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Sweden resumes aid to 'anti-gay Uganda'

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Sweden resumes aid to 'anti-gay Uganda'
Hillevi Engström and protesters against Uganda's anti-gay laws. Photos: Maja Suslin/Ben Curtis/TT
16:28 CEST+02:00
Sweden has resumed sending development aid funds to Uganda, after suspending payouts back in March due to "anti-gay legislation".
On February 24th, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a series of bills banning the promotion of homosexuality and making it mandatory to report gays in the country - where punishments for homosexuality are already extreme.
 
The new laws were highly criticized by Sweden and other donor countries, including neighbouring Norway and Denmark. All three Scandinavian nations immediately halted aid to Uganda.
 
Sweden has now resumed payments to Uganda on a new plan aiming to support the people, and not the government.
 
"We did not find it appropriate supporting Uganda’s government, it was immoral sending money to them," Swedish Minister for International Development Hillevi Engström told The Local. "But at the same time we could not stop helping the people."
 
The new strategy set out by the Swedish government began on July 24th and will support Uganda with 1.35 billion kronor ($195.6 million) for the years 2014-2018. 
 
"The aim is to improve child and maternal health, including sexual and reproductive rights, sustainable growth and employment," Engström continued. "The government also wants to contribute to the strengthening of respect for human rights."
 
Engström told Swedish news agency TT that exceptions may occur when involving issues such as support to orphaned children's health and schooling.
 
Concern over LGBT rights in Uganda has been in the media spotlight recently, as the punishments for homosexuality include lifetime in prison or even death.  Exactly how the aid will benefit LGBT rights under these circumstances has also been a concern. 
 
"We have contacts in the Swedish embassy in Kampala working with and supporting LGBT activists and organizations," Engström told The Local. "The aid will also support these local organizations."
 
The Swedish International Development Cooperation agency, Sida, will handle the aid and decide with which organizations to work.
 
The government of Uganda has yet to make a public statement about its views on the matter.
 
Isabela Vrba/The Local

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