By Walikuzu Solarin
A Cameroonian gay rights blogger, Suh Edwin, is reportedly receiving death threats from unknown persons.
Suh Edwin, who has been writing and clamouring for the human rights of homosexuals in Cameroon using his blog, www.suhedwinsblog.com, is said to have received anonymous calls and text messages calling on him to stop writing and advocating for the rights of gays in Cameroon or face the consequences. The anonymous calls and text messages threatened to take away his life and that of his adopted kids if he does not stop his writings and advocacy for gay rights.
Suh Ediwn had fled the country over two years ago after fearing for his life when he found out that he was in danger because of his gay rights activities. However, he did not stop after going into hiding and has continued to receive similar threats and reports say the threats have intensified and are more sinister this time around. It is believed that the threats have intensified because of the fact that he has been westernised and the perpetrators believe if he returns home his gay rights activism will take a different dimension.
“All men and women have a right to live their lives in the best possible manner they deem fit and deserve to be respected for who they are. Human dignity and respect is undermined when we persecute others for their sexual orientation out of bigotry and intolerance. Our individualism and uniqueness accords nature its rhythm and symphony that symbolises the beauty in nature and since homosexual lifestyle poses no threat nor danger to others, it is sheer hypocrisy, ignorance and undue intolerance for innocuous nuances of those we perceive as different from us, to be criminalised or worse still, make them object of hate-attack,” Suh says in one of the articles on his blog.
While homosexuality is illegal in Cameroon with a maximum sentence of five years in jail, there is also widespread homophobia.
It would be recalled that a Cameroonian journalist and gay rights activist, Eric Ohena Lembembe, was on Monday 15 July 2013 found murdered in his home in Yaounde. He was the Executive Director of CAMFAIDS, a human rights organisation working to protect the rights of sexual minorities in Cameroon.
Because of the spate of homophobic attacks in Cameroon, there was strong speculation that Eric's death was connected to his sexual orientation and related activism.
Lembembe’s murder came on the heels of other anti-gay violence including the arson attack on the office of Alternatives Cameroun, an organisation fighting for the rights of gays, by unknown assailants. The office of Barrister Michel Togue, a human rights lawyer, was also reported broken into and documents stolen. Both Togue and legal advocate, Barrister Alice Nkom, have received repeated death threats for their defense of homosexual individuals in the courts.
Following Lembembe’s murder, other Cameroonian gay rights activists, visibly shaken, scared and frightened, were not only shocked by the fact that they had lost a friend and colleague in this brutal manner, but also by the possibility that they might soon be a target.
While some of the activists reportedly went underground, others resorted to tone down their activism or operate from home instead of in public places where they might be associated with anti-gay rights activities. A climate of fear has since enveloped the gay rights activism in Cameroon since Lembembe’s death.
But this did not intimidate some of the activists like Suh Edwin who continued to exert pressure on the government to bring the perpetrators to justice even after having gone underground.
While Eric Lembembe was buried in Yaounde on 3 August 2013 with his funeral attended by United States ambassador, the United Kingdom's High Commissioner and the European Union's programme director for Cameroon, Barrister Alice Nkom, his lawyer, says there has been no credible effort to investigate Lembembe’s death or collect the elements necessary for a good investigation.
But Communication Minister, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, said “there is no conspiracy of state, nor any social plot in Cameroon, which is directed toward homosexuals. Many homosexuals live and move freely in Cameroon without being beaten or suffering punishment.”
Meanwhile, some people have been jailed in Cameroon for homosexual activity. The most recent is that of Joseph Ombga and another underage youth, who were jailed for homosexual charges. Ombga was handed a two-year jail term while the underage youth had a suspended one-year jail sentence.
Ombga was arrested at his home in August 2011 and had been charged with sex with a minor after he was arrested in the company of the youth to whom he wanted to sell a porn video, his lawyers said.
Another case is that of Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, who was arrested by security forces for sending SMS messages to a male acquaintance and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. Several other cases abound.
When News Breaks Out, We Break In. Minute by Minute Report on Cameroon and Africa