US attempts to strike balance in ties with Uganda

(By Deutsche Welle) The US has agreed to bolster its military presence in Uganda to help hunt down fugitive warlord Joseph Kony, despite Washington’s tense relations with Kampala over the East African nation’s draconian anti-gay law.

The Obama administration this week sought to strike a balance in its increasingly complicated relationship with Uganda, announcing the deployment of military reinforcements to help hunt down Joseph Kony, while also diverting aid money in response to Kampala’s anti-gay law.

In a statement on Monday, the White House announced the deployment of CV-22 Osprey vertical lift aircraft, refueling planes, and 150 Air Force personnel to Uganda. That’s in addition to the 100 US special operations troops who’ve been advising African forces in the hunt for Kony since 2011.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for crimes against humanity and war crimes. He’s accused of recruiting child soldiers, using girls as sex slaves, and intentionally attacking civilians. Kony is thought to be hiding somewhere in Central Africa.

But Washington’s increased military support for the hunt comes at a delicate time in US-Ugandan relations. In February, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a bill into law that would punish people for their sexual orientation. Under the legislation, adult homosexual partners can be sentenced to life in prison for having consensual sex. Among other provisions, people who “promote” homosexuality can be sentenced to seven years in prison.

“All legitimate human rights advocacy work that involves anything related to the discussion on LGBT rights is now criminal,” Maria Burnett, a senior researcher with the Africa Division at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told DW.

“So there’s a lot of practical public health programs that are now operating in an environment in which their work is potentially at risk of criminal prosecution,” Burnett said.

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