Cameroon Hub

U.S. State Dept: We Condemn the Murder of Cameroonian Gay Rights Activist Eric Ohena Lembembe

Yesterday, Towleroad reported that Eric Ohena Lembembe, a prominent gay rights activist in Cameroon, was found dead at his home after being brutally tortured.

LembembeThe U.S. State Department has now released a statement about Lembembe's death. It comes from Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf:

We deplore the brutal murder of Eric Ohena Lembembe, who was found tortured to death in his home in Yaoundé yesterday. We condemn this terrible act in the strongest terms and urge the Cameroonian authorities to thoroughly and promptly investigate and prosecute those responsible for his death.

Eric Ohena Lembembe was the Executive Director of Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS), an organization dedicated to the fight against AIDS and for the human rights of LGBT people in Cameroon. Just two weeks ago, Mr. Lembembe spoke out against the recent break-ins at the offices of groups advocating for gay rights. The local office of one organization, Alternatives-Cameroun, was set on fire on June 26th.

The United States actively promotes respect for the human rights of all people, including LGBT individuals, in Cameroon and around the world. We will continue to support activists, like Mr. Lembembe, who stand up for the human rights of all people, regardless of who they are or who they love.

Human Rights Watch's Neela Shoshal spoke with Radio France International about Lembembe, with whom she closely worked. Listen below:

Prominent Gay Rights Activist in Cameroon Found Dead, Tortured

Human Rights Watch reports that Eric Ohena Lembembe, a gay rights activist and journalist, was found dead at his home on July 15 in Yaoundé, Cameroon. He had been brutally tortured:

LembembeLembembe’s friends discovered his body on Monday evening after being unable to reach him by telephone for two days, and went to his home. They found his front door padlocked on the outside, but could see Lembembe’s body lying on his bed through the window. Lembembe’s friends alerted the police, who broke down the door. According to one friend, Lembembe’s neck and feet appeared to have been broken, and his face, hands, and feet had been burned with an iron.

Lembembe was one of Cameroon’s most prominent LGBTI rights activists. On behalf of CAMFAIDS, he collaborated closely with Human Rights Watch and two other Cameroonian organizations, Alternatives-Cameroun and the Association for the Defense of Homosexuals (ADEFHO), in researching and launching a March 2013 report on prosecutions for consensual same-sex conduct. He also participated in drafting a submission for Cameroon’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in May 2013 at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Lembembe was also a contributor to the blog “Erasing 76 Crimes” and authored several chapters in a book on LGBTI rights around the world, From Wrongs to Gay Rights. His organization assiduously documented arrests, violence, and blackmail against LGBTI people in Cameroon.

The group adds that Lembembe's murder has been preceded by a number of attacks, unchecked by the government, on LGBT and human rights organizations:

Lembembe’s killing follows several attacks on the offices of human rights defenders, including those working for equal rights for LGBTI people. On June 26, 2013, unidentified assailants burned down the Douala headquarters of Alternatives-Cameroun, which provides HIV services to LGBTI people. A few days earlier on June 16, the Yaoundé office of human rights lawyer Michel Togué, who represents clients charged with same-sex conduct, was burgled, and his legal files and laptop stolen. Both Togué and Alice Nkom, another lawyer who represents LGBTI clients, have received repeated death threats by email and SMS, including threats to kill their children. Although activists have reported all of these incidents, the Cameroonian authorities have not apprehended a single suspect.

HRW is urging authorities to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation.

Lembembe contributed to the blog 76 Crimes, which notes that one of its most popular articles was "What traditional African homosexuality learned from the West".

They add:

That article is included in the book From Wrongs to Gay Rights, along with his articles about Roger Mbede, who was imprisoned because of an amorous text message to a man; Franky Djome and Jonas Kumie, who were imprisoned because they are a transgender couple; anti-gay blackmailer/extortioner Albert Edward Ekobo Samba; and the homophobic attack on last year’s IDAHO celebration in Yaoundé.

He formerly worked as a writer and editor for the monthly Tribune du Citoyen in Cameroon.

News: Obama and Tiger, Shockwave, Djesus, Berlin

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1NewsIcon Rev. Bayani Rico and his gay son work side-by-side at an Episcopal school in California.

1NewsIcon "Djesus Uncrossed"

1NewsIcon Gay films were front and center at Berlin Film Festival: "The Alfred Bauer Prize for innovation, named for the founder of the Berlinale, went to perhaps the most eccentric film in the competition, the French Canadian director Denis Côté's 'Vic and Flo Saw a Bear,' a darkly comic and melodramatic lesbian love story. The Australian director Kim Mordaunt won the best first feature award for 'The Rocket.' And the Teddy Award for best gay-themed film went to the Polish director Malgoska Szumowska's 'In the Name of …,' about a Catholic priest struggling with his homosexuality."

Mark_kamins1NewsIcon RIP Mark Kamins: "Pioneering DJ and producer Mark Kamins, who was instrumental in facilitating the signing of Madonna to Sire Records in 1982, has died. He was 57."

1NewsIcon Was Oscar Pistorius trying to revive slain girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp when police arrived at his home?

1NewsIcon he Die Hard franchise is still box office gold. The fifth installment topped the weekend box office with an estimated $30 million in ticket sales.

1NewsIcon An Illinois Catholic school will not give students extra credit for attending an anti-gay marriage rally. "A Notre Dame instructor in an ecclesiology class offered students 20 points extra credit if they attend the lobby day. The offer also included information on a bus trip, sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, to the event. After much debate and attention, Principal Charlie Roy posted an update on the school's website Friday, stating the extra credit will not be offered to those students."

1NewsIcon Baltimore firefighter accused of being a pimp on the side.

1NewsIcon A Cameroonian lawyer vilified for defending gay and lesbians activists has fled to the United States and is seeking asylum: "The threats against Togue that began in Cameroon have not stopped on US soil, where he continues to be subjected to menacing phone calls and text messages. 'They say they are going to kidnap my children, that they'll turn them into queers. I feel very vulnerable,' he said. His family has been in the United States since November, and he joined them in January."

1NewsIcon This is what progress looks like: "Colin Clark, who was suspended last season for directing a gay slur at a Seattle Sounders ball boy – and vehemently apologized afterward – on Saturday made clear his support of [gay player] Robbie Rogers."

1NewsIcon The meteor that struck Russia Friday sent subsonic shockwaves around the world.


Cameroon Court Upholds Three Year Sentence for Gay Man Jailed for Texting 'I'm Very Much in Love w/u' to Another Man

Back in September, Brandon posted about  Roger Jean-Claude Mbede, a Cameroonian man jailed for texting a man a photo of himself holding a sign which read "I'm very much in love w/u."

MbedeMbede has since been incarcerated in Kondengui Central Prison.

In September, Representatives from Alternatives Cameroon visited Mbede in Kondengui, where they found him in "deplorable" moral and physical health:

Suffering at the time with his left eye and without treatment or medications. He told us he slept on the ground since his imprisonment, and abandoned by most of his family members who regard him as a wizard.

Today, a Cameroonian court upheld his conviction for homosexual conduct, the AP reports:

The Court of Appeal ruled early Monday that Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, 32, must serve out his three-year jail term. He was provisionally released on bail in July after spending a year and a half behind bars. Mbede told The Associated Press he's not sure he can put up with the anti-gay attacks and harassment he faced from fellow inmates and prison authorities.

Gay rights activists say the upheld sentence marks yet another setback for gays and lesbians in Cameroon, widely viewed as the most repressive in Africa when it comes to prosecuting same-sex couples.

The activist group AllOut has an ongoing petition to free Mbede, which can be found here.

Roger Jean-Claude Mbede, Jailed For A Text

Mdebe"I'm very much in love w/u." So read the text message that Cameroonian Roger Jean-Claude Mbede sent to another man last year, and which landed him in Kondengui Central Prison, where he remains still. In Cameroon, homosexual acts are punishable with up to five years in prison. For his text message, Mbede has been sentenced to three.

Representatives from Alternatives Cameroon visited Mbede in Kondengui, where they found him in "deplorable" moral and physical health:

Suffering at the time with his left eye and without treatment or medications. He told us he slept on the ground since his imprisonment, and abandoned by most of his family members who regard him as a wizard.

Mbede has an appeals hearing tomorrow, and could be released. Or he could be returned to prison for another two years. There is currently a petition on calling for his emancipation, which has so far been signed by more than 80,000 people. You can sign it here. (Quickly, though. Cameroon is eight hours ahead of the American eastern coast.) 

Gay Cameroonian Refugee Dodges Deportation From UK, For Now

ValerieEdiage Valerie Ekwedde's life, which was probably never very easy, allegedly became a great deal more difficult when he celebrated his last birthday at a bar in Yaounde, in his native Cameroon. In a moment of drunken indiscretion, it seems he briefly caressed his boyfriend -- an illegal act in Cameroon, which in this case inflamed the bars' other customers and led to Ekwedde's arrest, his beating at the hands of the police, and -- after several days spent bleeding in a jail cell -- in a trip to a nearby hospital. 

Once there, 26-year-old Ekwedde managed to give the slip to his doctors, his jailers, and to Cameroon itself. He escaped to Europe, and then to the UK, where he made friends and entered a new relationship. But he was an illegal immigrant, and the UK Border Agency didn't mean to grant him amnesty. Despite letters from Ekwedde's boyfriend, the Border Agency claimed to find "no credible evidence" that Ekwedde is gay, and therefore no compelling human rights concern to prevent the Border Agency from sending Ekwedde home -- where, even if he's not gay, all the claims to the contrary in the western press could very likely result in his imprisonment.

Ekwedde was to be flown back to Cameroon in chains on Saturday morning aboard an Air France jet. To forestall the deportation, Ekwedde's friends have bombarded the airline in recent weeks with letters containing this appeal:

The Cameroon High Commission in London is given a list of people due to be removed on European Union travel documents and this list is sent on ahead of the flight to the police in Cameroon. [Upon his arriva in Cameroonl, Ekwedde] would certainly be arrested and subjected to brutal treatment and is unlikely even to emerge from the airport after being handed over by the UKBA escorts.

Air France is a highly reputed airline carrying willing passengers to destinations all over the world. Air France is not an arm of United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA), carrying out their immigration enforcements.

In the light of the UKBA’s acknowledgement that "Airline captains have the right to refuse carriage of a passenger and will do so if they feel appropriate for security or commercial reasons", I urge Air France not to carry out this forced removal of Ediage Valerie Ekwedde.

Incredibly, the letters may have worked. Last night, the BBC reported that Ekwedde's plane took off without him:

Air France said its 07:10 BST flight was delayed on Saturday morning due to "operational difficulties".

Campaigners said [Ekwedde] managed to get a message to the Air France pilot saying that he would "make a fuss" because his life was in danger.

The pilot is said to have abandoned the flight out of consideration for other passengers.

... or maybe Air France has a heart, but doesn't want to anger British law enforcement.

Regardless, Ekwedde's still in the UK, at least for the moment -- probably at the Harmondsworth Detention Center near London. If you think he should be allowed to stay in the country, please let the Secretary of the Home Office know. That's the Rt. Hon Theresa May, MP, and she's reachable at 


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