Regional Commissioner for Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Paul Makonda, who is hunting down gay people and having them arrested. Image Paul Makonda Facebook.
On October 31, Paul Makonda, the powerful regional commissioner for Tanzania’s economic capital Dar es Salaam, held a press conference and announced that he had set up a taskforce to hunt gay men, prostitutes, pornographers, and people fraudulently raising money on social media.
He urged citizens to turn gay men into the police, stating that he had already collected hundreds of names. On November 5, the taskforce was to begin rounding up suspected gay men and subjecting them to forced anal examinations and conversion therapy.
“In Dar es Salaam, homosexuality is not a human right,” he said, explaining that the taskforce would use social media to track and arrest people in same-sex relationships.
Makonda disregarded any international condemnation of his actions, saying "I prefer to anger those countries than to anger God."
Tanzania is one of the world’s most homophobic countries and same-sex activity is punishable by 30 years to life in prison.
Following international coverage of Makonda’s comments, Tanzania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on November 4, distancing the government from the anti-gay roundup.
"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 statement said.
According to the statement, the country will also "continue to respect all international human rights conventions which it subscribes to."
Human Rights Watch said that activists told them that on the same day the government released the statement, police had arrested people in Zanzibar on homosexuality-related charges.
"Tanzania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ disavowal of incendiary anti-gay comments by a Dar es Salaam official is a positive development, but will mean little unless the government reforms its laws and policies that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people,” Human Rights Watch said.
Makonda is a close ally of anti-LGBT President John Magufuli, who was elected in December 2015. According to Human Rights Watch, since Magufuli came to power any progress on LGBT rights has been reversed.
“Tanzania has had a marked decline in respect for free expression, association, and assembly. The authorities’ rhetorical attacks on rights have been accompanied by repressive laws and harassment and arrest of journalists, opposition members, and critics, while progress on LGBT health and rights has been reversed.”
In Tanzania there are no programs available to prevent or treat HIV, the availability of water-based lubricants has been curtailed and human rights defenders are threatened with arrest or deportation for speaking in support of LGBT rights.
At CHOGM in Perth in 2011, UK Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to reduce or withhold aid to commonwealth governments that don’t work towards decriminalising homosexuality.
Tanzania's minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation, Bernard Membe, refused to comply.
“Tanzania will never accept Cameron's proposal because we have our own moral values. Homosexuality is not part of our culture and we will never legalise it.... We are not ready to allow any rich nation to give us aid based on unacceptable conditions simply because we are poor. If we are denied aid by one country, it will not affect the economic status of this nation and we can do without UK aid.”
The following month, then President Mizengo Pinda confirmed in parliament that he would be willing to lose UK aid, saying “I would like to say that homosexuality is unacceptable to our society. We need to look critically on these issues. To me this is unacceptable. Even animals can't do such a thing.”