Showing posts with label Cameroon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cameroon. Show all posts

March 29, 2017

The Government of Cameroon Has Cut Off The Internet to All Since 01/17/17

Wednesday marks 73 days since people in northwest and southwest Cameroon have had no access to the internet — at all. And it doesn’t look like it's coming back anytime soon. 

On Jan. 17, the government of Cameroon shut down the internet in two regions of the central African country. Courts and schools in the two regions have also been on strike for the duration.
The blackout has affected everything: ATM machines no longer work; students can't gossip on Whatsapp; and businesses have folded up as they're no longer able to operate online.

The shutdown has targeted Bamenda and Buea, two regions which are home to most of the country's English-speaking minority. Citizens there have long said theyre marginalised by the central government in Yaoundé, the French-speaking capital. 

“The Anglophone problem" dates back to the end of colonialism in the 1960s. 

What's known as Cameroon today was once under control of both British and French colonialists. After independence, a series of referendums were held and the country went from being a two-state federation to having a centralized government with 10 semi-autonomous administrative regions. 
But Anglophone Cameroonians say it's far from a case of being separate but equal. Although English and French are both official languages, language remains a barrier in getting often lucrative state jobs, state funding is skewed towards Francophone regions and official documents and activities that should be bilingual are frequently in French alone. 
Over the decades, several civil organizations and caucuses have formed amid calls for the state makeup to be reviewed. Some activists are campaigning for a return to a two-state federation; in recent years though others have gone further, calling for the anglophone-phone regions to splinter and form independent states.

The internet shutdown came after a surge in protests by English-speaking Cameroonians against the government last year. Throughout the last three months of 2016, the government faced a series of protests from lawyers, teachers and students. The marches were triggered by the presidential appointment of French-speaking judges to courts in the Anglophone region. Aside from operating in a different language, English-speaking regions still operate under the English common law, as opposed to French civil law which the appointees were trained in. 

Judges went on strike. Teachers soon joined them, saying the prevalence of French-speaking teachers in classrooms — who spoke limited English — was hampering students' progress.
While discontent has simmered in the background for decades, by December they bubbled over into violence. The government responded brutally. Incidents of soldiers brutally assaulting students flooded Cameroonian Twitter. Several prominent government critics were arrested, including a senior judge. They have yet to be released. 
Paul Biya, the autocratic ruler who has held power for 35 years, soon after claimed the internet needed to be shutdown for "security reasons."

Cameroonians have responded creatively by setting up internet “refugee camps" where the data is always flowing. 

To get online, residents in the affected areas have been forced to travel for tens of kilometers to get to Francophone areas where there's still connectivity.
But in Buea, known as "Silicon Mountain" for its booming tech start-ups, a group of techies have come together to set up a "refuge," Quartz reports. They’ve rented a room in Bonako, a village bordering the French region, bought portable modems and hooked them up to generators, creating an oasis for struggling start ups. 

But there are also fears such repression can cross borders.

US watchdog Freedom House found last year that governments curbed social media communications in 24 countries last year, up from 15 the previous year. 
African governments been increasingly using blackouts as a tool to crush dissenting voices. This week a Tanzanian rapper was arrested after a song criticising the government went viral. And partial or complete internet blackouts were order in Gambia, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon in 2016. Officials in Zimbabwe also hiked the cost of internet cell data after protests jumped from social media to the streets. 

For now, most Cameroonians are calling on the government to begin implementing three simple measures. 

1. Bring back the internet
2. Free all the arrested
3. National Dialogue

December 9, 2015

In Cameroon is ‘Ok to Kill Someone…If Gay’


Two years ago, Cedric Tchante fled his home in Douala, Cameroon, under the cover of night. Between the torture and murder of a dear friend and the death threats against him that had expanded to his mother, it had become clear the then 28-year-old needed to get out fast and in secret. 

Tchante had been working as a peer counselor educator and HIV prevention education coordinator at Cameroon's first center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people – a dangerous job in a country where homosexuality is punishable by up to five years in prison. 

"It's normal to kill somebody for being gay or lesbian in Cameroon and you will have no problem with the police of the courts," Tchante, now 30, tells PEOPLE. "It's really difficult to be an activist because you know you are going to be persecuted. But when you see all the problems that the LGBT community has you have to help because somebody needs to do it.”

According to Amnesty International, Cameroon is one of 38 African nations where homosexuality is illegal. In the Central African nation, homosexuality is widely stigmatized and citizens are often arrested, charged and sentenced without a single piece of evidence. 

Born This Way is a documentary that tells the story of Tchante and three other young, gay Cameroonians forced to hide in a country that refuses to accept them. The young people are in danger everywhere except at Alternatives Cameroun, the LGBT center where Tchante worked. 

"It's one of the only spaces in Cameroon where gay and lesbian people can come together and feel safe," filmmaker Shaun Kadlec, 37, tells PEOPLE. "I was really struck not just by the difficulties and challenges that they faced, but also the joy and passion that went into their advocacy work and sense of community they created." 

The center, which officially operates as an HIV/AIDS clinic, offers healthcare services, counseling, legal aid and vocational training. But as Tchante explains, all of those were secondary to the most pressing need in the LGBT community – hope. 

"Our first [priority] was to make people happy because all of the people we received were really sad and the only thing they wanted to do was die and not have that pain anymore," he says. "We wanted to give them some hope and a place to share and talk." 

The threat of jail – or death – was a constant in Tchante's life, but when the death threats began to spread to his family and a dear friend was found murdered, the activist sought asylum in San Francisco, California. 
"I was a little bit afraid to come to the U.S. because my English is not perfect and I didn't know anybody except Shaun," Tchante recalls. "The only ideas I had about this place were from TV shows and coming here and being alone most of the time was really, really difficult." 

But when Tchante discovered the vibrant LGBT community in San Francisco, he knew he was far from alone. 

"My first Pride parade is one of the best memories I'm going to keep for all my life," he says. "To see a million people in the streets and a mix of gay, lesbian, trans, queer and heterosexual together and happy and having fun – I don't have a word to describe that feeling." 

Today, Tchante stays connected to Alternatives Cameroun by providing help via email and counseling sessions via skype. This support is more necessary than ever, as the political situation has grown worse. 

"Now, they're trying to make the law more [strict] with 15 or 30 years as punishment [for being homosexual]," he says. "With the next presidential election coming, all the politicians are blaming the LGBT situation." 

Still, he holds out for a future with more openly gay and lesbian Cameroonians who can change the hearts and minds of the people around them. 

“The small hope is for the new generation,” he says, "that the youngest boy or girl in Cameroon can have a new idea if they have friends who are gay or lesbian – they'll be less homophobic and more open."

People Mag

March 27, 2015

He was the global face for gay rights in Cameroon but he was arrested and died alone and in poverty

Disowned by his family for being gay and not hiding in the closet, arrested and died coming out of Prison with nothing but what he was wearing. He knew he was fighting not for himself but for all gays in Cameroon, victimized by their families, their church and their government. This is the fight that played in the US, Canada,Britain and every country that now accepts gays as people that are in need of their civil rights and beyond that, their human rights. The Civil right to walk out of their house without being beaten or bullied. The human right to love another man just like them.
How can any human being of any religion, any decent human being with empathy in their hearts for others not just for themselves and the ones like them not understand this? This is the fight that tragically has to be fought but we know now that this is the fight we will win in every educated moral nation. I wish I could make 350 million framed messages for the door of every american home, giving them the meaning of Morality not as I define it but the way it has always been defined and see if it applies to denying any American or human being for that matter, their civil and human rights. A religion dogma and rules does not trump human rights.
That was for the past ages in which human ate other humans and kill them as sacrifice to their god. What ever the religion says it cannot take away those human rights of loving and making a home together legally and with the same rights marriage affords them. Don’t want them in your church? That is more than fine but you can’t say they be not allowed at city hall to get a marriage license. 
Roger Jean-Claude Mbede was denied all of the rights I mentioned above and lastly he lost his life.
Adam Gonzalez, Publisher

file photo of roger mbede

In this July 2012 photo, Roger Jean-Claude Mbede stands in the home of a friend where he had sought refuge in Yaounde, Cameroon. Mbede, a gay man who was jailed for sending an amorous text message to another man, and who was later declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, died on Jan. 10, 2014. 
Anne Mireille Nzouankeu / AP
In this July 2012 photo, Roger Jean-Claude Mbede stands in the home of a friend where he had sought refuge in Yaounde, Cameroon. Mbede, a gay man who was jailed for sending an amorous text message to another man, and who was later declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, died on Jan. 10, 2014. Anne Mireille Nzouankeu / AP
YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon — On the night of July 16, 2012, Roger Mbede walked out of the central prison in Cameroon’s capital city, having served 16 months of a three-year term for violating the country’s anti-gay law. Though Mbede, then 33, had entered prison a nobody, he was emerging an icon, a man whose story had come to exemplify the challenges facing sexual minorities in Cameroon and throughout sub-Saharan Africa. 

The previous year, Mbede had been arrested and convicted under a penal-code provision imposing prison terms of up to five years for same-sex sexual acts. This in itself was not unusual. Cameroonian officials have carried out waves of arrests targeting sexual minorities for the last decade. According to Human Rights Watch, the country prosecutes more people for homosexuality than any other in sub-Saharan Africa, often on limited or fabricated evidence. 

But the specific claims against Mbede were flimsy even by Cameroonian standards. Instead of being accused of having sex with another man, he was arrested on the basis of three amorous text messages he sent to a government official. One of these messages confessed “an attraction to men,” while another declared, “I’ve fallen in love with you.”

In the years leading up to Mbede’s arrest, activists had struggled to attract much attention to the lack of gay rights in Cameroon. It soon became clear that Mbede’s case provided an opportunity to make up for lost time. Amnesty International named him a prisoner of conscience, and the organization’s Write for Rights campaign generated up to 500 letters of support a day from all over the world, according to one of his lawyers, Alice Nkom. Human Rights Watch and All Out, a New York-based advocacy group, also took up the cause. 

I pledge to continue to follow his story and do what I can to secure his safety.
David Cicilline
Congressman from Rhode Island
The international pressure likely contributed to the decision to grant Mbede provisional release while his case was appealed. But he soon realized that any attempt to resume his normal life would be complicated by his newfound notoriety. 

Mbede remained the face of gay rights in Cameroon even after he was let out. On the ground, however, in his home village of Ngoumou, he was impoverished and ailing, desperate even for basics such as money for food. 

On Dec. 12, 2013, David Cicilline, the Democratic congressman from Rhode Island, delivered a statement about Mbede in the United States House of Representatives to mark Human Rights Day. “I pledge to continue to follow his story and do what I can to secure his safety,” he said. 

Mbede would die a scant month later, his final weeks shrouded in mystery. The news came as a shock to those who had worked on his case. According to the reports, Mbede was held in his village by his family, who were intentionally depriving him of medical treatment. Speaking to The Associated Press, Nkom said, “His family said he was a curse for them and that we should let him die.”

Cameroonian officials have never properly investigated this claim, and the evidence to support it is thin. But the decision by global campaigners mourning Mbede to focus on the family’s role in his death obscured a less dramatic yet still disturbing story — one of an international activist community that placed a high value on the symbolic utility of Mbede’s case but did very little to help him cope with the price of exposure. While Mbede was clearly a casualty of a hateful, homophobic law, a less obvious truth is that activists probably could have, but failed, to save him.

 Michel Togué

Michel Togué, one of the lawyers for the defense, smiles at the Yaounde court which on July 23, 2013, sentenced a man to two years in prison and handed down a suspended one-year jail sentence to an underage youth for homosexuality
Reinnier Kaze / AFP / Getty Images
Michel Togué, one of the lawyers for the defense, smiles at the Yaounde court which on July 23, 2013, sentenced a man to two years in prison and handed down a suspended one-year jail sentence to an underage youth for homosexualityReinnier Kaze / AFP / Getty Images
Born in Yaoundé in 1979, Mbede never knew his father, and his mother died when he was young. He was raised by an aunt and uncle who had nine children of their own but nonetheless welcomed Mbede into their home on the outskirts of the capital. 

In an interview taped after his release, Mbede said he first realized he was attracted to men when he was around 10. He said he recognized at an early age that homosexuality was widely abhorred and that this prompted him to “fight a battle, a tough battle.” Yet those who knew him, including foreign campaigners and members of the local gay community, say his role as an activist was entirely accidental. No one in the country’s 10 or so active lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations seems to have met him prior to his arrest, which was the first time he’d encountered any trouble related to his sexual orientation.

The official who eventually denounced Mbede to the police worked at the office of Cameroon’s president, and Mbede met him while applying for a job there. After a brief interview, Mbede sent the man a text message: “I feel a desire to sleep with men and I am attracted by your beauty.” After two subsequent messages from Mbede, the official arranged a meeting, then tipped off the police. Two plainclothes officers arrested Mbede not long after he showed up.

Mbede appeared before judicial officials one week after his arrest. “Everyone in the courtroom started to cry out and insult me — even the judge,” he later told Human Rights Watch. He had no lawyer at his trial the following day. “They didn’t ask me questions,” he said. “When I stood up to go to the bar, it was just shouts and insults.”

The case might never have attracted any publicity had it not been for Michel Togué, the only other local lawyer besides Nkom who regularly defends Cameroonians charged under the anti-gay law. Togué happened to be at the court the day Mbede was sentenced. Before Mbede was transferred from the court to the prison, Togué approached him and asked if he wanted to appeal. Mbede said yes, and Togué filed the next day. (Nkom joined Mbede’s team later.) 

It is with eyes filled with tears and a heart completely saddened that I write you this letter. Please go cancel the appeal. I don’t want to suffer any more from constant persecution from my enemies.
Yaoundé’s central prison is by all accounts a rough place, and Mbede fared especially poorly. Inmates familiar with his story refused to share a cell with him, and he was often expelled to the courtyard, exposed to the sun and rain, said Lambert Lamba, a Cameroonian activist who became close with Mbede. Some called him “pédé,” a derogatory slang word derived from “pedophile” or “pederast,” and “diaper wearer,” a slur hurled at gay men based on the belief that anal sex renders them incontinent. Guards did little to protect him from violence, Lamba said. At the time of his release, Mbede had a scar on his brow where, he said, he had been hit with a wooden bench.

Mbede’s correspondence from prison suggests he wasn’t eager to embrace a struggle larger than his own. A letter to Nkom written in February 2012, nearly a year after his arrest, indicates he wanted only to keep his head down until his prison term was over. “It is with eyes filled with tears and a heart completely saddened that I write you this letter,” he began, lamenting that the system seemed stacked against him. “Please go cancel the appeal. I don’t want to suffer any more from constant persecution from my enemies.”

Upon his release, Mbede’s health was his first priority. He underwent badly needed surgery for a testicular hernia, but the procedure was not entirely successful, according to friends and activists. He also tested positive for HIV. It was unclear where he contracted it, and he never got on a treatment plan.

Mbede had been working toward a master’s degree at a local Catholic university, but resuming his studies also proved difficult. The university had become a hostile environment. One friend recalled that someone posted a sign on Mbede’s door that read “Dirty Pédé,” and Amnesty reported that he was later assaulted by four unknown men just off campus. 

Fearing for his safety, Mbede moved in with Lamba for three months and then returned to his village. The relocation indicates that he was still figuring out what kind of life he wanted. Though he was primarily attracted to men, he sometimes slept with women and, about 10 years ago, fathered a son. When he returned to the village, he was accompanied by a woman who identified as a lesbian but, in need of a place to stay, had agreed to pose as Mbede’s girlfriend. Mbede told his family he was no longer gay. The woman, who asked not to be named, would become pregnant with Mbede’s second child inside of six months. 

'A bit of negligence'

In December 2012, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, a global federation pushing for sexual-minority rights, held its world conference in Stockholm, Sweden. By this point, most activists were aware of Mbede’s case and concerned for his welfare. Conference organizers decided to invite Mbede as a “special guest,” knowing he would then seek asylum, according to French activist Thomas Fouquet Lapar. The idea was hatched late, however, and it was not possible to process Mbede’s visa application in time, Lapar said. 

On Dec. 17, the day after the conference came to a close, an appeals court upheld Mbede’s verdict. Mbede went into hiding, and his ambiguous legal status complicated subsequent efforts to get him out of Cameroon. 

Jean-Eric Nkurikiye, a former Amnesty campaigner who worked on Mbede’s case, believes Mbede’s conviction made it illegal for him to leave, meaning the organization was in no position to help. But Togué, the appeals lawyer, said Cameroonian authorities would have needed to issue a specific order barring Mbede from traveling if they didn’t want him going anywhere. There is no evidence they did so.

In late 2012, a regional organization, the Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network, drew up budgets for two possible escape plans for Mbede, both of which involved overland travel to Chad to avoid altercations with airport authorities, who were more likely than border officers to stop Mbede. From Chad, he would fly either to Europe or the United States. However, Patience Freida, who works on LGBT issues for the organization, said it lost contact with Mbede while the budgets were being approved. “There was a bit of negligence in this case,” she said. Because members had no news of Mbede, she added, “We said to ourselves, ‘He must be out of danger.’” 
In fact, Mbede believed his situation was becoming more precarious. In a January 2013 email to an activist at All Out, he reported having received a letter the previous week — it was apparently “slipped under his door” — that included a threat: “Be very careful and don’t be stupid. You risk losing your life, while those who are encouraging you will remain living.”

Around this time, Lapar, the French activist, turned to Dignity for All, a program run by a consortium of rights organizations that provides emergency assistance to activists and human-rights defenders endangered because of their work on LGBT issues. The program was created in September 2012 and receives significant funding from the U.S. State Department. Generally speaking, while the fund was designed for activists, exceptions for people like Mbede are possible, said senior program officer Mindy Michels. Lapar said Dignity eventually approved Mbede’s case and agreed to provide him with about $5,000, more than enough to pay for his travel, though the money was not disbursed until August 2013. 

The plan then was for Mbede to travel to France. Dignity does not provide help with the visa process, however, and the French embassy in Yaoundé dragged its feet. Lapar, who is based in France, said he found little help on the ground in Cameroon as he tried to get Mbede’s papers in order. Local organizations had few resources and little influence, and international groups failed to coordinate their efforts, wasting valuable time. 

To Lapar, this inability to mobilize at a time when Mbede was perhaps most in need of assistance reflects poorly on the priorities of global activists. “People can say a lot of things — ‘Oh, we’re so indignant about the sentence that he faced’ — but when it’s just about picking up a phone and calling an ambassador of a country to say we need this guy to be out, no one does it,” he said. “And it’s so easy.”

Final days

There are competing versions of how Mbede’s final weeks unfolded. In the most widely accepted account, Mbede’s family removed him from the hospital and held him in the village against his will, waiting for him to die. The source of this information is Lamba, who went to the village in early January, days before Mbede’s death, for a visit that quickly turned chaotic.

Soon after Lamba arrived, dozens of people gathered around as members of Mbede’s family questioned Lamba about their relationship as well as the extensive interest in their relative’s case. Lamba felt threatened. Two of Mbede’s cousins had machetes, he said, adding that they kept him there “for nearly 10 hours.” 

At no point was Lamba permitted to see Mbede. Lamba said he left the village convinced the family had decided to let Mbede die. Several days after Mbede’s death, Lamba told The Associated Press that, during the course of his visit, family members “said they were going to remove the homosexuality which is in him” — a claim that is central for those who say Mbede’s death was the direct result of his family’s homophobia. 

Today, though, Lamba says that because of the general confusion of the scene, he doesn’t remember anyone saying these things in so many words. “Nobody said that explicitly,” he recalled. While his broad claims may be accurate, his version of events appears far from the definitive account activists portray it as being. 
 alice nkom, one of mbede's lawyers

Alice Nkom, a Cameroonian lawyer who was on Roger Mbede's legal team, gestures during an interview in Berlin on March 14, 2014, where she was to receive a human rights prize from Amnesty International.
Johannes Eisele / AFP / Getty Images
Alice Nkom, a Cameroonian lawyer who was on Roger Mbede's legal team, gestures during an interview in Berlin on March 14, 2014, where she was to receive a human rights prize from Amnesty International.Johannes Eisele / AFP / Getty Images
Noel, a cousin with whom Mbede was particularly close, provides a different version of what happened. He said he understands why Lamba may have been intimidated during the confrontation. But he said Mbede’s relatives and neighbors were simply trying to understand what was wrong with him to see if there was any way to help. Noel denied his family wanted Mbede dead. To the contrary, he said, they simply couldn’t afford to pay for Mbede’s medical care. 

The woman who was posing as Mbede’s girlfriend might have been able to provide an account of Mbede’s final days. However, she had left the village several weeks before, just four days after delivering their daughter. She said she was trying to find a place where Mbede could recover from his illness, since he seemed to be faring poorly at home.

What she does recall, though, undercuts Noel’s claim that Mbede faced no threat in the village. She said she remembers getting a call from Noel a few days before Mbede’s death, warning her to stay away. She said Noel told her there were certain members of his family who thought Mbede was cursed and might harm him. This woman said she is not surprised Noel neglected to disclose this information himself, citing his apparent wish to protect his family’s reputation.

Given how much time has passed, and the absence of an official investigation, it may prove impossible to ever determine which story — Lamba’s or Noel’s — is closer to the truth.
A painting in memory of Roger Mbede hangs in the office of a Cameroonian LGBT organization.

A painting in memory of Roger Mbede hangs in the office of a Cameroonian LGBT organization. 
Robbie Corey-Boulet

A painting in memory of Roger Mbede hangs in the office of a Cameroonian LGBT organization. 
A painting in memory of Roger Mbede hangs in the office of a Cameroonian LGBT organization. Robbie Corey-Boulet
Mbede was buried hastily in his family’s village, in a makeshift coffin cobbled together with wooden planks. Noel suggested waiting to see if some of Mbede’s international contacts would send money for a proper service, but the family concluded this was unlikely, given what was being said about them, and they were reluctant to pay to continue keeping his body in the morgue. They decided to just get on with it. 

Activists honored him in different ways. All Out organized a “virtual vigil”: a petition calling on world leaders to do away with anti-gay laws. In Cameroon, one LGBT organization has paintings of Mbede hanging in its office. Another named a conference room after him.

These gestures mean little to his relatives and friends, however, one of whom lamented that Mbede was buried “like a dog.” The lack of help on the part of Mbede’s international contacts in honoring someone who attracted so much attention while he was alive is an enduring mystery for the family, Noel said. “The entire world knew my brother. Ambassadors, everyone,” he said. “If they didn’t do anything for his death, well, that really disappointed me.”

Noel said Mbede’s aunt, especially, wonders how someone who became so well-known had, apparently, been forgotten so quickly. “She asks until today, ‘With all the relations he had, with all of his friends, what kind of friends are they?’”


Just today in the NYTimes: Initiative to Execute Gays

September 12, 2014

Drinking “Baileys Cream” in Cameroon makes you Gay thus Arrest and Jail


Article 347 bis of the Cameroon Penal Code punishes “sexual relations with a person of the same sex,” with sentences of prison terms as long as five years in addition to fines. According to Michel Togue, a Cameroonian attorney who has defended many people accused of homosexuality, gay and lesbian stereotypes alone are often enough to warrant charges.
Togue told ThinkProgress that of the dozens of such cases he has represented, very few people were actually caught in the act of actually having sex. Once an accusation of homosexuality is made, police make arrests based solely on how individuals present themselves. For example, if a man is found to be cross-dressing, that could be used as proof that he is gay in court. If somebody has a job that doesn’t fit their gender, like a male hairdresser, that too could be used against them. A judge convicted one of Togue’s clients for feminine mannerisms and for drinking Bailey’s Irish Cream, which he felt only a woman would drink.
Stigma fuels the accusations and arrests. Many individuals have been charged after neighbors, family members, or even scorned ex-lovers report them to the police, though in at least one case, the ex-lover was arrested too. Togue recently tried to free two women who had been in jail for nine months after neighbors reported them. They had not actually caught them in a sexual act.
Togue argues that even in the cases where people might be caught actually having sex, it would be a violation of others’ privacy, which is also illegal. “To catch people having sex, to catch them in the act, you have to break the law. You have to violate their privacy, which is an offense,” he explained. “But the police will not focus on the offense of breaking the privacy of someone, but they will focus on the fact that they saw two people of the same gender having sex.”
In another case, police arrested three men who the officers claimed were having sex in a vehicle — while it was moving. The men denied the act and argued that they were arrested only because they were dressed effeminately. They were sentenced to five years in jail.
One of the most high-profile cases was that of Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, who texted a picture of himself holding a sign that read, “I’m very much in love w/u” to another man. The recipient reported the image to the police as “sexual harassment,” then invited Mbede over to his home, where the police were waiting to arrest him. Mbede was sentenced to three years in prison. “If Roger was sentenced as a homosexual,” Togue asked, “with whom did he have sex?” Mbede was provisionally released on medical grounds in 2012 and went into hiding; he died earlier this year after he could no longer afford hospital treatment for a hernia.
The Catholic Church is one of the strongest forces reinforcing anti-gay stigma in Cameroon. Back in 2012, Simon-Victor Tonyé Bakot — then-Archbishop of Yaundé, Cameroon’s capital — said that homosexuality is “shameful, a disrespectful criticism of God who has chosen to create man and woman.” Before he was replaced in 2013, Bakot had also joined with Cameroon’s other Catholic bishops in issuing a statement condemning homosexuality, including the claim that “homosexuality opposes humanity and destroys it.”
This stigma is also having a negative impact on health care in the country, particularly when it comes to HIV outreach. “They can’t go to the hospital for the treatment or even for a test because they’re afraid,” Togue explained. He knows of at least one case where an individual admitted to a nurse that he’d had same-sex relations and she called the police on him. There are about a half-dozen organizations that do HIV outreach in the country, but Togue says that they’re largely LGBT support organizations in disguise.
Togue finds it odd that his fellow Cameroonians rely on tradition to defend their anti-gay beliefs from Western influence. “You have a country like Gabon. We share the same culture and tradition… but in Gabon, homosexuality is not an offense! Can you imagine that?” He says it’s simply “wrong” to claim that anti-gay beliefs are inherent to their culture.
Still, he remains optimistic that education will help Cameroonians learn more about human rights, sexual orientation, and privacy. “The West are not imposing homosexuality to Cameroon, but Cameroon has people who have a different sexual orientation, and they are in their rights to do that. They have to be respected without any stigmatizing.”
Togue hopes that local organizations in Cameroon will help people learn that “a homosexual is our friend, is our brother, is our sister, is part of our family — is not a stranger, not someone coming from outside.”
Thanks to Global Rights for helping set up the interview with Michel Togue.

January 10, 2014

UNAIDS Urges Investigation on Killing of Gay Worker in Cameroon


On Wednesday, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a long report on the Vatican that has gotten attention for its sharp criticism of the Catholic Church’s response to clergy sex-abuse scandals. But perhaps more remarkably, the study also critiqued the Church’s stance on abortion and birth control.
Specifically, it recommended that the Holy See “overcome all the barriers and taboos surrounding adolescent sexuality that hinder their access to sexual and reproductive information, including on family planning and contraceptives,” and suggested the Vatican “review its position on abortion … with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted.” The committee also made broad criticisms of the Church’s posture toward LGBTQ families and children. The Holy See has responded with a statement defending the Church’s right to define its own religious beliefs and teachings.
The Vatican, which has “permanent observer” status at the UN, is a signatory to the UN’s 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child along with 193 countries and two island nations. Notably, the United States is one of three countries that haven’t ratified the treaty; the other two, Somalia and South Sudan, have bothpledged to ratify the agreement soon.
So, if a UN committee finds Church teachings to violate the human rights of children, what can it do to the Holy See? The short answer: nothing.
“There’s no legal obligation under the treaty to follow the recommendations of the committee,” said Julian Ku, a professor at Hofstra University’s School of Law. “The committee itself is formed by the treaty … and it’s just housed at the UN.”
That doesn’t mean the body’s findings aren’t influential, though. “The primary power [committee members] have is to release this report and get it picked up by activists and the media,” Ku said. “To the extent that there are groups that can pressure the Holy See, they can use this report to say look, you’ve failed in this respect.”
 Ku explained that the 18 people who drafted this list of recommendations for the Vatican aren’t actually part of the UN—they’re academics, non-profit leaders, and sometimes, as he put it, “activists” (the members are from countries around the world, including Ghana, Italy, Bahrain, Ecuador, and Russia). Every five years, the countries that signed the convention are supposed to report on how things are going in their countries, and the committee’s job is to read these reports and react to them. That’s what these recommendations are: a reaction to the Holy See’s progress on protecting children.
It’s important to keep in mind that these reactions are based on a specific interpretation of the treaty, though—and an “aggressive” one at that, according to Ku. “The committee is essentially interpreting the treaty in a way that the Holy See doesn’t agree with,” Ku said. “In the treaty text itself, there isn’t a whole lot that’s objectionable. In fact, there’s probably a whole lot that the Holy See likes.”
As Ku notes, there isn’t specific language about LGBTQ rights, the appropriate circumstances for abortions, or birth-control education in the convention at all—at most, it refers to “guidance for parents and family planning education and services.” But the meaning of “family planning” is somewhat unclear.  “When [the Holy See] signed the treaty, they did not interpret the words ‘family planning’ to include contraceptives,” Ku said.
So how did the committee arrive at its conclusions? Legal considerations, public-health concerns, and perhaps even ethics may have played a role. But that raises a question: Should a committee formed by a UN treaty be commenting on the religious teachings and beliefs of one of the world’s major faiths?
The committee and the Holy See seem to be approaching the issue of human rights in starkly different ways. The committee sees its job as assessing how the Church protects children, and it believes this includes giving young women tools to prevent or even terminate pregnancy. It also believes LGBTQ rights are part of this mission; the committee expressed concerns about “past statements and declarations on homosexuality which contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents and children raised by same sex couples.” The report doesn’t specify whether revising these “declarations” means allowing gay marriages, encouraging priests to come out, or just creating more open communities.
But the Church doesn’t see abortion and birth control as simple human-rights issues—they are also bound up in the meaning of being human, the origins of life, and the definition of marriage. Is it reasonable to expect a religious organization to change some of its core teachings based on a UN committee report?
On the other hand, as Ku said, the committee exists to influence the public sphere: They’re offering “professional criticism” of practices they see as problematic for human rights. If the religious beliefs of 1.2 billion people are going to be shaped anywhere, perhaps the public sphere is the best place for that to happen.    


November 27, 2013

Cameroon The Mother of Ignorance Sentenced Gay Man 9 Yrs for Being Gay

Yaoundé Central Prison
A prisoner is starving in a Cameroon jail. 
Cornelius Fonya (35), was arrested on 29 October 2012 and has been in jail ever since. Although he was granted bail and even paid the court mandated bail amount, he was simply not released.
It was first claimed that the teen he was accused of having sex with was 14, but it was later proved that he was actually 19-years-old and an adult.
Despite neither the young man nor his family, or any other witnesses, testifying in his trial, Fonya was on Wednesday sent to jail for almost a decade in the city of Limbe.
The law allows for up to five years imprisonment for homosexuality, but the sentence was particularly harsh because the judge insisted on including the disproven charge of sex with a minor.
“The legal system in Cameroon has proven once more the homophobic context in which we are currently living in, where it is enough for one to get imprisoned for his or her perceived or actual sexual preferences,” said human rights group CAMEF.
The organisation reported that members of the LGBT community in the southwest region of the country “are often beaten in the streets, others stoned to death in the past and others arbitrarily detained on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation then sent to prison after being sentenced by a judge with no evidence of same-sex practices”.
CAMEF added that it is working with a lawyer to offer legal support to Fonya.
Cameroon is said to have the highest rate of conviction of LGBT people in the world. At its recent UNHRC Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights, the country rejected recommendations to ensure people’s basic right not to be killed, raped, or assaulted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In July, leading Cameroonian LGBT activist Eric Ohena Lembembe was mutilated and murdered in his home. Two weeks earlier, he’d publicly condemned the state’s inaction following several attacks on human rights defenders. Lembembe’s murder remains unsolved.
In October, an HIV and LGBT human rights organisation discovered a group of 10 previously unknown people jailed for homosexuality in a Cameroon prison. It said that many of these detainees were beaten or tortured by police, prison staff and other prisoners.
If Cameroon Leaders think that these crimes against humanity are going to be forgotten, then they more than ignorant…they are stupid and blind also. It’s a pity that our government and Europeans alike take sides on civil wars but these ex-colonies that kill and imprison people on being ‘human’ charges are not pressure by our government. Being punished by your politics is somethings that goes on everywhere and not to excuse it, but it seems to me that punishing humans because they are black, white, albino, oriental or gay is a crime against humanity.  Where is the Court in the Haig?? Where is the State dept., Foreign Minister, President?
Reports: Erasing 76 Crimes.
Adam Gonzalez, Blog Publisher
(Feel Free to send to others)

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