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Human Rights tell donors: Don't cut aid over human rights abuses, switch it

Norman S. Miwambo
2 November 2011 | Africa

Fifty three Human Rights groups have petitioned the British government, pleading not to cut its foreign aid to countries such as Uganda for the actions of their tyrannical leaders and corrupt governments.

"The British government is wrong to threaten to cut aid to developing countries that abuse human rights,” said Peter Tatchell who doubles as the director of the human rights lobby and Peter Tatchell Foundation.

Mr. Tatchell noted that: “Although these abuses are unacceptable and violate international humanitarian law, cuts in aid would penalise the poorest, most vulnerable people.”

“Many [people] are dependent on aid for basic needs like food, clean water, health care and education," Mr. Tatchell further noted.

This followed the announcement by British Prime Minister David Cameron's plans to withhold aid going to governments that do not reform legislation interdicting homosexuality.

Since 2008, Britain pledged aid to a tune of £ 70 million (approximately $ 112,431,737 million) per year for a period of ten years, Uganda would benefit £700 million.

The human rights defenders argue that people from World's poorest countries should not suffer for their government's tyranny and corruption.

Such similar actions have previously been issued by a number of other donor countries against countries like Uganda and Malawi. Canada, Sweden, the US had threatened that if Uganda doesn't discard the proposed law [Anti-gay Bill] that had intended to severely punish homosexuals, they would cut aid given to the country.

In the recent times, the values of Commonwealth have been under scrutiny because of human rights abuses in members' states, but the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Australia's main issue was human rights.

During the Australia summit, when leaders failed to agree on Human Rights reform, and when the British PM Cameron took to the stage, he announced that, those receiving UK aid should “Adhere to proper human rights”, decriminalize of homosexuality as one of the recommendations of an internal report into the future relevance of the Commonwealth.

In a statement made by African social justice activists on the threats made by British Prime Minister, they wrote that the British government to "cut aid" to African countries that violate the rights of LGBTI people in Africa, it would penalizing the most vulnerable people. They instead called on Britain and other the donors to divert the aid to projects that respect human rights and do not discriminate in their service provision.

“We, the undersigned African social justice activists, working to advance societies that affirm peoples' differences, choice and agency throughout Africa, express the following concerns about the use of aid conditionality as an incentive for increasing the protection of the rights of LGBTI people on the continent,” reads part of the statement.

The statement further reads: “The imposition of donor sanctions may be one way of seeking to improve the human rights situation in a country but does not, in and of itself, result in the improved protection of the rights of LGBTI people.”

“Donor sanctions are by their nature coercive and reinforce the disproportionate power dynamics between donor countries and recipients. They are often based on assumptions about African sexualities and the needs of African LGBTI people. They disregard the agency of African civil society movements and political leadership. They also tend, as has been evidenced in Malawi, to exacerbate the environment of intolerance in which political leadership scapegoat LGBTI people for donor sanctions in an attempt to retain and reinforce national state sovereignty.

Switch Aid: The organisations called on the UK government not cut aid because of the persecution of LBGTI people instead it should support African social justice activists.

“Instead of cutting aid, Britain and other donor countries should divert their aid money from human rights abusing governments and redirect it to grassroots, community-based humanitarian projects that respect human rights and do not discriminate in their service provision,”said Mr Tatchell, adding that: “These frontline, on-the-ground projects tend to deliver the most cost-effective aid that gets most directly to the people who need it.”

Mr. Tatchell went on to explain: “By redirecting aid in this way, abusive governments are punished but poor people are not penalised. They continue to receive the aid they need.”

"Any sanctions must always be targeted at human rights abusers, not at the general population,” said Mr Tatchell in reference to Mr. Cameron's statement last week. During the Australia Chogm last month, Mr. Cameron had told the summit that to stay relevant it must work harder to uphold basic value.

In reference to the countries that intend to criminalise or ban homosexuals, the British prime minister told the member countries at the summit that: “Britain is one of the premier aid givers in the world. We want to see countries receive our aid adhering to proper human rights. It is one of the things that determine our aid policy, and there have been particular bad examples where we have taken action.”

However, Mr. Tatchell an ardent campaigner of the gay rights begged to differ from Mr Cameron, saying that: “I support the statement by a coalition of African social justice activists, which is urging the UK government to rethink its plans to cut aid to despotic and homophobic regimes.”

“They explain very eloquently why this policy is morally wrong and politically misguided. I stand in solidarity with their statement," said Mr Tatchell.

The activists urged the British government to adequately address the human rights of LGBTI people in Africa, the undersigned social justice activists call on the British government to: Review its decision to cut aid to countries that do not protect LGBTI rights. They went on to say that: Expand its aid to community based and lead LGBTI programmes aimed at fostering dialogue and tolerance, support national and regional human rights mechanisms to ensure the inclusiveness of LGBTI issues in their protective and promotional mandates and to support the entrenchment of LGBTI issues into broader social justice issues through the financing of community lead and nationally owned projects.

Organizations that appended their signatures on the petition are: ActionAid (Liberia), African Men for Sexual Health and Rights - AMSHeR (Regional), AIDS Legal Network (South Africa), AIDS Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (Sub-regional), ARC EN CIEL + (Cote d'Ivoire), Arc en Ciel d'Afrique (Canada), Centre for Popular Education and human Rights - CEPEHRG (Ghana), Coalition Against Homophobia in Ghana (Ghana), Coalition of African Lesbians- CAL (Regional), Engender (South Africa), Evolve (Cameroon), Face AIDS Ghana (Ghana), Fahamu (Regional).

Others organisations include : Freedom and Roam Uganda (Uganda), Gay and Lesbian of Zimbabwe - GALZ (Zimbabwe), Horizons Community Association (Rwanda), House of Rainbow Fellowship - (Nigeria), ICHANGE CI (Cote d'Ivoire), Identity Magazine (Kenya), IGLHRC Africa (Regional), Ishtar MSM (Kenya), Justice for Gay Africans (Diaspora), LEGABIBO (Botswana), Let Good Be Told In us (LGBTI) Nyanza and Western coalition of Kenya (Kenya), Most at Risk Populations' Society In Uganda (UGANDA), Mouvement pour les Libertes Individuelles - MOLI (Burundi), My Rights (Rwanda), Network against violence, abuse, discrimination and stigma-Africa (Regional), Nyanza and Western LGBTI Coalition of Kenya (Kenya).

Also Sheep Afrika (Kenya), Outright Namibia, Pan Africa ILGA (Regional), PEMA Kenya, Queer African Youth Center Network QAYN - (Sub-regional - West Africa)

Rainbow Candle Light (Burundi), Reseau Camerounais des Personnes Vivant avec le VIH - Recap+ (Cameroon), Riruta United Women Empowerment Programme (Kenya), Si Jeunesse Savait (Democratic Republic of Congo), South African National AIDS Council - LGBT sector Spectrum Uganda Initiatives - (Uganda), Stay Alive Self Help Group (Kenya), Stop Aids In Liberia, The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIER) – Nigeria, The International Center for Advocacy on the Rights to Health -ICARH (Nigeria), The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project (South Africa), Together for Women's Rights ASBL (Burundi), Treatment Action Campaign (South Africa)

Triangle Project (South Africa), UHAI-the East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative (Sub-regional -East Africa), Vision Spring Initiatives West African Treatment Action Group (Sub-regional - West Africa), Women Working with Women (Kenya) and Youth Focus (Uganda).

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