In the city of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania a crowd cheered to the rhetoric of the country’s Justice minister Harrison Mwakyembe against homosexuality when he said last year, “If there’s a homosexual who has a Facebook account, or with an Instagram account, all those who ‘follow’ him, it is very clear that they are just as guilty as the homosexual.”
Mwakyembe is not the only one targeting homosexuals. The deputy health minister, Hamisi Kigwangalla had earlier on in February, via his Twitter account announced he’d publish a list of gap people selling their bodies online. He went to further state that the government has long hands and would arrest those involved quietly.
Namalizia ziara jimboni. Nikirudi Dar, kabla ya kuhamia rasmi Dodoma, nitaweka wazi orodha ya watuhumiwa wa ushoga wanaojiuza mitandaoni!
— Dr. Kigwangalla, H. (@HKigwangalla) February 14, 2017
Since John Pombe Magufuli became president, the tone of the Tanzanian government towards LGBTI rights has been a harsh one. The latest vitriol against organisations that campaign for gay rights and protect homosexual interests came from the Minister of Home Affairs, Mwigulu Nchemba.
The minister, during a fundraising ceremony was quoted by Daily News saying, “I would like to use this opportunity to remind and warn all organizations and institutions that campaign and pretend to protect homosexual interests … we are going to arrest whoever is involved and charge them in courts of law.”
The government banned the importation of sexual lubricants in July last year, with the Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu saying it encouraged homosexuality.
Nchemba further said, “Those who are interested in homosexuality should go and live in countries that entertain such businesses … if there’s any organization in the country that supports and campaigns for homosexuality … it shall be deregistered.”
The ministers were obviously following in the footsteps of President Magufuli whose hold on Tanzania has been viewed by critics to be draconian and dictatorial. Magufuli had slammed NGOs just some days before Nchemba made his comments. In his speech, Magufuli had said, “Those who teach such things do not like us, brothers. They brought us drugs and homosexual practices that even cows disapprove of.”
In October last year, the Tanzanian government suspended HIV/AIDS medical care to homosexuals. This is despite the fact the funds for the treatment doesn’t come from the Tanzanian government. This is seen as one of the harshest treatment of gays in the world, asides the 30 year jail term that comes with it.
While many LGBTI people in Tanzania had been able to lead relatively normal lives free from harassment and violence until now, things are slowly changing. Magufuli and his cabinet have been trying to stir a cultural and moral canopy on the country. The rights of Tanzanians, especially LGBTI’s are being violated and the freedom of press is being suppressed too.