Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Observer: Out Of Africa

The Ugandan example shows how poorly handled interventions can have unintended consequences. In 2011, Mr Cameron threatened Uganda with cuts to international aid as a result of political support for a law to recriminalise homosexuality. Since the law was passed in 2014, many western nations, including the US and the Netherlands, have indeed cut aid to Uganda. Many African gay rights activists have criticised such cuts as playing into the hands of leaders who have used an anti-gay agenda to build popular support, allowing them to hold LGBTI groups up as scapegoats. It has enabled politicians to make the debate one of national sovereignty in the face of western imperialism. While Uganda’s supreme court has since overturned the law on a technicality, the government is planning on introducing another, more draconian law.

Of course western governments should publicly condemn the flouting of basic human rights. But withholding aid can be dangerously counter-productive and risks charges of hypocrisy when different approaches are taken with different countries. Saudi Arabia takes one of the harshest approaches to homosexuality in the world, but there is no suggestion that this has had any impact on its relations with the US, for instance...

The truth is western governments have been reluctant to invest in local gay rights advocacy and community-led programmes aimed at fostering dialogue and tolerance. If we are serious about promoting international gay rights, this must change. This must be seen as an agenda led by African activists, championing African, not western, liberal values. Public condemnation – while relatively easy– will, by itself, achieve little.



Sensible stuff.

Though knee-jerk neo-colonialist attitudes are still depressingly popular.

PS The story that David Cameron threatened to cut aid to Uganda and other African countries over anti-gay legislation is - though widely repeated - a somewhat twisted version of the truth originating in the Daily Mail.

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