Denmark, World Bank withdraw aid from Tanzania over rights concerns

Ulla Torneas

Two weeks ago, Paul Makonda, the regional commissioner for the city of Dar es Salaam, urged the citizens of his country to report homosexuals to the authorities and pledged to hunt down gay people by investigating social media accounts.

Tanzania's second-biggest donor Denmark said it would withhold $10 million worth of aid money, citing concerns over human rights abuses and "unacceptable homophobic comments" made by a government official.

Makonda promised to set up anti-gay surveillance squad to track down and arrest any person suspected of being gay.

However, President Magufuli's government has also been criticised by opposition politicians and worldwide rights groups for what they say is growing authoritarianism and intolerance of dissent.

"I'm very concerned about the negative development in Tanzania. Most recently the totally unacceptable homophobic statements from a commissioner", Ms Tornaes said on Twitter.

"I have therefore chose to withhold DKK 65m [about $10 million] from the country".

Denmark provided 349 million crowns in foreign aid in 2018.

"I will look at changing that, so we don't work directly with a Government leading a politic that goes in the wrong direction on human rights issues".

Ms Tornaes has also postponed a planned trip to the east African country, Danish broadcaster DR reported.

Reuters was not able to reach Tanzanian government officials for immediate comment.

"I prefer to anger those countries than to anger God", he said.

The government distanced itself from his views, saying that he "was only airing his personal opinion".

Human Rights Watch said Mr Magufuli's Government "has restricted basic rights through repressive laws and decrees" targeting journalists, activists and perceived opponents.

The move was condemned by human rights groups.

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