Sounding off on cultural 'neocolonialism'

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the president of Uganda, signed an anti-gay law last month, sparking an international outcry and some support from his fellow countrymen and others.  Photo by: United Nations Photo / CC BY-NC-ND

Last month, Uganda adopted a controversial law targeting the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community.

Since then, several foreign donors have cut aid or announced the redirection of aid from the Ugandan government to civil society groups.

Many Ugandans, in turn, have accused Western donors of neocolonialism, suggesting that foreigners were trying to impose their value system on Africans.

Several readers from Uganda and other parts of the African continent commented via social media on Devex’s coverage, arguing that international donors should take their money elsewhere if they didn’t agree with the policies there.

“Hey donor countries, we choose what’s good for Uganda and the rest of you can adopt all these gay beings to your countries,” Spe Kasozi wrote. “Respect Uganda and you can refer to the Bible.”

Peter Chishika, from Zambia, suggested he’d rather die of hunger than continue to have donors impose their values on his country.

While these reactions may sound extreme, they may come as no surprise to aid workers who have delivered assistance to marginalized communities. It’s the age-old conundrum of how best to engage with a community with a different culture, customs and value system.

Uganda’s case may galvanize the international community around investing in the human rights and health of marginalized LGBTI communities, I reported last week. No moment too soon.

Uganda is now falling fast behind others on HIV incidence rates, says Enrique Restoy, senior advisor on human rights at the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

What’s troubling is that health workers providing services to HIV-positive patients in Uganda could now be accused of abetting or promoting homosexuality — and potentially be imprisoned, Devex reporter Jenny Lei Ravelo wrote last week.

That’s no way to control the spread of a virus that has killed millions of people around the world and for which we still haven’t found a cure.

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About the author

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    Kelli Rogers

    Kelli Rogers is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in Bangkok, she covers disaster and crisis response, innovation, women’s rights, and development trends throughout Asia. Prior to her current post, she covered leadership, careers, and the USAID implementer community from Washington, D.C. Previously, she reported on social and environmental issues from Nairobi, Kenya. Kelli holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and has since reported from more than 20 countries.