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US warns against travel to Tanzania over same-sex unions row

Thursday December 05 2019
Tanzania

Mr Paul Makonda, the regional commissioner of Dar es Salaam, announced last year that a newly formed surveillance squad would scrutinise social media in order to identify and arrest same-sex couples. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By KEVIN J. KELLEY

NEW YORK

The US State Department on Tuesday urged travellers to Tanzania to “exercise increased caution” due in part to threats that gay people may experience there.

The advisory comes as another indication that the Trump administration was not abandoning the Obama-era practice of speaking out on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Africans.

“Members of the LGBTI community have been arrested, targeted, harassed, and/or charged with unrelated offences,” the State Department declared in its updated advisory on travel to Tanzania.

“Individuals detained under suspicion of same-sex sexual conduct could be subject to forced anal examinations.”

Mr Paul Makonda, the regional commissioner of Dar es Salaam and an ally of President John Magufuli, announced last year that a newly formed surveillance squad would scrutinise social media in order to identify and arrest same-sex couples.

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The new US announcement updates a Tanzania travel warning issued in September that focused on an alleged case of Ebola. Government officials subsequently denied that the disease was present in Tanzania, and the new US advisory makes no mention of Ebola.

It does say that many types of violent crimes were common in Tanzania.

“Local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious crime,” the December 3 advisory adds.

It also states that “terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Tanzania”.

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