The European Union recalled its ambassador to Tanzania on Monday as police plans to hunt down and jail homosexuals in the country’s largest city prompted international outrage.
A 17-member committee charged with identifying and locating gay men in Dar es Salaam is due to begin work this week after it began collecting names of possible homosexuals submitted by members of the general public.
The city’s regional commissioner, Paul Makonda, said he had identified more than 200 suspects after encouraging residents to inform on their neighbours and trawl through their friends’ social media accounts for signs of homosexual behaviour.
There were no immediate reports of detentions on Monday, when the operation was supposed to begin, and the Tanzanian government, perhaps responding to Western pressure, attempt to distance itself from the operation.
“The government of the United Republic of Tanzania would like to clarify that those are [Makonda’s] own views and not the government position,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Not everyone will be convinced. As regional commissioner, Mr Makonda was directly appointed by Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, to a position whose legal job description is to carry out government policy.
As a close and powerful ally of the president, Mr Makonda is unlikely to carry out a renegade policy of his own, observers said.