World Bank puts hold on multimillion-dollar loan to Uganda

Move follows decisions by Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark to withhold or redirect aid

The World Bank has said it is putting on hold a $90 million loan earmarked for Uganda’s health system because of recently enacted and widely condemned legislation that calls for harsh penalties against gay people, including life imprisonment for the offence of “aggravated homosexuality.”

In an email, a World Bank spokesperson said the project is being reviewed to ensure that its objectives aren’t compromised by the measure that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni recently signed into law, Reuters reports.

According to the report, the World Bank’s president, Jim Yong Kim, also wrote to staff, saying discriminatory acts against people because of their sexual orientation “cannot be tolerated” and fly in the face of the institution’s staff principles.

He adds, “Institutionalized discrimination is bad for people and for societies. And as we know well in this institution, widespread discrimination is also bad for economies.”

The World Bank’s decision to delay approval of the loan follows decisions by Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark, which have signalled that they are suspending or redirecting aid to the African country because of the enactment of the law. The US and Canada have both said that they will be reviewing their relationships with Uganda.

But Museveni continues to thumb his nose at threats from the West while praising Russia for respecting his country’s sovereignty over its internal affairs. Russia has also faced condemnation for its passage of so-called gay propaganda laws, which its leaders continue to defend robustly.

At the recent commissioning of a Russian-built flight simulator in Entebbe, Museveni said, “The Russians work with us; they don’t mix up their politics with our politics. They just do what we agree on.”

More Daily Xtra coverage of Uganda:

Interview with Ugandan activist Frank Mugisha:

Life in Uganda:

Frank Mugisha on where the homophobia comes from:

Interview with the director of God Loves Uganda:

Interviews with Call Me Kuchu filmmakers (focus on David Kato):

Victor Mukasa interview:

Natasha Barsotti is originally from Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. She had high aspirations of representing her country in Olympic Games sprint events, but after a while the firing of the starting gun proved too much for her nerves. So she went off to university instead. Her first professional love has always been journalism. After pursuing a Master of Journalism at UBC , she began freelancing at Xtra West — now Xtra Vancouver — in 2006, becoming a full-time reporter there in 2008.

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