A powerful Tanzanian government official responsible for sweeping anti-gay crackdowns, surveillance squads and arrests of homosexuals has been banned from the United States.
On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted out the news, saying, “Today we designated Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Christian Makonda as ineligible to enter the U.S. for his involvement in gross violations of #humanrights. We are deeply concerned over deteriorating respect for human rights and rule of law in #Tanzania.”
Homosexuality is illegal in Tanzania and punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
In 2018, Makonda, the regional commissioner of Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, announced the creation of an anti-gay surveillance squad and went on television to urge people to spy on neighbors and report homosexuals to a phone hotline.
“Report them to me,” Makonda urged, according to NPR, adding that “next Monday we start arresting them.” At the time Makonda said “he expected international criticism for the move,” but added, “I prefer to anger those countries than to anger God.”
A statement from the US State Department read in part: “These actions against Paul Christian Makonda underscore our concern with human rights violations and abuses in Tanzania, as well as our support for accountability for those who engage in such violations and abuses. We call on the Tanzanian government to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression, association, and the right of peaceful assembly. … The Department has credible information that Makonda was involved in such violations in his capacity as the Regional Commissioner of Dar es Salaam. In that role, he has also been implicated in oppression of the political opposition, crackdowns on freedom of expression and association, and the targeting of marginalized individuals.
Makonda’s wife, Mary Felix Massenge, is also barred from entry.