Tanzania bans 'The Diary of a Wimpy Kid', children's books for violating 'cultural norms'

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 15 2023 08:05 AM

Bestselling author Jeff Kinney launches Diary of a Wimpy Kid #14: Wrecking Ball with The Wrecking Ball Show, a family-friendly interactive experience, on November 5, 2019 in Austin, Texas as part of a 10-city book tour. Rick Kern/Getty Images for Abrams Books/AFP
Bestselling author Jeff Kinney launches Diary of a Wimpy Kid #14: Wrecking Ball with The Wrecking Ball Show, a family-friendly interactive experience, on November 5, 2019 in Austin, Texas as part of a 10-city book tour. Rick Kern/Getty Images for Abrams Books/AFP

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - The Tanzanian government has banned a popular series of children's books from schools in the conservative East African country, claiming they violate local cultural norms.

Education Minister Adolf Mkenda announced Monday an immediate ban on "The Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books, and said the government was monitoring libraries in both public and private schools to make sure they were not on their shelves.

It was not immediately clear what content in the series of illustrated books by US author Jeff Kinney that follow the life of a schoolboy had offended the authorities.

The minister also listed other banned books, including "Sex Education: A Guide to Life". However, the names he gave for two books actually appeared to be pages from "An ABC of Equality" which included the terms transgender and LGBTQIA.

"We are banning these books from schools and other education institutions because they contradict Tanzanian cultural norms and morals," Mkenda told reporters in the political capital Dodoma.

"The books also violate the good practices of bringing up our children," he said, calling on parents to inspect their children's bags to make sure they did not have the books.

Mkenda said they were on a first list of "unacceptable books" and urged the public to report other similar books as part of an ongoing investigation.

The first book in the "Wimpy Kid" series was published in 2007 and since then 275 million copies have been sold worldwide in 69 languages, according to the wimpykid.com website. There have also been several film adaptations.

Last week, President Samia Suluhu Hassan met university student leaders and asked them to be careful with some "imported cultures", without elaborating.

"If you are a Tanzanian, live in accordance with our cultures," Hassan said.

Her comments followed remarks by a senior member of the ruling CCM party, Frank Haule, who claimed that same sex activity was rampant in universities.

"That practice is contrary to our cultures and is prohibited by religious books," Haule said.