Uganda Criticizes US Over AGOA Removal, Fearing Economic Impact

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Uganda expressed its disapproval on Wednesday regarding the United States’ decision to exclude it from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a significant trade pact, due to human rights violations. This move is expected to have adverse effects on Ugandan farmers and small businesses.

The United States announced that Uganda, along with the Central African Republic (CAR), Gabon, and Niger, will be removed from AGOA starting in January 2024. AGOA provides sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free access to the largest global economy, contingent upon their adherence to democratic criteria evaluated annually.

US President Joe Biden, in a letter to Congress, cited both CAR and Uganda for “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” Uganda had faced severe criticism from rights groups, the United Nations, and Western powers, primarily due to a stringent anti-gay law enacted in May.

Reacting to the removal from AGOA, Odrek Rwabwogo, a senior aide to President Yoweri Museveni, commented, “It seems they have decided Ugandans should be punished” in response to the contentious legislation. He further expressed the government’s disappointment with the US decision but affirmed Uganda’s willingness to engage in discussions with the United States.

Rwabwogo emphasized the importance of trade under AGOA, stating, “While Ugandan trade through AGOA was insubstantial, growth of our exports to the US and other partners was an important pillar of our economic strategy going forward.” He expressed concern that Ugandan farmers and small business owners would bear the brunt of the decision.

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President Biden had previously called for the immediate repeal of Uganda’s anti-gay legislation and threatened to reduce aid and investment in the country. The law, enacted in May, includes provisions that categorize “aggravated homosexuality” as a capital offense and impose severe penalties, including life imprisonment, for consensual same-sex relations.

In August, the World Bank suspended new loans to Uganda, and the US State Department issued a warning last month regarding the risks associated with doing business in the country. The removal from AGOA has added to Uganda’s growing international concerns over human rights and the potential economic repercussions of these actions.

Table: Countries Removed from AGOA in 2024

Country Reason for Removal
Uganda Human rights violations, anti-gay law
Central African Republic Human rights violations
Gabon Not specified
Niger Not specified
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