In the past four years, the Pentagon and State Department have forged a close, and largely unreported, alliance with the Ugandan military. A force of 120 American advisers based in Uganda provides training, weapons and supplies — $100 million worth since 2011 — and in exchange Ugandan soldiers bear the brunt of the close fighting in Somalia, a stronghold for Islamic militants.
The Ugandans’ “superb” fighting ability “was directly responsible” for driving militants out of Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu this year, according to one American official close to the U.S. train-and-equip program. But there’s a ticking time bomb inside the outwardly strong alliance. Uganda’s escalating crackdown on its gays, lesbians and transgenders has the U.S. indicating that it might just cut off that military aid. “LGBT issues” are a “caveat on U.S. support,” says the official, who spoke to Danger Room on condition of anonymity.
Uganda’s gays, lesbians and transgenders have long faced persecution. Homosexuality has been against the law since Uganda’s colonial days. But twice in recent years hardline legislators have proposed laws that would make homosexuality a capital offense. These so-called “Kill the Gays” bills have drawn harsh criticism from Washington and other governments. The official White House strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa, released this month, specifically prioritizes human rights, including “opposing discrimination based on disability, gender or sexual orientation.”