KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Uganda’s president on Thursday slammed the World Bank, calling the global lender “insufferable” for holding up new loans after the East African country enacted an anti–gay bill that includes the death penalty in some cases.
In a strongly worded statement, President Yoweri Museveni said he was struggling to restrain himself “from exploding with anger.”
The World Bank — which has over the years played a key role in financing ambitious government projects in Uganda and helped build many roads, schools and hospitals — had deployed a team to the country after the law was enacted in May. It determined that additional measures were necessary to ensure projects align with the bank’s environmental and social standards.
“Our goal is to protect sexual and gender minorities from discrimination and exclusion in the projects we finance. These measures are currently under discussion with the authorities,” the World Bank said in a statement.
The decision has angered many Ugandan officials, with some accusing the World Bank of imperialism and referring to “the arrogance of some actors” in the West who urge the protection of LGBTQ+ rights. .. .
“How, then, are you different from the religious fundamentalists who are intolerant of other faiths,” he said, referring to the World Bank and the West.
The anti–gay legislation, which prescribes the death penalty for some homosexual acts, sets lengthy jail terms for offenses such as the promotion of homosexuality. Rights activists and others have described the legislation as harsh, saying it reflects widespread homophobia in the country.
The U.N. Human Rights Office has said the Ugandan law is “draconian and discriminatory,” describing it as ”a recipe for systematic violations of the rights” of LGBTQ+ people and others. The U.S. has warned of economic consequences.
Activists and some academics have challenged the law in court, but it remains unclear when hearings will begin.
Homosexuality is criminalized in more than 30 of Africa’s 54 countries.
BLOOMBERG-President Yoweri Museveni called the World Bank’s decision to stop new funding to Uganda over recently passed anti-LGBTQ legislation a “provocation and arrogance” meant to intimidate the nation.
“Some of these imperialist actors are insufferable,” Museveni said in a statement Thursday. “You have to work hard, to restrain yourself from exploding with anger. They are so shallow, they do not know when and where to stop.”
The [Uganda] shilling fell by the most in almost eight years after the World Bank announced the halt in funding last week. The government announced that it would revise its 2023-24 budget to take into account the loss of financing.
In addition, the central bank cut rates on Tuesday to underpin output and said it would do “what it takes” to stabilize the local currency’s exchange rate after the rout. Earlier on Thursday, the Finance Ministry said it would switch a 10-year bond maturing in January with other securities to lengthen its maturity and not to raise fresh cash.
The World Bank was making a mistake by thinking that Ugandans can be “intimidated by the threat of withdrawal of loans and aid, that are, moreover, peripheral to our transformation efforts,” Museveni said.
A spokesperson for the World Bank didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
The president in May signed legislation that includes the death penalty for so-called “aggravated homosexuality,” defined in part as engaging in sex if one is HIV-positive. The World Bank, whose portfolio of International Development Association funding to the country was $5.4 billion at the end of 2022, said the law contradicts its values.
Foreign aid and loans, while welcome and useful, have been a “source of distortion and stunted growth” across Africa, Museveni said in his 25-page statement.
Aid has been an important part of budget financing for Uganda.
He commended the World Bank for supporting health and education programs, while criticising the Washington-based lender for not funding projects such as railways and power generation.
An external funding freeze will not interrupt the economy’s progress, Museveni said. The real disruptions are domestic weaknesses such as corruption and an inept civil service, he said.
“If you have a certain view-point about homosexuality, we have a different one,” he said. “Your attempt to coerce us puts you together with the chauvinists. Our stable partners in the Western countries need to be aware of this.”