President Donald Trump’s State Department has banned a top Tanzanian official from entering the U.S. because of his anti-LGBTQ views.
In a statement posted Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated Paul Christian Makonda, administrative chief of the capital Dar es Salaam, “as ineligible to enter the U.S. for his involvement in gross violations of [human rights].”
“We are deeply concerned over deteriorating respect for human rights and rule of law in [Tanzania],” he added.
Homosexuality is illegal in Tanzania. Furthermore, according to Reporters Without Borders, an international organization advocating freedom of information and freedom of the press, is “deeply concerned” about the freedom of expression in the country, according to Arnaud Froger, head of the group’s Africa chapter. And Neela Ghoshal, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said Tanzanian authorities “have orchestrated a systematic attack” on LGBTQ people.
In 2018, Makonda, for his part, announced the creation of an anti-gay surveillance squad and urged residents to spy on their neighbors, asking them to report any homosexuals via a phone hotline, NPR reported.
“Report them to me,” he said during a televised address.
The BBC reported that Makonda anticipated facing international backlash for the move, but said, “I prefer to anger those countries than to anger God.”
“As we take this stand, do not tell us about human rights,” he explained further. “There is no right to go against creation written on any religious books. Keep your laws. Being gay is not allowed here in Dar es Salaam.”
Pompeo’s statement 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.
Roughly one year ago, the Trump administration announced the launch of a worldwide effort to decriminalize homosexuality in countries where it remains illegal, like Tanzania.
The push has been helmed by Richard Grenell, U.S. ambassador to Germany. He is also the highest-ranking openly gay member of the Trump administration.
Makonda’s family is also barred from entering the country.