AIDS activists detained by Tanzanian authorities at World Economic Forum on Africa

Treatment Action Campaign, Press Release

On 5 May 2010, at the opening day of the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEF) in Dar Es Salaam, a group of nine AIDS activists from across the continent were detained for questioning by Tanzanian authorities after they handed over a memorandum entitled “Health is Wealth”, which emphasised the need for increased investment in health and particularly HIV, TB and Malaria in Africa, to two prominent speakers at the WEF.

Yvonne Chaka Chaka, a popular South African musician and UN Goodwill Ambassador for the region, and Christoph Benn, the Director of External Relations for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, had arranged with the group to receive the memorandum from them outside the conference centre.

The small group had been delegated by 40 NGO representatives from more than ten African countries, who were gathered in Dar Es Salaam to discuss global and regional advocacy strategies to address the urgent need for resource mobilisation for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care (universal access), and for replenishment of the Global Fund in October 2010.

The group had chosen the WEF as a focal point for advocacy because of the inextricable links between health and socio-economic development.

In calling on global leaders to mobilise at least US$20 billion for the Global Fund replenishment in October 2010, the memorandum also pointed out that, as warned by the World Bank, “responding to immediate fiscal pressure by reducing spending on HIV treatment and prevention will reverse recent gains and require costly offsetting measures over the longer term”.

The memorandum was originally intended to be handed over at a peaceful march with around 800 supporters, largely from Tanzanian community groups. However, the march was cancelled the night before, after the government revoked the permit to demonstrate.

Following the handing-over of the memorandum to Chaka Chaka and Benn outside the WEF, which lasted no longer than 15 minutes and caused no disruption to the conference activities, the group had boarded their bus and were preparing to return to their hotel when they were detained by police and taken to the police station for questioning. They were held for five hours, although ultimately no charges were issued or arrests made.

The group was then escorted under heavy security back to their hotel, where they were instructed to gather their luggage and proceed to the airport to wait through the night, under police supervision, until their flights departed from the country the following day. Although no formal “Prohibited Immigrant” notices were issued, members of the group were effectively treated as such and one member, who had planned to extend his stay by a few days, was compelled to accompany the group to the airport on standby for the next available flight.

Source: Treatment Action Campaign, Press Release (06 May 2010).

Links to other websites are current at date of posting but not maintained.