News & Conflicts

Tanzanian Government declares Social Media Witch-Hunt on Gay Citizens

gay Tanzanian

Paul Makonda, the governor of Tanzania’s economic capital, Dar es Salaam, announced the creation of a surveillance squad dedicated to hunting down gay Tanzanians. The team will scrutinize social media in order to track down and arrest people in same-sex relationships.

Earlier in the week, Makonda called for members of the public to report people suspected of being gay. Since then, he says, he has received about 18,000 messages from members of the public. “From the messages, 200 names have been recurring meaning that I have a list of people who I can start my operation [with],” he said. If there is enough “evidence” people could be charged, he has said, as homosexuality is illegal under Tanzanian law, and an anti-gay rhetoric has been on the rise since President John Magufuli’s election in 2015. Those found guilty face up to 30 years’ prison time.

When confronted with the impending international criticism for the move, Mr. Makonda said “I prefer to anger those countries than to anger God.” adding that same-sex relationships “trample on the moral values of Tanzanians and our two Christian and Muslim religions”. Religion is a prominent argument on the side of homophobia used to sway the public in denying their fellow citizens a right to live and love.

He also warned people to delete any naked photos on their mobile phones and promised strong measures against pornography. This will infringe on basic rights to privacy and portrays the governments perverse understanding of concepts of sexuality.

Gay Tanzanians

The partial closure of HIV-Aids support centers in Tanzania has repercussions on public health and anti-Aids campaigns

HIV clinics have also been forced to close after being accused of promoting homosexuality. The Tanzanian government has also shut down HIV outreach services and banned the import of water-based lubricants, saying both measures would discourage homosexuality, according to Human Rights Watch. The Tanzanian government is denying its citizens a constitutional right to healthcare services; it is worth saying that even convicted criminals should have access to healthcare in a democratic society.

gay Tanzanians

A gay pride parade in Johannesburg, South Africa, March 2014. The country is known for its tolerance in accepting LGBTQ self-identification and is the only nation in the continent to have legalized same-sex marriage. SAMANTHA MARX/CREATIVE COMMONS

The gay community perpetually faces prosecution and punishments across Africa, with homosexuality still a criminal offence worthy of 14 years of prison time in Nigeria. Last year, Amnesty International said there had been “an unprecedented crackdown” on homosexuals in Tanzania and reported that authorities had subjected people to “forced anal examinations, a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that can amount to torture.”

Mr. Makonda, told reporters that round-ups would begin next week. Before then, citizens of African nations need to show our support for the Tanzanian LGBTQ community, and in turn amplify the discourse to be a matter of global importance, in an effort to avoid getting to this nefarious point next week. It may seem like wishful thinking for African nations to support gay rights, but at the cost of liberty of another individual based on who he/she/they choose to love, it seems far from the wrong choice to make.

The public may as well be held accountable for enabling bigotry if truly, individuals submitted names of ‘suspected’ homosexuals to the government. We must, as Africans, recognize that our willful ignorance of these issues does not help it evolve but enables people in positions of authority to make it harder for other individuals to exist without persecution.

Some have already taken to social media to condemn Mr. Makonda’s statement.

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