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Uganda: UK Aid to a Very Nasty and Corrupt Regime

Tom Winnifrith
Friday 31 August 2012

In 2011 Britain ponied up £70 million in international aid to Uganda. Via the Evil Empire we handed over another £57 million. In the same year Uganda’s charming President Yoweri Museveni bought himself a top-of-the-range Gulfstream G550 private plane for £30 million. I am sure that you can see the irony here and the description of international aid as the “transfer of wealth from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries“ seems apt.

Of course Uganda is still poor and starving. The aid makes no difference to that. But it is good to see that the country can still afford a National Theatre. This comes to my attention thanks to news that the UNT has decided not to stage a play, The River and The Mountain, written by the British playwright Beau Hopkins, which is a sympathetic portrayal of a corporate businessman coming to terms with his sexual identity in a climate of oppressive homophobia. I cannot say that I would travel to Kampala to see this production or even to Camden but you may wonder why this play should not be staged other than the fact that it sounds like a rather tedious piece of politically correct non-drama?

Currently in Uganda engaging in gay sex is a crime carrying a potential prison sentence of 14 years. However there are proposals first tabled in 2009 but re-tabled this year and which have considerable political support to toughen up the law on the basis that stiffer sentences might help persuade gays that they should become heterosexuals after all. The proposals would make “aggravated homosexuality” (that is gay sex with anyone who is disabled or under 18 or what is termed “serial offender homosexuality”) a crime punishable by death. Hmmm. Pleasant.

The lesser crime of “attempts to legitimize or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices” would be punishable with a mere five years in prison and/or a fine of £35,000 and it is proposed that you could face the same penalties if you fail to report a “homosexual offence” within 24 hours of it taking place.

It is bad enough that the UK Government pisses away cash it does not have on such an obviously corrupt place where very little of the money will help anyone who needs it. But to hand over cash to a place which is also so deeply institutionally unpleasant to folks who, I guess, have a pretty tough life anyway seems just a step too far. Am I missing something or is this just completely ludicrous?

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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