Tanzanians urged to inform on gay friends
Residents in Tanzania’s biggest city have been urged to inform on neighbours and friends in a police operation to hunt down and jail homosexuals.
A 17-member committee appointed by Paul Makonda, Dar es Salaam’s powerful regional commissioner, will attempt to identify all gay men living in the coastal city after it first convenes next Monday.
Makonda, a close ally of Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, said a list of 200 sus- pects had already been drawn up thanks to public tip-offs and a trawl through Tanzanians’ social media accounts.
“I have information about the presence of many homosexuals in our province,” he said. “These homosexuals boast on social networks. Give me their names. My ad hoc team will begin to get their hands on them next Monday.”
Homosexuality is not strictly illegal in Tanzania. Sodomy, however, carries a sentence of between 30 years and life in prison, while other sexual acts between consenting men also carry jail terms.
Tanzania was seen until recently as more tolerant of homosexuals than neighbouring countries, but the atmosphere has chilled since Magufuli became president in 2015.
Last year Magufuli closed Aids clinics, accusing them of promoting homosexuality.
Makonda, a devout Christian who has long railed against gay Tanzanians, is one of the country’s most powerful figures. Acknowledging the potential for a backlash from the West, if homosexuals are detained en masse, Makonda said: “I prefer to anger these countries than to anger God.”
Tanzania receives large sums in aid from countries such as Britain.
The clampdown comes after the arrest on Thursday of Zitto Kabwe, arguably the country’s best known opposition leader, after he accused security forces of killing as many as 100 people in clashes with cattle herders in Tanzania’s west. Kabwe was denied bail and is being held in custody.