Exclusive: U.S. to step up measures against Uganda for anti-gay law, officials say

Thu Jun 19, 2014 12:28pm EDT
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By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is set to announce additional measures against Uganda in response to a law that imposes harsh penalties for homosexuality, senior administration officials said on Thursday.

The White House announcement, expected later in the day, will ratchet up punishment on those implementing the law, which was signed by President Yoweri Museveni in February, officials told Reuters.

President Barack Obama warned Museveni at the time that the law would complicate relations between the two countries. Since then, the United States has been reviewing its funding to Uganda, while privately pressing Museveni's government to repeal the law.

Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa was in Washington last week meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss American concerns about the law, which imposes life imprisonment for those engaging in homosexual sex.

Washington has been careful in its retaliation not to divert funding from projects that will directly affect HIV/AIDS or nutritional programs that benefit ordinary Ugandans.

Uganda is also a key Western ally in the fight against Islamic extremism in Somalia, where Ugandan troops form the backbone of the African Union force battling al Qaeda-aligned militants.

Western donors, including the United States, have already halted or re-directed about $118 million in aid to the East African nation's economy, although steps so far have had limited impact on the budget, in part because the aid dollars are still coming in even if they are not going to the state.

Although aid contributed around 20 percent of the budget this year, it has been falling as a proportion, sliding from 25 percent in 2012-2013 year as Uganda seeks to become less dependent on aid.

(Editing by Doina Chiacu)

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni attends an urgent session of the Summit of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on South Sudan in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa June 10, 2014. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri