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Denmark, citing human rights, withholds some aid to Tanzania

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Denmark is cutting about $10 million in aid to the government of Tanzania over what it called “negative developments” in human rights in the East African country.

Ulla Tornaes, Denmark’s minister for development cooperation, said on Twitter she is “deeply concerned” by developments such as a Tanzanian official’s “completely unacceptable homophobic statements.”

Tanzania is increasingly under the spotlight over its human rights record. Denmark is one of the largest donors to Tanzania, whose government depends substantially on foreign benefactors to run many of its programs.

Most recently the commissioner for the country’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, urged Tanzanians to “report” suspected homosexuals, comments widely criticized by rights groups and disavowed by Tanzania’s federal government.

Although the government distanced itself from the commissioner’s statement, there are fears of a crackdown against gays in a country where authorities are known to break up events organized by people believed to be homosexuals. Ten men were arrested in Zanzibar earlier this month for allegedly attending a gay marriage.

The European Union said earlier this month it is conducting a broad review of its relations with Tanzania in the aftermath of the Dar es Salaam official’s anti-gay comments.

Human Rights Watch says Tanzania’s government under President John Magufuli “has restricted basic rights through repressive laws and decrees” targeting journalists, activists and perceived opponents.

Magufuli, a former public works minister who was voted into the presidency in 2015, has appeared to personally drive his government’s controversial policies on everything from fighting corruption to birth control, pleasing many of his people but also alarming some who see an authoritarian streak.

He has feuded with big companies accused of tax fraud, leading to concerns about flight of foreign capital, and the recent suspension of family planning commercials on TV and radio followed Magufuli’s remarks about “lazy” people who use contraceptives.

At least three newspapers have been banned over stories critical of the president.

The World Bank, a major development partner, is reportedly canceling a planned $300 million loan to Tanzania over a long-standing ban on pregnant students that Magufuli’s government has refused to lift.

“The World Bank supports policies that encourage girls’ education and make it possible for young women to stay in school until they reach their full potential,” the World Bank said in an e-mailed statement. “Working with other partners, the World Bank will continue to advocate for girls’ access to education through our dialogue with the Tanzanian government.”

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