Optimism and death in the face of Cameroon’s „gay scare“

18. Juli 2013

On Monday, July 15, Eric Lembembe, Cameroon’s most prominent LGBTI rights activists, was found dead in his home in Yaoundé. His body showed signs of severe torture. He is only the latest tragic victim of homophobic furor in Africa. He knew what might happen to him as he exposed what had happened to others, but in his very last article which was published after his death he still sounds optimistic.

As director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS), Eric Lembembe documented arrests of LGBTI people in Cameroon  as well as the violence and daily discrimination they are facing. He contributed to blogs like Erasing 76 Crimes which documents the LGBTI rights struggle in the 76 countries where homosexuality is criminalized, telling the stories of gays like Roger Mbede, 33, who has spent 16 months in prison for the „crime“ of  sending amourous text messages to another man.

Eric Lembembe combatted the propaganda that homosexuality was „unafrican“ and only imported by a degenerated West. But what he detected was that homophobic voices on the ground and violence are becoming even stronger. His verdict, cited in a recent report by Human Rights Watch, was depressing:

“Unfortunately, a climate of hatred and bigotry in Cameroon, which extends to high levels in government, reassures homophobes that they can get away with these crimes.”

Nevertheless, the fearless activist’s last piece (which went to press just one day before Eric Lembembe’s body was found) ends with an optimistic notion on this „gay scare“:

„Some observers say that all of this agitation has brought homosexuality “out of the closet” by making it the subject of debate in the public sphere. Further, the public debate leaves no doubt that gays exist, and that they have serious concerns.“

May he be right!

Please read Eric Lembembe’s last piece which was published by The Indypendent on July, 16:


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