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Tanzanian Official Banned From U.S. for Antigay Witch Hunt

Paul Christian Makonda

Paul Christian Makonda, the regional commissioner of Dar es Salaam, has been punished for the "targeting of marginalized individuals."

A Tanzanian official has been barred from entry into the United States due to his attacks on the LGBTQ community.

Paul Christian Makonda, the regional commissioner of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's economic capital, launched a state-sanctioned witch hunt of gay people in 2018. In this campaign, Makonda urged all citizens to report "homosexual behavior" and created a surveillance team to track down gay people and arrest them.

Under a law dating from when Tanzania was a British colony, sexual acts between men carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. Even though antigay rhetoric has been abundant in Tanzania for some time, it has ramped up since the 2015 election of noted homophobe John Magufuli as president; he once said that even cows condemn gay sex.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the ban of Makonda in a Friday tweet, which called out the official's "gross violations of human rights."

"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," he stated in the tweet. "We are deeply concerned over deteriorating respect for human rights and rule of law in #Tanzania."

A Friday statement from the Department of State echoed Pompeo. While the department did not call out the anti-LGBTQ acts by name, it noted that Makonda is "implicated in oppression of the political opposition, crackdowns on freedom of expression and association, and the targeting of marginalized individuals."

"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," it stressed.

Despite its sizable record of undermining LGBTQ rights in the United States, the Trump administration launched a global campaign in February 2019 to end the criminalization of homosexuality in countries where it is still considered illegal to be gay. Some critics have called the campaign pinkwashing -- an act of appearing to be LGBTQ-friendly in order to achieve other political ends.

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