The U.S. currently distributes billions in foreign aid to countries all over the world. But according to a viral video, the U.S. is threatening to cut Uganda off because of the country’s stance toward LGBTQ people.
“USA gives final warning to Uganda to legalise homosexuality,” read the words across the video, shared on Facebook March 3. It also says “legalise lgbt or no aid.”
The video showed a few moments of a White House press briefing before cutting to a woman speaking to the camera, decrying the U.S. action. The video was originally shared on TikTok Feb. 28.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook.)
But the claim that the U.S. will stop aid to Uganda is outdated. The press briefing clip is almost a decade old, and while the US did restrict aid to Uganda in 2014 in response to anti-LGBTQ legislation, aid has since resumed.
Concerns may be on the rise after a similar bill targeting LGBTQ citizens was introduced in the Ugandan Parliament on March 9, but PolitiFact found no new statements from the U.S. government threatening to restrict or eliminate aid.
The origins of this claim stretch back a whole decade. In 2013, the Ugandan Parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which criminalized sexual relations between members of the same sex as well as the “promotion or recognition of such relations.” Originally the bill threatened the death penalty for some offenses, but was revised to confer a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Under Ugandan penal code, same-sex relations were already punishable by up to seven years in prison, but the new bill expanded the scope criminalizing “aiding and abetting homosexuality” and “conspiracy to engage in homosexuality.” The bill was signed into law on Feb. 24, 2014, by President Yoweri Museveni.
The video clip featured in the viral TikTok comes from a press briefing given the very same day by Obama administration press secretary Jay Carney, who worked in the White House from 2011 to 2014.
In response to a reporter’s question about the impact of the bill on U.S.- Uganda relations and monetary aid, Carney expressed disappointment about the signing and said, “We are undertaking a review of our relationship with Uganda in light of this decision.”
In March and June of 2014, the U.S. announced cuts in its plan to redirect millions in aid to Uganda, as well as visa restrictions due to the legislation.
But the Ugandan law did not stay on the books for long. On Aug. 1, 2014, the constitutional court of Uganda annulled the bill because not enough lawmakers were present when it was passed.
It is not clear when aid resumed, but U.S. aid to Uganda has risen steadily over the past decade.
According to the U.S. State Department website, America provides over $950 million in health and development assistance to Uganda annually.
“As far as I know, there have been few, if any aid restrictions on Uganda for any reason, since Museveni seized power in 1986,” said Helen Epstein, journalist and author of Another Fine Mess: America, Uganda, and the War on Terror. “There were no serious repercussions as a result of the small amount of aid that was withheld because of the anti-homosexuality bill in 2014.”
Renewed concerns over U.S.-Uganda relations may be because on March 9, Parliament of Uganda member Asuman Basalirwa introduced a new 2023 anti-homosexuality bill. It is a revised version of the annulled 2014 bill, but expands the “offense of homosexuality” to include any person who “holds out as a lesbian, gay, transgender, a queer or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female.”
In a State Department press briefing on March 14, a reporter inquired about spokesperson Ned Price’s “thoughts” on the anti-LGBTQ legislation introduced in Uganda.
Price broadly condemned laws that undermine the rights of LGBTQ people around the globe, but said the department remains “committed to supporting health, democracy, the rule of law, freedom of expression, and prosperity in Uganda, and we continue to engage with our government of Uganda counterparts on a wide range of issues, including those related to human rights, to improve the lives of all Ugandans.”
We found no record of the State Department issuing any recent statement like the one Carney made in 2014. When we reached out to the State Department, a spokesperson sent back a response that said, in part, “The United States remains committed to promoting human rights, including those of vulnerable groups, everywhere in the world and at home … The United States is closely watching parliament’s introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which would compromise the fundamental freedoms of many Ugandans if enacted into law.”
A video shared recently on Facebook said, “USA gives final warning to Uganda to legalise homosexuality,” or no aid.
The featured video clip is from 2014, and there is no evidence that the U.S. has issued a “final warning” or threats to revoke Ugandan aid over any recent legislation.
We rate this claim False.