EU to ‘review’ support to Tanzania over rights concerns

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. [European Commission]

The European Union is reviewing its financial support to Tanzania in response to recent moves undermining “human rights and the rule of law”.

“The EU and its member states are concerned about recent political developments in Tanzania,” the bloc’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement Thursday (15 November).

She cited “a shrinking of public space in Tanzania through the tightening of restrictions on the activities of civil society organisations, the media and many political parties.”

The final straw appears to have been the recent declaration of a crackdown on the gay community by the commissioner for the economic capital Dar es Salaam, after which the EU recalled its ambassador.

“The EU is deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation for LGBTI persons,” Mogherini said.

As a result the EU, which is Tanzania’s biggest development partner pouring in over $100 million (€88 million) every year, said it will “conduct a comprehensive review of its policies”.

International pressure is building on President John Magufuli who has cracked down on political opponents, the independent press and foreign investors since taking office three years ago.

News of the EU review comes as the World Bank decided against approving a $300m education loan for girls’ education in response to a policy of expelling pregnant girls and not allowing them to resume their studies after giving birth.

“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 bank said Thursday.

Also this week Denmark said it was withdrawing $10m in aid to Tanzania over what development minister Ulla Tornaes said were “unacceptable homophobic statements”.

Campaigners add their voice

Foreign donors should freeze funding to Tanzania to press the government to scrap policies violating the rights of girls and sexual minorities, campaigners said on Thursday, a day after the World Bank and Denmark said they were withholding aid.

Denmark – Tanzania’s second biggest donor – said it would withhold $10 million in aid over rights abuses and “unacceptable homophobic comments” by a senior official.

“This is a bold positive statement by the World Bank that should be emulated by other big development partners in Tanzania,” Evelyne Opondo, Africa director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We already have too many girls forced out of formal education, robbed of their full potential and confined to the cycle of poverty. The things the World Bank is asking the government to look at are all within their power to address.”

Tanzania has one of the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the world – around 27% of girls aged between 15 and 19 are pregnant, according to latest government data.

Campaigners attribute the high rates to widespread sexual violence and poverty, which forces girls to exchange sex for school fees, food and shelter, and say authorities’ recent actions have worsened their plight.

In June last year, President John Magufuli voiced support for a ban on pregnant girls and teenage mothers in state schools, which dates back to 1961, describing their behaviour as “immoral”.

Since then, pregnant schoolgirls have been arrested and child rapists pardoned – sparking alarm among activists, who say minors should be treated as victims, not criminals.

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