The United States on Monday announced that it will refuse to grant visas to Ugandan officials who enforce a controversial anti-homosexuality law enacted in the East African country in May that includes penalties up to and including the death penalty.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the measure would apply to Ugandan officials, both serving and former, and their family members if they are found to have played a role in the “repression of members of marginalised or vulnerable populations”.
“These groups include, among others, environmental defenders, human rights defenders, journalists, LGBTQI+ people and leaders of civil organisations,” Blinken said in a statement.
“Once again, I strongly encourage the Ugandan government to make efforts to defend democracy and to respect and protect human rights, so that we can maintain the decades-long partnership between our two countries that has benefited Americans and Ugandans alike,” he added.
As soon as the law was passed, US President Joe Biden called for its immediate repeal and threatened to reduce US aid and investment in Uganda.
The law provides for severe penalties, up to life imprisonment or even the death penalty, for people who have homosexual relations or “promote” homosexuality.
Although included in Ugandan legislation, the death penalty has not been applied for years.
Ten years ago, Uganda cancelled another law imposing life imprisonment for homosexuals after international donors, including the United States, reduced their financial support.
This new decision on visas, which does not publicly name any names, is an extension of the restrictions imposed on Uganda because of alleged irregularities in the 2021 presidential election. Yoweri Museveni, President since 1986, won another term in that election.
At the same time, Mr Blinken also announced that the United States would refuse to issue visas to anyone who had compromised the electoral process in Zimbabwe in August. This disputed election resulted in the re-election of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose party has ruled the country for more than 40 years.