Twenty four hours after the US government led its European allies in attacking Uganda over the new Anti-Homosexuality Act, President Yoweri Museveni has defended his decision to sign the Bill into law, calling on all Ugandans to remain firm.
He rallied the country around the law just as the World Bank Group became the latest West-leaning enterprise to signal it may also withhold funding to Uganda because of the law.
“The other time when I met you at Kololo, I said you people should be ready for a war. And you cannot fight a war when you are a pleasure seeker, if you like a soft life. So, war is not for soft life,” Mr Museveni told MPs attending the ruling party’s parliamentary caucus retreat in Kyankwanzi yesterday.
A statement released by the Presidential Press Unit, quoted Mr Museveni to have observed that homosexuality is a serious issue with grave consequences for the human race.
He is reported to have applauded members of parliament for overwhelmingly voting for the law, acknowledging that they were “fighting for the right cause”.
Parliament and State House have been unshakably united behind this law, resolutely urging each other on at every step of the way as the popular private member’s Bill sponsored by Bugiri Municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa, was processed.
Not even threats of economic and personal sanctions from the US and its Western allies have moved their dogged determination to “protect Uganda’s cultural values and the integrity of the family.
Yesterday, the World Bank, one of the leading multilateral lending institutions, said that the law runs counter to its values of non-discrimination.
“The World Bank Group is highly concerned with Uganda’s enactment of the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act. If implemented, the Act would endanger people by placing an added barrier to vital medical care, disease screening, and precautions,” the statement said.
“Further, the Act is not consistent with the values of non-discrimination and inclusion that the institution upholds. To achieve its goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity, the World Bank Group places inclusive development at the forefront with a focus on all groups, especially those who are marginalised, disadvantaged or vulnerable,” the statement adds.
The statement, however, did not explain exactly how the Bank believes the new law will stop access to medical care for suspected homosexuals, lesbians and gay people in Uganda.
It also did not say how the bank’s development support in Uganda could probably be either manipulated or somehow channelled in a manner that puts vulnerable groups at a disadvantage.
Health ministry and other Uganda government officials on Tuesday unanimously rejected as false US president Joe Biden’s claims that HIV positive gay people in Uganda are now at greater risk, noting that his views were probably based on an inaccurate reading of the law.
Medical practitioners in Uganda, a health ministry spokesperson said, do not first inquire about by the sexual orientation of their patients when administering treatment.
“Healthcare is for everyone regardless of who you are. We even look after those who are on death row. Our work is a calling; it is not about feeling and interest,” Dr Daniel Kyabayinze said.
“Americans are trying to frame it as if we are against certain groups. I don’t know why they are attaching the Anti-homosexuality Act to the Ministry of Health. It has nothing to do with health,” he added.
Finance ministry spokesperson Jim Mugunga, last night said, “the statement from the World Bank is not a surprise nor was it unexpected.”
“I am aware that during recent Spring meetings our development partners made specific inquiries on the same issues and the government delegation spent time explaining and giving assurances. I am also aware that both the Attorney General and PSST formally made representations and engaged at various senior levels beyond the World Bank. I believe just like Uganda; the World Bank has values to uphold and hence have included these in the statement. Likewise, as a country, a decision on national values was adopted and authored into law,” Mr Mugunga said.
“As a ministry, our role is to plan and adjust to the current demands within available resources and legal environment. We are not structured to press panic buttons as valued members of the World Bank Group we remain committed to continue mutual engagements aimed at resolving misunderstandings, if any,” he added.
Officials at the World Bank contacted for comment yesterday did not respond to requests for more information about what their statement means for Uganda.
Vera Rosauer, an official with the bank, instead referred this newspaper back to the very statement issued earlier in the day.
Mr Ramathan Ggoobi, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance and Secretary to the Treasury, also did not respond to requests for comment as to whether the World Bank has formally put his ministry on notice.
Uganda has different loan facilities with the World Bank worth trillions of shillings. Of the five classified as “latest”, on the Bank’s website three are approved while one is at the signing stage.
The approved projects include the Uganda Climate Smart Agricultural Transformation Project ($354.70 million), approved on December 22, 2022. Its objective is to improve productivity, market access, and resilience of specific value chains in the project area as well as to respond speedily and effectively to a crisis.
The Bank also approved the $217 million for “Generating Growth Opportunities and Productivity for Women Enterprises Project” on June 17, 2022. It looks to increase access to business services for female entrepreneurs such as host and refugee communities.
The other project is the “Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area Urban Development Programme ($566 million)”, approved on May 31, 2022, which aims to increase access to better infrastructure and services while enhancing institutional capacity for metropolitan coordination and management.
The Electricity Access Scale-up Project ($568 million) is at the “signing status”. All the approved loan facilities will close by December 2027.
The World Bank now joins other West-leaning groups and countries against the anti-gay law. They include the European Union (EU), the United Kingdom, UNAIDS and the Global Fund for HIV/Aids, Malaria and Tuberculosis. The US government has among other things threatened to deploy visa restrictions against Ugandan officials and threatened to cut aid and investment.
When President Museveni signed the initial version of the anti-gay law in 2014, the World Bank was swift in its response. One of Uganda’s key sources for external financing, the bank postponed a $90 million loan intended health sector support.
Two years later, in 2016, then World Bank president Jim Yong Kim gave a lengthy explanation about the decision to block the funding to Uganda despite its principle of not engaging in politics.
He told a global audience at an event organised by The Economist news magazine that the law Uganda had passed in 2014 was “quite a bit more draconian than a lot of the laws that exist”.
The key concern for the World Bank, Mr Kim said, was the prescribed punishment of life imprisonment and the requirement that anyone who suspects others of homosexuality had to report.
The rationale he explained was if a project they were supporting could lead to “not only to discrimination but endangerment”.
“There were a lot of countries who condemned Uganda, but the money still flowed. We were the only ones who stopped the flow of money,” he said.
“The Ugandans were very angry about this, but I told the board I felt it was very important to take this stand. One of the questions was, what would be the implication of taking that kind of action? Well, our business has exploded since then. The Ugandans have repealed that law – the court found it unconstitutional,” he added.