Britain Blocks Aid to Uganda Email This Page Print This Page Visit The Publisher's Site The Monitor (Kampala) April 29, 2005 Posted to the web April 28, 2005 Hussein Bogere Kampala The British government has withheld about Shs17 billion in aid to Uganda since last month citing concerns about the handling of several aspects of the country's political transition. A statement from the British High Commission says Britain was also particularly unhappy with the progress made towards establishing a level playing field for parties in the country. "When our last release of the budget support fell due in March we were concerned by several aspects of the transition, including that insufficient progress had been made towards establishing a fair basis for a multi-party system. We withheld 5 million pounds," the statement signed by Mr Nikesh Mehta, the 2nd Secretary External Political at the British High Commission, Kampala says. Mehta's statement was in response to calls by the opposition Forum for Democratic Change for donors to freeze aid to Uganda. FDC was prompted to write to the diplomatic community asking for a freeze on aid after the arrest of two MPs Reagan Okumu and Michael Ocula, a week ago. The two were arrested and charged with the murder of Alfred Bongomin, the LC 3 council chairman of Pabbo sub-county in Gulu in February 2002. When The Monitor probed further this week about the British government's stand on the FDC request, Mr Mehta said further that the next tranche of aid due in September will also be subject to an assessment. "Britain provides budget support that is linked to government performance in implementing the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP), including governance issues. The next tranche falls in September when there will be an assessment of performance against an agreed set of indicators (derived from the PEAP) that cover the process of political transition alongside macro-economic and sector policy," the statement said. After writing, FDC met several officials from several embassies including Denmark, Norway, US, the European Union, Britain, Ireland, among others last Friday. In their letter FDC requested for a temporary suspension of foreign aid to prove to President Museveni that democracy is the only option and that terror will not be tolerated. FDC's spokesman Mr Wafula Oguttu told The Monitor last Monday that the diplomatic community was hesitant to freeze aid to Uganda abruptly because it had a moral obligation towards the people of Uganda. He said donors pledged to cut aid to a bare minimum in the next budget. The donors contribute more than 52% to Uganda's budget. As the former colonial power with the longest association with Kampala, Britain's actions towards Uganda tends to guide other donors in assessing their relationship with the country. The donors have increasingly come out to criticise several aspects of the transition including the proposed constitutional amendments especially about lifting of presidential term limits to allow a third term for President Yoweri Museveni. They have also criticised the need for a referendum, which would cost about Shs 30 billion yet both sides, the government and the opposition, are going to campaign for the same thing - allowing multipartyism. Relevant Links East Africa Legal and Judicial Affairs Aid and Assistance Uganda Europe and Africa The president has on several occasions shot back at the donors' interest in the country's politics. Museveni at one time told a donors meeting in Kampala on May 16 2001 that he would not entertain them meddling into his government affairs. He warned that Africa is witnessing conflict, but could unite and fight [donors] "like we fought" the colonialists. "I don't know why you want to recreate all this tension all the time. So much of this arrogance, I find very annoying. It should not be there. I advise you against it," Museveni warned, adding that he could afford to reject donor handouts.