Burundi’s president said that gay people in his country should be stoned, amid a widening crackdown against L.G.B.T.Q. people in the East African nation that is adding to the anti-gay sentiments sweeping across the region and the wider African continent.
While President Evariste Ndayishimiye’s remarks do not have the force of law, they are an escalation of provocative statements directed at L.G.B.T.Q. people elsewhere by African government officials.
Mr. Ndayishimiye said that gay people should not be accepted in Burundi, a conservative nation where consensual same-sex intimacy among adults can already be penalized with up to two years in prison.
“I think that if we find these kinds of people in Burundi, it is better to take them to a stadium and stone them,” Mr. Ndayishimiye said on Friday during an event in the country’s eastern Cankuzo Province, where he answered questions from journalists and members of the public. “That’s what they deserve.”
In his remarks, the president also railed against Western countries that, he suggested, had conditioned aid on accepting gay rights.
“Let them keep it,” he said of their assistance.
On Sunday, a gay human rights activist in Burundi who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, expressed concern that the president’s remarks would set the stage for the extrajudicial killing of gay people and “worsens an already unsafe environment.”
A small, densely populated landlocked nation, Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world and receives aid and loans from the European Union, the United States and the International Monetary Fund.
Mr. Ndayishimiye’s remarks were the latest manifestation of anti-gay sentiments to surface in East Africa, where L.G.B.T.Q. people have faced virulent homophobia and increasing crackdowns.
This past year, Uganda passed what activists called one of the harshest anti-gay laws in the world, which prescribed the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” a term that was defined as homosexual acts committed by anyone infected with H.I.V. or those involving children, disabled people or anyone who was coerced. The law, which is currently being challenged in the country’s Constitutional Court, was widely condemned by governments and rights groups across the world.
After President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda signed the law, the United States announced visa restrictions for some Ugandan officials, and the World Bank withdrew all future financial assistance to Uganda. In the months leading up to and following the law’s passage, gay and transgender Ugandans said that they were harassed and beaten and evicted from their homes, and that some were forced to flee their country altogether.
In Kenya, lawmakers, along with the president, criticized the country’s Supreme Court this past year after it allowed for the registration of an L.G.B.T.Q. association. One lawmaker also introduced legislation that would impose punitive measures, including giving members of the public the power to arrest anyone they suspect of being gay.
Officials in Tanzania, Zambia and Ghana have also railed against gay people this past year.
In Tanzania, the authorities said they would prosecute anyone caught sharing pro-L.G.B.T.Q. content online. The police in Zambia arrested activists whom they have accused of promoting homosexuality. And in Ghana, a bill in Parliament would criminalize identifying as queer and proposes jail time or the imposition of fines against those who have helped finance or protect sexual and gender minority rights.
The anti-gay sentiments have recently been amped in parts of the continent following Pope Francis’s edict two weeks ago allowing priests to bless same-sex couples.
Burundi banned consensual gay intimacy in 2009 in a law that was signed by the president at the time, Pierre Nkurunziza, an autocratic leader who for years derided gay people.
Mr. Ndayishimiye, a retired general, came to power in 2020 after an election marred by the arrest and torture of opposition activists, according to rights groups.
Even though Mr. Ndayishimiye is credited with lifting some limitations on the news media and civil society organizations, observers say his government has not improved the endemic corruption or the country’s dire human rights record.