US to restrict visas for Ugandans implementing anti-gay law

The United States says it would place restrictions on Ugandan officials who implement the controversial anti-gay law.

Photo credit: File

The United States indicated Monday it would restrict visas of Ugandan officials who implement a controversial anti-gay law, which carries potential death sentences.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the United States would refuse visas to current or former officials, and their family members, if found to be involved in "repressing members of marginalised or vulnerable populations." 

"These groups include, but are not limited to, environmental activists, human rights defenders, journalists, LGBTQI+ persons and civil society organizers," Blinken said in a statement.

"I once again strongly encourage the government of Uganda to make concerted efforts to uphold democracy and to respect and protect human rights so that we may sustain the decades-long partnership between our countries that has benefited Americans and Ugandans alike," he said.

US President Joe Biden, the European Union and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have strongly criticized Uganda for in May imposing one of the world's harshest laws against homosexuality.

The new law prescribes the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" in certain circumstances, although Uganda, unlike the United States, has not carried out capital punishment for many years.

President Yoweri Museveni has vowed to resist international pressure over the law, which enjoys broad domestic support.

A decade earlier, Uganda overturned another law that imposed life imprisonment for homosexual relations after international donors including he United States slashed aid.

The new visa policy, which does not name individuals publicly, is an expansion of restrictions imposed on Uganda over alleged irregularities in the 2021 election, which handed another term to Museveni, a former rebel who has been president since 1986.

Blinken separately announced that the United States would refuse visas to anyone who undermined Zimbabwe's election in August.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose party has been in power for more than four decades, was declared the winner of a new term in an election that international observers said fell short of democratic standards.