By Joto La Jiwe
The World Bank has declared that it will insist on LGBTQ rights safeguards before new Uganda funding resumes, after it was halted in August following the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Law 2023.
“World Bank project documents will make it clear that LGBTQ+ Ugandans should not face discrimination and that staff will not be arrested for including them,” Victoria Kwakwa, the World Bank’s Head for Eastern and Southern Africa, said on the sidelines of the recent World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s annual meetings in Marrakech, Morocco.
“We’re doing all this to clarify [that anti-LGBTQ+ bias] is not what you should be doing in World Bank-financed projects and to say you are allowed to do it the right way and you will be not be arrested,” Kwakwa said to the Reuters news agency.
In August, the World Bank announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda after the enactment of AHA, saying that the law is “inconsistent” with the bank’s policies.
In response, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni criticized the bank’s decision, accusing the bank of attempting to employ monetary means to coerce the nation into relinquishing its culture and sovereignty.
Although the World Bank currently has $5.2 billion in loans to projects in Uganda (as of the end of 2022) Museveni claimed that Uganda can address its own social and economic issues without external interference. Money already loaned to Ugandan project is not included in the World Bank’s halt on new projects because of the AHA.
Groups on the ground in Uganda have called for the AHA to be repealed, acknowledging that the law prevents the World Bank from funding projects on an inclusive basis.
“We re-iterate that mitigation measures will not work to prevent discrimination and exclusion within World Bank funded projects as long as the Anti-Homosexuality Law is still on the books. We demand the #RepealAHA23,” the LGBTQ+ rights group Convening for Equality wrote in a tweet.
The World Bank is not the only entity that took action in response to the enactment of AHA.
In June 2023, the United States imposed visa restrictions on officials from Uganda. Additionally, US President Joe Biden made threats of sanctions and aid cuts against the country, calling the passage of the bill a “tragic violation of universal human rights” and urging Uganda to repeal the legislation immediately. In October 2023, the US government also announced that Uganda was no longer eligible for free trade with the United States through the African Growth and Opportunities Act program due to human rights violations.
The AHA, which came into effect in May, prescribes the death penalty for what its framers refer to as “aggravated homosexuality.” It also includes an obligation to report homosexuals to the government and bans providing certain services to homosexuals. Both of those requirements can put aid and development workers into legal jeopardy.
The AHA has already unleashed a torrent of abuse against both presumed and real LGBTQ people inform of arrests, evictions, violence and stigma.
Without revealing the timeframe for assessing the measures’ efficacy and moving to a decision on whether to resume new funding for Uganda, Kwakwa said the Bank has discussed the issue at length with government which is apparently comfortable with it.
Joto La Jiwe, the author of this article, is a Ugandan correspondent for the African Human Rights Media Network. He writes under a pseudonym. Contact him at [email protected].