Denmark is Tanzania’s second-largest aid donor and was set to disburse 65 million krone (US$9.8 million) in aid to the country, after providing 349 million krone (US$54 million) to the east African country last year. However, the country is withholding the donation, citing “unacceptable homophobic comments”.
“I am very concerned about the negative developments in Tanzania, most recently the unacceptable homophobic statements made by a commissioner. I have therefore decided to withhold 65 million krone from the country. Respect for human rights is absolutely essential for Denmark,” Minister for Development Cooperation, Ulla Tørnæs said on Twitter
Although the minister did not indicate which government official made the remarks, Dar es Salaam’s regional commissioner, Paul Makonda, recently appealed to Tanzanians to report suspected homosexuals and declared that he would set up a surveillance squad to track and capture them.
Although the government distanced itself from his remarks, the regional commissioner said he expected international criticism for his stance, but added: “I prefer to anger those countries than to anger God,” the BBC reported.
Makonda’s remarks were not idle threats as 10 men were arrested for allegedly conducting a same-sex marriage ceremony on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar. The arrested men were apprehended by police for “sitting in pairs”.
Denmark’s aid withdrawal is only the latest sanction against the country over its homophobic stance. Following the arrest of the men, the European Council said in a statement on EU-Tanzania relations that it would “conduct a comprehensive review of its policies” towards the country.
Citing an “unprecedented attitude”, the council renewed calls for “Tanzanian authorities to refrain from exerting undue pressure and limitations on diplomatic missions”.
Overall, Tanzania is experiencing an intense backlash on its general disregard for human rights on all fronts, its growing authoritarianism and its intolerance of dissent. As reported by The Independent newspaper, the World Bank has also announced the scrapping of a plan to loan Tanzania US$300 million (£235 million) after the country reaffirmed its policy of banning pregnant girls from school and criminalising the scrutiny of its official statistics.