The US government has condemned Tanzania for ‘creating an atmosphere of violence, intimidation, and discrimination’ against the LGBTI community amid a crackdown on alleged homosexuals.
In a strongly worded statement, the US Department of State (DoS) expressed concern over the ‘arrests and harassment’ of the LGBTI community in Tanzania and called on the country’s leaders to safeguard its population’s civil liberties.
The US government’s statement is in response to moves by the governor of the country’s economic capital, Dar es Salaam, to round up those believed to be homosexual.
Homosexuality is still a criminal offense in Tanzania, though the authorities recent targeting of homosexuals has shocked many international bodies.
Earlier this week, the European Union (EU) released a statement saying: ‘The EU regrets the deterioration of the human rights and rule of law situation in Tanzania and will be conducting a broad review of its relations with Tanzania.’
It was also announced that the EU’s envoy to Tanzania, Ambassador Roeland van de Geer, would be recalled to Brussels.
Last week, Amnesty’s regional director for East Africa, Joan Nanyuki, warned Tanzanian officials that the actions were leading the country down a ‘dangerous path’.
‘Creating an atmosphere of violence’
The US government’s statement, which was released on Friday (9 November), read: ‘The United States government is deeply concerned over escalating attacks and legislative actions by the Government of Tanzania that violate civil liberties and human rights, creating an atmosphere of violence, intimidation, and discrimination.’
‘We are troubled by the continued arrests and harassment of marginalized persons, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and others who seek to exercise their rights to freedom of speech, association, and assembly. The legislation is being used to restrict civil liberties for all,’ the statement continued.
‘The deteriorating state of human rights and rule of law in Tanzania inhibits development, economic prosperity, peace, and security.’
The US also called for Tanzania to uphold civil liberties for its population.
‘We call on Tanzanian authorities to act decisively to safeguard the rights of civil society organizations, human rights defenders, journalists, health workers, political activists, and all people in accordance with the Tanzanian constitution, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, and the country’s international and regional obligations and commitments,’ the statement said.
Crackdowns on homosexuality
Last week, the governor Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda, called on authorities to set up a special committee to identify and punish homosexuals.
Makonda is a hardline Christian, and a staunch ally of the country’s president, John Magufuli.
President Magufuli is also known for his anti-homosexuality and has initiated crackdowns against homosexuality in Tanzania since coming to power in 2015.
In 2016 he banned HIV/AIDS outreach programs and clinics for ‘promoting homosexuality’, despite the warnings from medical experts, and has expelled people from Tanzania for allegedly advocating same-sex marriage.
Last week also saw the arrest of 10 men on the island of Zanzibar for allegedly holding a same-sex marriage. The men were later released on bail.
Tanzania has maintained the anti-homosexual laws established while under British colonial rule. Those found guilty of homosexual acts can face up to 30 years imprisonment.