November 5, 2011 / 8:14 AM / 6 years ago

Tanzania stands firm on aid-gay rights spat with UK

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania has become the latest African government to say it will not legalise homosexuality even if that means it loses substantial financial aid from Britain.

Government officials reacted strongly to British Prime Minister David Cameron's threat to cut aid to countries that deny gay rights.

"Tanzania will never accept Cameron's proposal because we have our own moral values. Homosexuality is not part of our culture and we will never legalise it," foreign affairs minister Bernard Membe was quoted as saying by Tanzania's Guardian newspaper.

"We are not ready to allow any rich nation to give us aid based on unacceptable conditions simply because we are poor. If we are denied aid by one country, it will not affect the economic status of this nation and we can do without UK aid."

Tanzania, a former British colony and one of Africa's biggest per capita aid recipients, received $453 million of aid for its 2011/12 budget, with Britain the largest provider of general budget support.

Ghana's President John Atta Mills said on Wednesday his government would never legalise homosexuality. Uganda has also reacted strongly to Cameron's comments.

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) gave Tanzania 144 million pounds in aid in 2009/10 and has pledged to spend an average of 161 million pounds per year in Tanzania until 2015.

Homosexuality is a serious criminal offence in Tanzania, punishable by imprisonment, but no one has been prosecuted.

"We cannot be directed by the United Kingdom to do things that are against our set laws, culture and regulations," Membe was quoted as saying.

Zanzibar President Ali Mohamed Shein also rejected the British demands for gay rights to be respected in Tanzania.

"We have strong Islamic and Zanzibari culture that abhors gay and lesbian activities, and to anyone who tells us that development support is linked to accepting this we are saying no," Shein told journalists on Thursday.

Zanzibar, Tanzania's semi-autonomous archipelago, enacted a law in 2004 banning homosexual relations. Male offenders face more jail time, up to 25 years, than convicted women.

Homosexuality is illegal in 37 African countries, and rights groups say gays are often the targets of violent hate campaigns.

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