Martin Ssempa’s campus group dropped from AIDS grant in 2007

 Back in June, I posted several articles which described events in 2007 which were prologue to the introduction of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. One August, 2007 article described an anti-gay rally organized by Martin Ssempa and his views on gays and AIDS programs:

“Homosexuals should absolutely not be included in Uganda’s HIV/AIDS framework. It is a crime, and when you are trying to stamp out a crime you don’t include it in your programmes,” Ssempa said.

These events led to an article by Scott Long, Director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch detailing the threats to HIV treatment and human rights in Uganda. Ssempa then responded to the article in an editorial where he said:

First you [Scott Long] talked about our church, Makerere Community Church, as a recipient of PEPFAR HIV/AIDS funding. The fact is that Makerere Community Church has never received funding.

I found that to be a curious statement since his church is listed as a subpartner on the PEPFAR website for 2004 and then again in PEPFAR grant documents for 2006-2007. Based on these sources, I wrote the following in my June post:

Ssempa said in this editorial that he did not receive PEPFAR funding. However, according to this letter from USAID, his Campus Alliance to Wipe Out AIDS was a subpartner to the Uganda Youth Forum and was subsidized for abstinence based publications. World Magazine identifies a 2004 grant as being $40,000 which came as a subpartner to Population Services International, according to the PEPFAR website. Children’s AIDS Fund reveived 131,666 in Fiscal Year 2007 for work in Uganda. CAWA was one of the subpartners, receiving $50,000 to publish (pg 20) and distribute the newsletter, The Prime Timer. Altogether, groups controlled by Ssempa received at least $90,000 from PEPFAR, according to government records. It is baffling why Ssempa would say otherwise.

I learned last week that I need to make a correction in what I wrote above. Rev. Ssempa did indeed get PEPFAR money via CAWA but not at the level reported on PEPFAR program documents. I spoke last week with Anita Smith, Executive Director of the Children’s AIDS Fund. Since 2005, CAF has implemented the “Preserving African Families in the Face of HIV/AIDS Through Prevention” grant. The grant planned nearly 10 million dollars for abstinence and fidelity education (the AB components of Uganda’s ABC approach) to be spent over five years. One of the subpartners for this operation was Martin Ssempa’s Campus Alliance to Wipe Out AIDS (CAWA). CAWA was slated to get $50,000 as I pointed out in my June post. The funds were proposed for the monthly publication of a magazine directed at college students, called the Prime Timer, for the purpose of promoting abstinence.

However, the group did not get anything close to that, according to Ms. Smith. Why not? According to Smith, CAF ceased their relationship with CAWA due to “lack of performance.” Ms. Smith told me that Martin Ssempa signed the contract in July, 2006 and agreed to produce one magazine per month. However, Smith said she remembered “only one publication that was produced in January, 2007.” 

According to Smith, they were paid $3,950 for the expenses of that one magazine and then the contract was ended in January, 2007. Thus, if World Magazine’s report is accurate and Ssempa’s Global Alliance for Prevention (referred to on the PEPFAR website as Makerere Community Church) received $40,000, then the amount of PEPFAR funding would be $43,950. Here is what World’s Emily Belz said about the use of the funding:

As one result, PSI is no longer fronting abstinence programs in Kampala, and GAP within the last year secured $40,000 in U.S. abstinence-education money. That’s a small sum compared to the $12 million PSI received in the first round of funding, but it’s enough for Ssempa to publish a newspaper promoting abstinence. He distributes the paper on Kampala’s high-school and university campuses.

PSI is Population Services International which was Makerere Community Church’s partner in 2004 according to the PEPFAR website. In any event, it appears that at least some small amount of PEPFAR money was given groups headed by Ssempa.

Ssempa said to the BBC back in February that he receives no funding from the United States (at about 6:10 into the clip). We now know that is a misleading statement since his living expenses and staff salaries are funded by Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas. It seems unlikely that he could have devoted the time and resources to his campaign if he did not have the backing of the church. It is not clear to me why Rev. Ssempa would be sensitive about the funding issue. My guess is that it would undermine some of his appeal to African values which has been one core aspect of his campaign for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.