The European Union withdrew its ambassador Roeland van de Geer from Tanzania due to the severe crackdown on the LGBT+ community in Tanzania. EU called it a "deterioration of human rights and the rule of law" in the country.
Homosexuality is illegal in the east African country where LGBT people face up to 30 years imprisonment for "gay sex." Since President John Magufuli’s took power in 2015, the country has heightened persecution against homosexuals.
Last week Paul Makonda, the regional commissioner of Tanzania’s largest city Dar es Salaam, vowed to arrest people suspected of being gay. He also announced the creation of a 17-member task force to scrutinize social media in order to track down and arrest homosexuals.
Makonda claimed to have received 18,000 names since the announcement. He plans to "wipe completely this menace of prostitution [and] homosexuality".
Tanzania's government distanced itself from the move Sunday, saying that "Mr. Makonda was only airing his personal opinion", not government policy.
It added that the government would "continue to respect and uphold all human rights as provided for in the country's constitution."
Makonda's announced crackdown has forced many LGBT+ citizens to flee the country or go into hiding due to fear they can be arrested and imprisoned.
This Saturday night 10 men were arrested at a beach resort in the island of Zanzibar for allegedly taking part in a same-sex marriage ceremony. The police arrested the men after getting a tip-off.
An anonymous human rights defender in Zanzibar told CNN the men "were just at the beach enjoying themselves and the police ambushed them. This was not a gay wedding as the police say. They always use that as an excuse. The situation here is even worse than on the mainland and it has gotten bad since the new president [John Magufuli] came in."
"Members of the LGBT community and also sex workers are being humiliated, beaten and harassed by both ordinary people and the police," he said.
In light of the witch hunt, the EU said in a statement Monday that it would conduct a broader review of its relationship with Tanzania. The organization is a major donor which has pledged over US$700 million in aid between 2014 and 2020.