Tanzania has reacted angrily to an advisory issued by the US to its citizens, against travelling to the East African country, terming the action malicious.
Government spokesman Dr Hassan Abbas dismissed the advisory calling it “cheap propaganda,” that is not reflective of the real situation in Tanzania.
“Nobody should waste time on this. Tanzania received thousands of tourists this festive season, and all of them are peacefully enjoying themselves here… Not one of them has lost even a pen,” said Dr Abbas. “I believe whoever issued the alert cannot find Tanzania on the map.”
The State Department on Wednesday urged US citizens to “exercise increased caution” while in Tanzania due to concerns over crime, terrorism and official actions targeting people on the basis of their gender or sexual identity.
Violent crime is “common” in Tanzania, the State Department said, citing risks of assault, kidnapping, sexual assault and carjacking.
“Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Tanzania,” the advisory notes further.
“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons have been arrested, targeted, harassed and/or charged with unrelated offenses…. Individuals detained under suspicion of same-sex sexual conduct could be subject to forced anal examinations,” the State Department notes.
Wednesday’s advisory did not cite specific incidents of crime, terrorism or abuse of LGBTI persons.
In the case of violent crime, the State Department said that “local police may lack the resources to respond effectively.”
Regarding the threat of terrorism, the advisory warned that attacks may target “embassies, police stations, mosques and other places frequented by Westerners.”
In the Tanzania section of its 2017 global survey of terrorism, the State Department pointed to a series of small-scale attacks in which “masked gunmen killed more than 30 police and local political officials in the Pwani region.”
The perpetrators did not claim allegiance to a terrorist group, the report adds.
The December 26 travel advisory concerning LGBTI persons may have come partly in response to comments in October by Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda.
“I have received reports that there are many homosexuals in our city, and these homosexuals are advertising and selling their services on the Internet,” Mr Makonda said in a video posted on YouTube. “Therefore, I am announcing this to every citizen of Dar es Salaam: If you know any gays … report them to me.”
The advisory comes weeks after US senators issued a statement putting pressure on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to take action against the Tanzanian government on issues of LGBT, schoolgirl pregnancies, squeezing of political/democratic space, human-rights, and gagging of dissidence.
The government’s sharply conservative policies on these issues over the past year have put it on a collision course with donor countries.
The European Parliament issued a statement earlier in December condemning the John Magufuli administration for increased human-rights abuses and diminished democratic freedom.
In November, the European Union recalled its ambassador to Tanzania, citing deterioration of human-rights and the rule of law. The EU has said it is reviewing its relationship with the country.
Tanzania is a significant beneficiary of EU development co-operation, mainly financed by the European Development Fund, with some $709.38 million covering the energy, agriculture, health, governance and security sectors now at stake.
Denmark, the country’s second largest donor, has also announced plans to withhold $10 million worth of aid, citing concerns over human-rights abuses and “unacceptable homophobic comments” made by a government official.