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Diplomatic pressure results in Tanzania stating anti-gay crackdown is not government policy

Amnesty International reports that ten men have been arrested since last week’s announcement.

Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

TANZANIA HAS SAID the plan to hunt down and arrest suspected homosexuals in the country’s capital was not official policy, distancing itself from a citywide crackdown slammed by rights groups.

Dar es Salaam’s powerful governor, Paul Makonda, urged citizens last Monday to begin reporting homosexuals for round-ups in a country where anti-gay rhetoric has soared in recent years.  

“The government of the United Republic of Tanzania would like to clarify that these are (Makonda’s) personal views and not the position of the government,” the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.

It added that the government would “continue to respect all international human rights conventions which it subscribes to”.

The slap down of the Regional Commissioner by the Minister of Foreign Affairs came following sustained diplomatic and media pressure since Friday. 

Last week, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the Tanzanian city’s plans to hunt down and arrest suspected homosexuals was “shocking”.

“We’ve had a positive development partnership with Tanzania for decades, and still do, committing significant financial supports to worthy projects annually.

“The targeting of the LGBT community is shocking, and I’ve written to the government to outline my concerns,” he said on Twitter.

Coveney added that he’s written to the government to outline his concerns about the development.

The letter sent by the Tánaiste, seen by TheJournal.ie, states that Ireland and Tanzania has worked together in partnership for the last 40 years. Coveney writes that he is “deeply concerned” about the plans. 

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While recognising there can be different cultural values, Coveney urged the Minister Mahiga to “disown and bring to an end this provocative action”. 

He goes on to state that he hopes it will be possible for Ireland to develop strong bilateral relationship with Tanzania, one with “shared values”. 

Despite the ministry distancing itself from a citywide crackdown, Amnesty International reports today that ten men have been arrested on suspicion of being gay on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar after police received a “tip-off” from members of the public about a same-sex marriage taking place.

Under British colonial-era laws, homosexuality is illegal in Tanzania and same-sex acts between men are punishable by a maximum life sentence.

Anti-gay sentiment has increased since Magufuli’s 2015 election, forcing most gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities to live in secrecy.

AIDS clinics have also been shut down under Magufuli, accused of “promoting” homosexuality, while he has encouraged women to abandon birth control and have more babies.

 

With reporting by AFP 

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