Denmark freezes aid to Tanzania in wake of homophobic rhetoric

Development minister Ulla Tørnæs acutely concerned about the situation

Denmark has frozen millions of kroner of aid to Tanzania after a leading politician in the east-African country voiced some very homophobic opinions recently.

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.

“I’m very concerned about the negative development in Tanzania – most recently the completely unacceptable homophobic statements from a commissioner,” Ulla Tørnæs, the development minister, wrote on Twitter.

“So I’ve decided to withhold 65 million kroner earmarked for the country. Respect for human rights is of paramount importance to Denmark.”

Tanzania’s ambassador to Denmark, Dr Wilbrod Slaa (who is based in Stockholm), has been summoned to explain the situation, while Tørnæs has already met with Tanzania’s foreign minister. Later this month, the EU will sit down to discuss how to approach the issue.

READ MORE: Denmark launches aid program in Uganda 

Uganda 2.0?
LGBT rights have been severely challenged in a number of African countries. Homosexuality is illegal in Tanzania, while in other countries like Mauritania, Sudan, Somalia and parts of Nigeria the LGBT community face the death penalty simply for being gay.

Four years ago, Denmark also cut aid ties with Uganda in the wake of anti-gay legislation being passed by the government. The Danish development minister at that time, Mogens Jensen, is openly gay himself and travelled to Uganda in person to get reassurances from the leadership there.

Last year, Tanzania was the country that received the second-most Danish aid, but whether that detail will deter Makonda remains to be seen. He has previously stated: “I prefer to anger those countries than to anger God.”