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands said they would hold back millions of dollars in aid to Uganda to protest the law, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement Monday the United States is reviewing its relationship with Uganda "to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values."

Kerry urged repeal of the law, and said Washington is "deeply concerned about the law's potential to set back public health efforts in Uganda, including those to address HIV/AIDS, which must be conducted in a non-discriminatory manner in order to be effective."

He echoed a comment by U.S. President Barack Obama that the legislation "is not just morally wrong, it complicates a valued relationship."

The State Department said in October Washington is Uganda's largest bilateral donor, with aid "promoting good governance, human rights, multiparty democracy, and free and fair elections," and helping professionalize police and military, address health issues, family planning, agriculture and food security.

In addition, the United States provides "a small number" of military advisers to help the Ugandan government counter the Lord's Resistance Army, whose leaders have said they want to establish a theocratic government.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende said his country would withhold about $8 million in aid, saying the law violates "fundamental human rights," TheLocal.no reported Tuesday.

"Norway deeply regrets that Uganda's president today signed a new and stricter law against homosexuality," Brende said in a statement Monday. "It will worsen the situation of an already vulnerable group, and criminalize individuals and organizations working for the rights of sexual minorities."

The law, signed by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni Monday, strengthens existing penalties for homosexual acts, already illegal in Uganda, with the possibility of life in prison for a repeat offender. The new law makes it a criminal offense to sponsor or encourage homosexuality, and criminalizes failure to report homosexual practices.

Danish Aid Minister Mogens Jensen indicated his country would divert about $9 million in aid earmarked for Uganda, TheLocal.no said.

Dutch Foreign Trade and Aid Minister Lilianne Ploumen and Foreign Affairs Minister Frans Timmermans said the $9.6 million aid money sent annually to the Ugandan government to improve its judicial system will be stopped, DutchNews.nl reported.

Justice Ministry official Teeven said the Netherlands would be flexible on granting asylum to homosexuals from Uganda now that the "draconian" measures were in effect.

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