The Ghanaian President John Atta Mills has reacted angrily UK’s threat to cut bilateral aid if the country refuses to legalise homosexuality.

He said the UK did not have the right to “direct to other sovereign nations as to what they should do”, saying their society’s “norms” were different from those in the UK.

Mr Atta Mills told the BBC: “I, as president, will never initiate or support any attempt to legalise homosexuality in Ghana.”

The British Prime Minister raised the issue of gay rights and bilateral aid at a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Australia.

Mr Cameron told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show at the weekend: “Britain is now one of the premier aid givers in the world – saying that our aid, actually we want to see countries that receive our aid adhering to proper human rights, and that includes how people treat gay and lesbian people.”

He was asked whether African countries would have their aid reduced if they did not reverse anti-gay legislation.

Mr Cameron replied: “We are saying it is one of the things that will determine our aid policy.”

Earlier this week a Ugandan presidential official, John Nagenda, said his country was “tired of these lectures” and that the Commonwealth nations should not be treated like “children”.

The Ghanaian president Atta Mills’ communications chief Koku Anyidoho told the BBC: “If that aid is going to be tied to things that will destroy the moral fibre of society, do you really want that?”

Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights lobby the Peter Tatchell Foundation, stressed the importance of redirecting aid appropriately.

He said: “Instead of cutting aid, Britain and other donor countries should divert their aid money from human rights abusing governments and redirect it to grassroots, community-based humanitarian projects that respect human rights and do not discriminate in their service provision.

“These frontline, on-the-ground projects tend to deliver the most cost-effective aid that gets most directly to the people who need it. By redirecting aid in this way, abusive governments are punished but poor people are not penalised. They continue to receive the aid they need.

“Any sanctions must always be targeted at human rights abusers, not at the general population.”

Mac-Darling Cobbinah, the executive and national director of the Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana, said the move would only bring “pain and anguish” to the struggling country.

He added that the plans could backfire and lead to gay people being blamed for aid cuts.

Speaking to Paul Canning of LGBT Asylum News, Mr Cobbinah said: “We from Ghana LGBTi community think this is not enough. Cutting down aid will not bring anything other than pain and anguish to the already polarised society or country and LGBTi people will be used as scapegoats for under development in our countries.

“There should be support for LGBTi groups to conduct more education to get people to know and understand sexuality and gender diversity instead of aid cuts. The UK should lead the way by supporting LGBTi groups in these countries to organise more awareness programmes and talk shows to get the majority of the people to understand the issues of LGBTi rights.”

He added: “We do not want to leave to Europe for asylum and so want to live here and improve the lives of our people here. We need more than just speeches.”

Ghana received £36m last year in general budgetary support to the government, with £90m sent in total.