Canada joins protest against LGBTI vi­o­la­tions

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Cana­dian of­fi­cials yes­ter­day be­came the lat­est to speak out against the state-sanc­tioned anti-gay prej­u­dice that has seen Tanzania mak­ing in­ter­na­tional head­lines ever since news broke of the ar­rest of 10 gay men in Zanz­ibar over the week­end.

Tanzania is one of Canada’s big­gest aid re­cip­i­ents, but the North Amer­i­can coun­try is “re­assess­ing its re­la­tion­ship” with the na­tion, ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion.

This fol­lows “high-level meet­ings in­volv­ing not only Cana­dian and Tan­za­nian of­fi­cials, but also those of other western donor na­tions”.

Other coun­tries have been less diplo­matic, with the EU with­draw­ing its am­bas­sador from Tanzania and the US warn­ing its cit­i­zens in the coun­try to be aware of the crack­down. Sev­eral coun­tries have is­sued travel alerts.

The crack­down be­gan with the de­ploy­ment of “anti-gay pa­trols” on Mon­day in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s big­gest city, ac­cord­ing to re­ports by French in­ter­na­tional news agency Agence France-Presse.

In a mes­sage to Tan­za­ni­ans, Dar es Salaam re­gional com­mis­sioner Paul Makonda de­clared: “Give me their names. My ad hoc team will be­gin to get their hands on them.”

The teams tasked with round­ing up les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, trans­gen­der and in­ter­sex (LGBTI) peo­ple in Tanzania was made up of po­lice, Tanzania Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Reg­u­la­tory Author­ity agents and “me­dia prac­ti­tion­ers”, who trolled so­cial me­dia for signs of “ho­mo­sex­ual be­hav­iour”.

The news agency re­ported that more than 5 000 tip-offs had been re­ceived by the end of the first day.

The ar­rests in Zanz­ibar were the first of the crack­down.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s deputy di­rec­tor for east Africa, Seif Ma­gango, is­sued a state­ment which claimed that all the ar­rested men had done was to sit to­gether in pairs.

The ar­rests were fol­lowed by re­ports that the 10 men would be sub­jected to forced anal ex­am­i­na­tions on Fri­day, “the govern­ment’s method of choice for prov­ing same-sex sex­ual ac­tiv­ity among men”, ac­cord­ing to Ma­gango.

“This must not be al­lowed to hap­pen. Th­ese men must be re­leased im­me­di­ately.”

Memes of sol­i­dar­ity with LGBTI Tan­za­ni­ans spread like wild­fire on so­cial me­dia in the course of this week and many gay men in Tanzania have been re­ported to have gone into hid­ing out of fear that the anti-gay squads would come for them next.

An LGBTI ac­tivist told The Guardian: “They are raid­ing houses. It is a hor­ri­ble thing. It is just go­ing to get worse. So many peo­ple are leav­ing the city, run­ning away.”

Anti-gay ha­rass­ment has in­creased since the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent John “The Bull­dozer” Magu­fuli in 2015.

Last year the Tan­za­nian govern­ment threat­ened to pub­lish the names of gay Tan­za­ni­ans and or­dered the clo­sure of 40 walk-in HIV clin­ics, ac­cus­ing them of en­cour­ag­ing ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.

Praised by many Tan­za­ni­ans for his no-non­sense an­ticor­rup­tion drive, Magu­fuli is caus­ing alarm in the rest of the world as civil lib­er­ties have been steadily un­der­mined since his elec­tion.

On­line con­tent pro­duc­ers have been forced to regis­ter with Tanzania’s broad­cast reg­u­la­tor and pay a hefty li­cence fee or face prison time.

A new cybercrime law has tar­geted any­one who might in­sult the pres­i­dent; the pub­lish­ing of sta­tis­tics that chal­lenge the state’s official ones has been out­lawed; the smok­ing of shisha (wa­ter-pipe to­bacco) has been banned; and women MPs have been banned from wear­ing false eye­lashes, false nails, short skirts and jeans.

Preg­nant teenagers and “lazy” pris­on­ers have also been the sub­ject of Magu­fuli’s ire.

Four news­pa­pers and two ra­dio sta­tions have been shut down, lead­ing An­gela Quin­tal, a South African jour­nal­ist and Africa pro­gramme co­or­di­na­tor at the Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists, to speak against the sup­pres­sion of jour­nal­ists.

This week she and a Kenyan col­league, Muthoki Mumo, were vis­it­ing Tanzania when they were re­moved from their ho­tel by po­lice and re­leased af­ter an in­ter­na­tional out­cry. The women’s pass­ports were re­turned on Thurs­day, and only then were they free to leave the coun­try, af­ter a re­ported diplo­matic stand-off.


STRAIGHT AND NAR­ROW Tan­za­nian Pres­i­dent John Magu­fuli is in­creas­ingly be­ing seen as a despot

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