COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark, Tanzania’s second-biggest donor, said it would withhold $10 million worth of aid money due to concerns over human rights abuses and what it called unacceptable homophobic comments made by a government official.
The decision came on the same day that the World Bank said it had scrapped a plan to loan Tanzania $300 million after the country reaffirmed its policy of banning pregnant girls from school and made it a crime to question official statistics.
In the last few weeks, President John Magufuli’s government has been criticized by rights groups and foreign governments for what they say is growing intolerance and rising attacks on human rights. The government rejects the criticism.
Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Ulla Tornaes told Reuters on Thursday that her government is also considering diverting 40 million Danish crowns ($6.06 million) to NGOs and other partners instead of giving it to the Tanzanian government directly.
“Currently, about half of our cooperation goes through the government. I will look at changing that, so we don’t work directly with a government leading a politic that goes in the wrong direction on human rights issues,” she said.
“I am worried about the development we’ve seen in Tanzania in the last three years, which has culminated in the recent homophobic comments.”
Tornaes said that she has postponed a trip to Tanzania scheduled for this month because of the latest developments.
Denmark will now withhold 65 million Danish crowns ($9.88 million) in aid to Tanzania, Tornaes said on Twitter on Wednesday. The European nation provided 349 million crowns in foreign aid last year.
The comments in question were made by administrative chief of the capital Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda, who this month announced an anti-gay crackdown in the city, a spokeswoman for the Danish minister said.
Reuters was not able to reach Tanzanian government officials for immediate comment. The foreign ministry has previously said Makonda’s anti-gay campaign represented his own views and not the official government position.
However, Magufuli’s government has also been criticized by opposition politicians and international rights groups for what they say is growing authoritarianism and intolerance of dissent. The government rejects the criticism.
Reporting by Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen and George Obulutsa in Nairobi; Additional reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Jason Neely and Raissa Kasolowsky