Uganda defiant after World Bank halts funding over anti-LGBTQ law

President Museveni says the country will reduce borrowing and not give in to pressure from foreign institutions.

A Ugandan police officer directs students as they participate in a peaceful walk to appreciate President Yoweri Museveni
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was applauded by supporters after signing an anti-homosexuality law in May [File: Abubaker Lubowa/Reuters]

President Yoweri Museveni has criticised the World Bank’s decision to suspend new funding to Uganda in response to a harsh anti-LGBTQ law and has promised to find alternative sources of credit.

Museveni, who has been in office since 1986, said in a statement on Thursday that Uganda was trying to reduce borrowing and would not give in to pressure from foreign institutions.

“It is, therefore, unfortunate that the World Bank and other actors dare to want to coerce us into abandoning our faith, culture, principles and sovereignty, using money. They really underestimate all Africans,” he said.

Museveni said that if Uganda needs to borrow, it could tap other sources and oil production expected to start by 2025 would provide additional revenues.

He said he hoped the World Bank would reconsider its decision, which could force the country to revise its budget.

Human rights organisations have widely condemned the anti-LGBTQ law approved in May, which imposes capital punishment for “aggravated homosexuality”, an offence that includes transmitting HIV through gay sex, and 20 years in prison for “promoting” homosexuality.

The World Bank said on Tuesday that the law contradicted its values and it would suspend new funding until it could test measures to prevent discrimination in projects it finances.

“We believe our vision to eradicate poverty on a livable planet can only succeed if it includes everyone irrespective of race, gender, or sexuality. This law undermines those efforts. Inclusion and non-discrimination sit at the heart of our work around the world,” it said in a statement.

The World Bank has an existing portfolio of $5.2bn in Uganda, and these projects will not be affected.

The government will ask parliament to vote on a revised budget for July 2023 to June 2024 to reflect the potential financial impact of the lending suspension, junior finance minister Henry Musasizi told parliament on Thursday.

“We shall be coming in one week or so … to ask for your approval,” Musasizi told lawmakers.

In June, the United States imposed visa restrictions on some Ugandan officials in response to the law. President Joe Biden also ordered a review of US aid to Uganda.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies