December 20, 2014
Uganda arrests US staffer over gay law
Uganda enacted legislation in February that strengthened punishments for anyone caught having gay sex, imposing jail terms of up to life for "aggravated homosexuality" -- including sex with a minor or while HIV-positive.
The United States, one of Uganda's major bilateral sources of aid, and other Western donors have halted or re-directed some $118 million in aid since President Yoweri Museveni signed the law, which also criminalised lesbianism for the first time.
In a notice on its website, Makerere University's Walter Reed Project, a collaboration between Uganda's biggest public institute of higher learning and the US Military HIV Research Program, said it would temporarily halt its work until it established the legal basis for the arrest.
The project said a Ugandan staff member was taken into custody by police at its offices in Kampala and released without charge the same day.
"Until we have greater clarity as to the legal basis for the police action, the operations of the program are temporarily suspended" to ensure the safety of staff, the project said..
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Friday that the United States is "deeply concerned" about the incident, saying it "significantly heightens our concerns about respect for civil society and the rule of law in Uganda, and for the safety of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) individuals."
"The Ugandan government is responsible for protecting all of its people, and attacks and intimidation of health-care workers are unacceptable", Harf said. "We have temporarily suspended the operations of MUWRP to ensure the safety of staff and beneficiaries, and the integrity of the program."
Police said they had been following an unnamed individual for days after getting reports he was involved in "gay-related activities", spokesman Ibn Ssekumbi said. "For some time we have been following an individual whom we learnt has been conducting promotion and training activities related to homosexuality."