Tanzania City Governor Calls for Anti-Gay Witch Hunt

The regional commissioner of Tanzania’s biggest city has demanded citizens denounce homosexuals in their community and has vowed that officials will catch those people within the next few weeks.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, October 26, Dar es Salaam’s commissioner Paul Makonda is quoted as saying that his teams were hard at work searching social media for signs of homosexual people and that round ups of suspected homosexuals would begin within the next week.

“I have information about the presence of many homosexuals in our province.”

Claiming that “These homosexuals boast on social networks,” Makonda then said, “Give me their names. My ad hoc team will begin to get their hands on them next Monday.”

Makonda also made pronouncements against pornography and warned citizens that they should delete naked photos of themselves on their phones, as all this contravenes good morals and will not be tolerated.

To understand this situation, it’s important to know a bit about the state of politics in Tanzania.

What is happening in Tanzania?

Tanzania outlaws both male and female homosexuality. For men, this can carry a maximum penalty of life in prison. For women, the penalty is a maximum of five years in prison or a 500,000 shilling fine. While the maximum penalties are rarely invoked, Tanzania uses those laws to reinforce social taboos around homosexuality and ensure that living as an openly gay person is not only difficult but even dangerous.

Despite this, Tanzania once had a reputation as having a relatively liberal attitude in a region that still suffers under the social moorings of British colonialism. Things changed, however, when John Magufuli was elected president in 2015.

Billed as a corruption-busting force, Magfuli has made a number of decidedly anti-progressive decisions while in power, telling women “not to use birth control” and saying that people who go to family planning are “lazy”. He has also said that prisoners are “free labour” and lamented the fact that prisoners continue to be fed on state money.

Specifically on the question of homosexuality, he gave a speech in 2017 in which he rallied against NGOs that help LGBTQIA people, saying  ”Those who teach such things do not like us, brothers. They brought us drugs and homosexual practices that even cows disapprove of.” His ministers have said that any NGOs caught pushing LGBT rights will be delisted. Any Tanzanian citizens pushing such agendas will be arrested, they said.

Magufuli, whose anti-corruption drive initially made him popular, has vowed his party will rule forever.

Makonda isn’t a stranger to making pronouncements like this either. In 2016 Makonda made similar claims that he would scour social media for offenders and use this position to punish them.  These are not empty threats, either. Twelve men were arrested in 2017 after a raid in Dar es Salaam, supposedly for “promoting homosexuality”. There have also been arrests in the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar.

As is perhaps evident, this has created an oppressive atmosphere in Tanzania for anyone who doesn’t fall within the proscribed moral framework of the government. This has led to the forced closure of HIV clinics in the region despite a significant proportion of the adult population being HIV positive–around seven percent. Yet the government has linked HIV advocacy with promoting homosexuality and sex outside of natural law (which seems to also mean women having sex outside of marriage). Thus, HIV clinics are now finding themselves facing strict scrutiny to the point where many have had to shut their doors.

This means people are now forced to go to government-owned facilities, where practices like anal examinations for homosexual activity still take place. These exams have no clinical worth and are manifestly against a range of international human rights laws. Medical professionals have likened the practice to rape.

The Guardian spoke to Geofry Mashala, a Tanzanian LGBT activist who now lives in California, who says that this is creating a climate of terror among LGBT people in the country.  ”People have become very powerful to attack people. If you are on the bus or walk on the street and maybe two or three guys start to shout: ‘Hey, he’s a gay, he’s a gay’. Suddenly, 10 people can join these two people, or 20 people, and start attacking you on the street. You cannot do anything. You cannot go to the police. You cannot ask people to help you.”

The United Nations notes that Tanzania has received around $26.85 billion in foreign assistance between 1990 and 2010. It is classed as a relative success story in terms of political reform — or, at least, it was. What is emerging here is a profile of systematic discrimination against LGBT and other minority groups similar to what we have seen in places like Uganda.

The United States, and several European states, are among the biggest global donors to Tanzania. This seriously calls into question how long a nation can be allowed to use international funds in order to prop up a government that perpetuates human rights abuses and has declared itself, essentially, to be a one-party state.

Related at Care2

Photo credit: Getty Images.

53 comments

Shae Lee
Shae Lee6 days ago

Thank you.

SEND
Daniel N
Daniel N10 days ago

thank you

SEND
Joan E
Joan E20 days ago

What a shame. As some countries are becoming more tolerant and inclusive, others are bringing back the equivalent of the Salem Witch Trials.

SEND
Gino C
Gino C26 days ago

Horrible

SEND
Janis K
Janis K26 days ago

If we could just live and let live!

SEND
Joemar K
Joemar K28 days ago

Thanks

SEND
Diane E
Diane E29 days ago

So sad that people cannot be allowed to live their life in peace and harmony. The rainbow flag should be allowed to fly openly. Peace and love to all.

SEND
Leo C
Leo Cabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing!

SEND
Leo Custer
Leo Cabout a month ago

Thank you for posting!

SEND
danii p
danii pabout a month ago

Thank you

SEND