Viewpoint: East Africa’s battle over culture and homosexuality

April 12, 2023  -From banning schoolbooks in Tanzania to passing the harshest of laws in Uganda, to disputing a Supreme Court decision in Kenya, there seems to be a wave of anti-homosexuality sentiments sweeping through the region.

While there is nothing unusual about the homophobic and apocalyptic tone that always accompanies the subject, it appears there is also a rise of genuine belief, especially among those who would generally pass as liberals or open minded, that the West is on a systematic mission to shove this “homosexuality agenda” down the throats of Africans.

Most of those holding this belief can hardly substantiate it with any facts or concrete examples.

Khalifa Said, a Dar es Salaam based journalist and editor for an online outlet The Chanzo, believes that “Tanzanians’ perception towards members of the LGBTQ+ community is very negative and it’s getting worse every day”.

There are many on social media who looked at the recent visit by US Vice-President Kamala Harris with particular suspicion.

There was even an unofficial survey on Twitter asking users to suggest how President Samia Suluhu Hassan should respond were she to be asked about her stance on homosexuality.

When journalists were not able to ask questions at the leaders’ joint press briefing, many suspected it was a trick to save President Samia from the infamous question: “What is your stance on homosexuality?”

Said says this rising homophobic sentiment is not random.

He believes it is sponsored by politicians and political parties who have not delivered on their promises to their voters.

“The biggest winners of all this hatred will be the politicians who have failed to improve the living standards of their people despite being in power for decades,” he says.

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