The Ugandan government on Wednesday slammed the United States' announcement that it would withdraw the country from a trade agreement because of human rights violations, saying the move would hurt its farmers and small businesses.
Washington announced this week that it was excluding Uganda, along with the Central African Republic, Gabon and Niger, from the list of sub-Saharan African countries benefiting from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) from January 2024.
This Act, which dates back to 2000, allows African countries to export a wide range of products to the United States duty-free. This preferential trade treatment is, however, subject to a series of conditions in terms of political pluralism, respect for human rights and the rule of law, and the fight against corruption.
In a letter to Congress, US President Joe Biden accused the Ugandan government of human rights violations, which has been the focus of fierce criticism from human rights groups, the UN and Western countries since the adoption in May of a law dubbed the "Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023".
"It seems that they (the United States) have decided that Ugandans should be punished" because of this law, a senior adviser to President Yoweri Museveni, Odrek Rwabwogo, said in a statement.
The government is "disappointed by this regrettable decision", but remains open to discussions with Washington.
"Even if Ugandan trade via AGOA was insignificant, the growth of our exports to the United States and other partners was an important pillar of our economic strategy", stressed Odrek Rwabwogo, adding that "Ugandan farmers and small business owners will suffer".As soon as the "anti-homosexuality law" was passed, Joe Biden called for its immediate repeal and threatened to reduce American aid and investment in Uganda.
The law provides for heavy penalties for people who have homosexual relations and "promote" homosexuality.
The crime of "aggravated homosexuality" carries the death penalty, a sentence that has not been applied for years in Uganda. In August, the World Bank announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.