Denmark withholds aid to Tanzania over homophobia

Denmark withholds aid to Tanzania over homophobia
Minister for International Development Ulla Tørnæs. File photo: Ólafur Steinar Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix
Persecution of LGBTQ+ people by a Tanzanian governor appears to have resulted in Denmark withdrawing millions of kroner in aid to the developing country.

Minister for International Development Ulla Tørnæs said in parliament this week that the government will withhold 65 million kroner which was scheduled to be paid to the east African country this year.

“I am very concerned over the negative developments in Tanzania, most recently with the completely unacceptable homophobic statements from a commissioner,” Tørnæs, who did not name the official in question, said.

“Respect for human rights is one of the most important priorities in Denmark’s foreign partnerships. That includes the right not to be discriminated against based on sexual orientation,” she added.

Paul Makonda, governor of Dar-es-Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, recently called for residents to denounce gay and lesbian people to authorities.

According to a report by broadcaster DR, Makonda also said that he would appoint investigators to search for homosexual people on social media in order to arrest them.

Up to 30 years in prison can be given in Tanzania for being in a same-sex relationship.

The east African country was the second-largest beneficiary of Danish foreign aid in 2017, receiving a total of 349 million kroner, but Makonda’s comments have thrown the future of that economic backing into doubt.

“Several forms of freedom are under increasing pressure. That’s why, in my view, it is necessary to re-evaluate Denmark’s engagement in Tanzania,” Tørnæs said.

The minister has also postponed a scheduled visit to the country.

She will discuss with EU counterparts later this month the future form of aid to Tanzania.

“We will thoroughly assess the situation together. That is the best way to follow up on our goals for development, democracy and human rights for the people of Tanzania,” she said.

Makonda does not regret the comments, for which he has received international criticism, DR reports.

“I prefer to anger (critical) countries than to anger God,” he said according to the broadcaster.

Tørnæs will redistribute the aid money that had been allocated to Tanzania, with 40 million kroner now set to be given to local organisations that promote human rights.

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