"Not the time to sign new cooperation agreement with Uganda", says Belgian Development minister
Caroline Gennez, Belgium's minister of Development Cooperation, has said during her official visit to Uganda that "now is not the time" to sign a planned cooperation agreement. Just last week, the Ugandan parliament speaker announced that parliament would soon vote on new anti-gay legislation.
With the visit, which had been planned for some time, Gennez wants to take stock of the expiring cooperation programme. The new cooperation programme is just about ready, but because of delays on the Ugandan side, it has yet to be finalised. "And, of course, now is not the time to sign," Gennez believes after last week's news. If the legislation is approved, anyone identifying as LGBTQ+ risks ten years in prison. Similar but slightly less far-reaching legislation was already approved in 2014, but the Constitutional Court declared it invalid.
"We still intend to sign (the Belgian-Ugandan cooperation agreement, ed.), but now is not the time to put down our signatures," says Gennez. Regarding development cooperation, the anti-gay law will not change the programmes Belgium is implementing in the country. "On our watch, there can be no discrimination - we are not leaving anyone behind," the Belgian minister stressed. Indeed, part of the new agreement is intended for people from the LGBTQ+ community.
Gennez further underlined that Belgium has chosen to focus its development cooperation on fragile countries, such as Uganda, which have far from flawless human rights records. "This sometimes results in difficult conversations, but it is important to keep talking," she echoed.
During a visit to the Kyaka refugee settlement earlier this week, the Belgian Development minister praised Uganda's refugee policy. The camp is home to 120,000, primarily Congolese, refugees. Contrary to the all-too-familiar image of tent camps, they live in villages and move around freely. The Belgian delegation made a stop at the camp hospital where they are implementing Results-Based Financing (RBF), a financing system set up by the Belgian development agency Enabel.
Belgian minister of Development Cooperation Caroline Gennez during her official visit to Uganda © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK