Tanzania minister says gay men are safe—as 10 endure anal exams

African Union troops from Tanzania

The Interior Minister of Tanzania has said gay people are not under threat, as 10 men were subjected to anal examinations to ‘prove’ their homosexuality.

Alphaxard Kangi Ndege Lugola told newspaper Habari Leo on November 7: “Tanzania is safe and no-one can say it is unsafe without having the same criteria—if anybody is threatened for his life, then he should go to the police and I have not received any information from the police explaining the vulnerability of the people.”

But only two days after his comments, Lugola u-turned completely on his initial stance, saying in Parliament that, when it came to homosexuality, “Tanzania is not the right place for such acts; we will never allow such things to happen.

“We have laws that forbid such things,” he added, according to national Tanzanian newspaper the Daily News.

Kangi Lugola, Interior Minister of Tanzania

Kangi Lugola, Interior Minister of Tanzania (Ng’hwebele/wikicommons)

Lugola, who has held his position in Tanzania’s government since July, made the comments after Dar es Salaam Governor Paul Makonda launched a team of 17 to hunt down gay people last month, leading to the arrests at what police said was a same-sex wedding.

The men were then subjected to physical examinations, according to AP—just as Makonda had vowed those arrested would be, saying: “We will assess all those who will be named by our physicians. Some gays are known because they walk in Pampers and offer a very fragrant odour.”

After being examined, those arrested were released on bail on Thursday (November 8), though their lawyer told Reuters they were “likely to be harassed and re-arrested.”

People can face up to life imprisonment in Tanzania if they are convicted of having gay sex.

LGBT+ activists in Tanzania

Tanzania was a refuge for LGBT+ people until the last couple of years (LGBT Voice Tanzania/Facebook)

Earlier this month, the US State Department warned that Americans in Tanzania should “employ sound security practices” and make sure to “review [their] internet footprint and social media profiles.

“Remove or protect images and language that may run afoul of Tanzanian laws regarding homosexual practices and explicit sexual activity.”

Why is Tanzania cracking down on gay people?

On October 29, Makonda created a fresh wave of anti-gay sentiment in Tanzania by declaring a witch hunt in Dar es Salaam, telling the public: “Give me their names. My ad hoc team will begin to get their hands on them next Monday.”

Makonda, who has held his position since 2016, continued: “I have information about the presence of many homosexuals in our province. These homosexuals boast on social networks.”

Dar es Salaam Governor Paul Makonda

Dar es Salaam Governor Paul Makonda started the crackdown (SAID HASSAN/AFP/Getty)

The governor said that gay sex “tramples on the moral values of Tanzanians and our two Christian and Muslim religions.”

Makonda was anticipating backlash from people who lived outside Tanzania, but said that he would “prefer to anger those countries than to anger God.”

He followed this up by saying that he wanted to turn Dar es Salaam into “a non-gay city”.

How have gay people in Tanzania reacted?

They have told PinkNews that they are terrified—particularly those who live in Dar es Salaam.

Riot police in Tanzania

“It is expected the arrests are going to happen” (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty)

One gay man and LGBT+ activist who works in the city and did not want to be named warned that Makonda’s declarations should be taken literally, not just as inflammatory rhetoric.

“It is expected the arrests are going to happen,” he said, “since the police in Tanzania don’t follow the law anymore, but instead follow what politicians like Makonda say.”

He predicted there would be “forced anal tests… lots of forced convictions and a high level of brutal violence and harassment.”

Mwamba Nyanda, a gay man who lives in Dar es Salaam and runs the Tanzania Trans Initiative, told PinkNews that this wasn’t the first time Makonda had threatened gay people living in the city of four million.

A policeman in Tanzania reloads his tear gas rifle

Gay people in Tanzania are terrified of the hunt (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty)

“He always ends up hurting people in the community,” said Nyanda. “He is insane. Makonda has a voice and people listen.”

He said that “what will happen is gay people will be harassed, stigmatised and maybe some arrested.”