Cameroonian LGBT activist Eric Ohene Lembembe, Executive Director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS) had recently warned supporters of “anti-gay thugs.” Now, it appears that he’s become one of their latest victims.
Lembembe was found tortured and killed in his home in the Cameroonian capitol of Yaoundé. For years, he had fought against the rising tide of LGBT violence that had recently washed over the West African country, violence so brutal that a report by Amnesty International found the country’s authorities guilty of “grave human rights violations — including forcing suspected gay men to undergo forced anal exams. In a detailed look at the report, blogger Rod McCullom called Cameroonian President Paul Biyah head of one of Africa’s most repressive anti-LGBT regimes.
Friends reportedly found Lembembe’s body on Monday and reported that both his neck and feet appeared to be broken and that he had been branded with an iron, according to a graphic report in the Huffington Post.
The U.S. Department released a statement condemning Lembembe’s murder. “We deplore the brutal murder of Eric Ohena Lembembe, who was found tortured to death in his home in Yaoundé yesterday,” the statement read. “We condemn this terrible act in the strongest terms and urge the Cameroonian authorities to thoroughluy and promptly investigate and prosecute those responsible for his death.”
Over at The Daily Beast, Neela Ghoshal recounted the important work that Lembembe did on behalf of the LGBT community and people living with HIV and AIDS.
When Lembembe spoke, th[e] snickers [of Cameroon’s military police] trailed off. “I am Cameroonian, like you,” he said. “Let’s be serious. We all know that gay people exist in Cameroon. In fact, they exist in all of our families. And we all know that they are mistreated. Would you tolerate this abuse if this were your brother? Would you laugh at it, if this were your sister?” Lembembe picked up the stories where I had left off, and the gendarmes listened. They didn’t commit to taking action, not at this initial meeting, where defenses where high, but they listened.
Lembembe’s brand of activism was beginning to shake things up in Cameroon. Along with a cadre of other young, outspoken LGBT-rights activists in Yaoundé and Douala, Lembembe was impatient for change. Statements by President Paul Biya at a news conference in France and by Biya’s foreign minister at the U.N. Human Rights Council, to the effect that Cameroon was “not yet ready” for full equality for its lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender citizens, got under Lembembe’s skin. He did not see why he should be treated like a second-class citizen for one day longer.