February 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Obama administration to ‘review’ relationship with Uganda

Barack Obama, Global AIDS, gay news, Washington Blade

President Obama (Washington Blade file photo by Lee Whitman)

The Obama administration on Monday said it is reviewing its relationship with Uganda after the country’s president signed a bill into law that would impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

“The United States will undertake a review of its relationship with Uganda,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told the Washington Blade during his daily press briefing. “I don’t have any outcomes to predict to you because we’re undertaking a review now.”

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki reiterated Secretary of State John Kerry who said in a statement the U.S. has begun “an internal review of our relationship with the government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values.”

Psaki told the Blade during her daily press briefing the review “means a range of things.” She did not specifically say whether it would include cutting any of the $400 million in annual aid the United States gives to the East African country each year, recalling U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Scott DeLisi or sanctions.

“We’re looking at a range of options,” she told the Blade.

Obama said in a Feb. 16 statement his administration has “conveyed” to Museveni that signing the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law “will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda.” National Security Advisor Susan Rice has also spoken directly with the Ugandan president on the issue, but Psaki told the Blade she did not know whether Kerry and Museveni have discussed the controversial measure.

“As President Obama stated, this legislation is not just morally wrong,” said Kerry in a statement. “It complicates a valued relationship.”

Carney told the Blade he could not provide a timetable as to when the administration would complete the review of its relationship with the East African country.

Uganda is among the more than 70 countries in which homosexuality remains criminalized.

Ofwono Opondo, a spokesperson for the Ugandan government, on Monday chastised Western governments and media outlets whom he said were “blackmailing” his country over the Anti-Homosexuality Law. He said they “should swallow their pride.”

“Africans do not seek to impose their views on anybody,” said Museveni in a Feb. 18 statement. “We do not want anybody to impose their views on us. This very debate was provoked by Western groups who come to our schools and try to recruit children into homosexuality. It is better to limit the damage rather than exacerbate it.”

Museveni described gays and lesbians as “mercenaries” as he signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law at his official residence in Entebbe. He also said oral sex can cause worms, Hepatitis B and other sexually transmitted diseases – a document the anti-gay Coalition for Advancement of Moral Values (CAMOVA) sent to Ugandan parliamentarians last year lists “oral anal sex” as among the “horrors of homosexuality.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights in March 2012 filed a federal lawsuit against Scott Lively on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBT rights group, that accuses the evangelical Christian of exploiting homophobic attitudes in the East African country and encouraging lawmakers to approve the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Judge Michael A. Posner of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts last August ruled the lawsuit can proceed.

“No person should be forced to live in dread of discovery simply because of who they are and who they love–an atmosphere of violent persecution now officially embraced by Uganda’s laws,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a statement. “The backwardness of the new law is damaging Uganda’s international reputation and could jeopardize progress in fighting HIV/AIDS, attracting foreign investment and promoting tourism.”

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who met with Museveni last month during a trip to the East African country, also urged the Ugandan president not to sign the bill into law.

“I certainly disagree with the controversial legislation that Uganda may enact in the coming days,” the Oklahoma Republican told the Blade last week. “As I’ve said before, it is my hope that the country will abandon this unjust and harsh legislation.”

Chris Johnson contributed to this article.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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  • President Obama is smart enough to know that cutting aid to Uganda is not the answer, as it will make life difficult for all Ugandans, especially those most in need, solving nothing and creating a bigger problem! That possibility would only give the government, the media, and religious zealots justification to further vilify LGBTQ people and their allies there. Sadly, I could see anti-gay countries with wealth rushing to enable Uganda and support its "sovereignty".

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