During the past few weeks, Tanzanian human rights abuses have hit international news. Denmark has decreased its aid for Tanzania, the EU is reviewing its policies, and the World Bank has already cancelled and later reaffirmed a massive loan for Tanzania. These are reactions to the Tanzanian government’s homophobic comments and actions against the LGBT+ community, and Tanzania’s policy to not allow pregnant girls to go to school during or after pregnancy. Tanzania is where the majority of our project partners are, so we are watching keenly to see what happens next and are hoping that the communities that we work with won’t be too badly impacted.
Tanzania’s second-biggest aider, Denmark, has declared to withhold £7.5m because of anti-gay comments. This is a direct response to Tanzanian high official Paul Makonda’s statement of launching an “anti-gay hunt” with the target of capturing people who are suspected of being homosexuals. Makonda is a devoted Christian who thinks that homosexuality is a threat to Tanzanian moral values. He has even closed AIDS clinics because he thinks these clinics promote homosexuality. However, Makonda’s comments are nothing new in Tanzania, as President John Magufuli has stated earlier that “even cows disapprove” of homosexuality. Furthermore, being gay in Tanzania is illegal and can result up to 30 years in prison.
On the same day than Denmark withdrew its foreign aid, the World Bank announced that they have cancelled a loan of £235m. This is because the President declared to continue Tanzania’s old policy of banning pregnant girls from education. Also, mothers who have given birth are banned from returning to school. This is a serious human rights violation as it causes stigmatization against teen mothers and without education, their future prospects are not good. However, soon after the World Bank’s reaction, the Tanzanian government made a U-turn and agreed to let the pregnant girls receive schooling. But the girls are only allowed to attend private schools or adult education classes. In response to this, the World Bank announced that the loan will be upheld.
Furthermore, the EU is currently reviewing its policies towards Tanzania. This is because of the restrictions on the media and political parties and the government’s attack against Tanzania’s LGBT community. The EU recognises that the Tanzanian civil society is under attack by the government and that the respect for human rights in diminishing. The EU is currently Tanzania’s biggest development partner and would like to continue development in Tanzania but simply cannot accept the current actions of Tanzanian government.
In response to Western pressure, Tanzania has stated that it favours Chinese foreign aid. This is because China does not have any conditions for its loans and development projects, and does not pressure over human rights.
COCO has worked in Tanzania for many years. COCO remains committed to development in Tanzania, particularly in remote areas and amongst those most marginalised. Our programmes are inclusive; all children are welcome in our Schools for Life, regardless of their sexuality, gender, race, religion or disability. Sex education and gender empowerment programmes educate girls and boys on safe sex, and dormitories on site reduce the risk of girls walking long distances alone. We unfortunately cannot allow pregnant girls into partner schools to study academic subjects as this is Tanzanian law, but mothers are supported in accessing vocational training in Schools for Life or elsewhere.