Monday, 7 November 2011

British Foreign Policy underfire all over Africa

Dar es Salaam.The British High Commissioner to Tanzania, Ms Diane Corner,
yesterday came out in defence of her country following growing condemnation
of Prime Minister David Cameron who is being accused of using development
aid muscle to enforce acceptance of same-sex relationships in Commonwealth
Ms Corner said the UK won’t enforce acceptance of homosexuality in
Tanzania, nor would it withhold development aid to the country on account
of the latter’s negative perception of gay culture.

The High Commissioner spoke only a day after Tanzania’s forceful expression
of opposition to the widely publicised views of Mr Cameron to the effect
that countries that failed to enforce the rights of minorities, including
gays, could be denied British aid.On Thursday, the Zanzibar President, Dr
Ali Mohammed Shein, said his government would not abide by the UK demands
on same-sex marriages.

Dr Shein was separately joined in the condemnation by Foreign Affairs and
International Cooperation minister, Mr Bernard Membe, who also declared
that Tanzania would rather go without British funding than legalise
homosexuality. Several other Cabinet ministers, a cross-section of
Christian and Muslim leaders, members of the civil society and ordinary
citizens have overwhelmingly endorsed the government’s position against Mr
Cameron. Other African countries including Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, and
Malawi have also voiced opposition to any move to force them to recognise
the “unnatural” sexual liaisons.

But some individuals who identified themselves as gays yesterday came out
and said in a radio interview they were saddened that State officials were
out to frustrate them. *A gay who identified himself as Salmin from
Zanzibardeclared: “We are also voters and unlike our corrupt leaders,
we have done
no harm to this country.”*

The UK position was raised informally during the recent meeting of the
Commonwealth Heads of State and Government in Perth, Australia. President
Jakaya Kikwete and Mr Membe represented Tanzania.

Yesterday, however, Ms Corner appeared to backtrack on the tough position
expressed by her Prime Minister, saying the issue of homosexuals and
lesbians was being debated out of context.“We will continue to maintain
good relations with Tanzania and engage in constructive dialogue over
several bilateral issues,” said the high commissioner in an interview on
East Africa Radio.

*She said Britain remained the single largest donor to Tanzania, spending
$230 million yearly in development aid to the country. She said $130
million of this funding was in direct budgetary support to the government.

*“*I want to reiterate that UK remains committed to fostering good
relations with Tanzania and has no intention whatsoever to cut aid,” she
said, adding that if anything, their administration was looking forward to
raising aid packages to Tanzania.

*Reacting directly to Mr Membe’s warning that the Commonwealth could suffer
irreparably over the gay and lesbian issue, the high commissioner said
there was no cause for alarm.

“I have faith in the minister and I spoke to him this morning (Friday) and
all I can say is that we remain in good terms,” she said.The envoy noted
that other than the minority and political freedom rights, UK had several
other yardsticks for granting its support. *She cited good governance,
poverty reduction and millennium development goals (MDGs), fight against
corruption and sound public financial management.

*“If you look at the general picture, Tanzania has a pretty good record,
otherwise there would be no reason for us to be the leading donor to the
government,” Ms Corner said. She said Tanzania has many challenges that
still require support from development partners.

During the radio interview, the High Commissioner spoke highly of
tomorrow’s visit to Tanzania by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla who
will tour several places and inspect British funded projects. The royal
couple will be in the country for three days.

Separately, the Legal and Human Rights Centre, together with the Southern
Africa Human Rights NGO Network, urged the government to conduct a thorough
research on gay issues in a bid to find how deep the problem was.

*OPINION: This is the most reasonable and realistic stance the British
government has ever taken in many years on the issue of development aid to
Tanzania. However, my greatest concern is related to the fight against
graft and corruption. I strongly believe that UK needs to take a much more
tougher stance against Tanzania on corruption; rather on gays and other
related issues. In my humble opinion, I strongly believe that corruption
is, indeed, the kind of war that Tanzania cannot afford to loose.*

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