The fall out from the contentious anti-gay law that President Yoweri Museveni assented to last month took a new twist last week when US embassy officials in Kampala confirmed that Washington was reviewing its relations with Uganda.
The diplomats announced that the US would freeze financial aid meant for its Centres for Disease Control (CDC), which operate under Uganda’s Ministry of Health.
Seventy-five health workers, including laboratory technicians, field officers and managers employed by the research institute, will now lose their jobs. The freeze will however not affect other US government programmes — such as the provision of free antiretroviral drugs.
The officials also adopted a diplomatic protest against Kampala for criminalising homosexuality by boycotting public functions that the government has organised. They have conspicuously kept away from public functions, which has widely been interpreted as a boycott.
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According to Daniel Travis, the public affairs officer at the embassy, the degree of the mission’s engagement in public events may reflect the ongoing internal review of the US government’s relationship with Uganda.
“Now that this law has been enacted, we are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programmes, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values,” Mr Travis wrote in an email to The EastAfrican.
“The review of our engagement is ongoing, and the degree of our engagement in public events may reflect aspects of that review.”
Last week, the embassy stayed away from a US-funded health fair organised by Management Sciences for Health (MSH). The function was meant to share government and non-governmental organisations’ (NGOs) success stories on some of their health initiatives.
The MSH is the main implementing agency supervising all NGOs working on US Agency for International Development (USAid) -funded health programmes, especially on HIV/Aids and malaria.
Stephen Lwanga, the MSH country representative, said the embassy cancelled the invitation on Monday morning, just a day to the event. Leslie Reed, the USAid mission director, was scheduled to present to the government their development strategy and funding commitment to Uganda.
That was the third time the US embassy officials have kept away from Ugandan public functions since the Bill was signed into law.
A fortnight ago, the Irish and US envoys to Uganda skipped the launch of a government campaign to end Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, presided over by First Lady and Minister for Karamoja Janet Museveni. The envoys had shunned a breakfast launch of the programme at State House, Nakasero.
US Ambassador to Uganda Scott DeLisi last month skipped the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Kidepo Valley National Park despite having confirmed he would attend.