Tanzania's second biggest donor Denmark withholds aid after the homophobic remarks of a politician close to the president stir human rights concerns in the east African country.

JOHANNESBURG - In the latest international sanction against Tanzania, Denmark is withholding 65m krone ($9.8 million) in aid to that country after "unacceptable homophobic comments" from a senior politician.

Development minister Ulla Tornaes did not name the official but said she was "very concerned" by the comments. Tornaes has also postponed a planned trip to the east African country, the BBC reported. Denmark is Tanzania's second biggest aid donor.

Last month the commissioner for the commercial capital Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda, appealed to Tanzanian citizens to report suspected gay men to the police before adding that he would set up a surveillance squad to track down gay people.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Tanzania and punishable by up to 30 years in prison and following President John Magufuli’s 2015 election anti-gay hostility has increased.

In 2017, the country's deputy health minister defended a threat to publish a list of gay people.

While the Tanzanian government is yet to respond to the Danish move, Makonda a staunch supporter of the president remains unrepentant. "I prefer to anger those countries than to anger God,” he said.

Earlier this month, ten men were arrested for allegedly conducting a same-sex marriage ceremony on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar.

And the East African country has also come under other strong international criticism recently for its crackdown on human rights in general.

Last month the European Union (EU) recalled its ambassador for consultation on its future relationship with Tanzania over its declining respect for human rights.

Eight days ago South African journalist Angela Quintal and her Kenyan colleague Muthoki Mumo were detained in Tanzania, and their passports confiscated after the authorities claimed they had misrepresented their reasons for entering the country.

On a journalism assignment for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the two women were also accused of failing to first speak to local authorities before talking to local journalists.

They were eventually released and their passports returned after an international outcry.

African News Agency (ANA)