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LGBT Activist Eric Ohena Lembembe Murdered in Cameroon

The Coat of Arms of Cameroon

The Coat of Arms of Cameroon

Eric Ohena Lembembe was tortured and murdered recently. Friends of Lembembe went to his home in Yaounde, Cameroon on Monday evening after not being able to reach him for two days, according to Human Rights Watch. According to one friend, Lembembe’s feet appear to have been broken and he had been burned with an iron before his neck was snapped.

Lembembe was a prominent LGBT activist in Cameroon, which is one of Africa’s most hostile nations towards sexual minorities. The former journalist worked as the executive director for CAMFAIDS, a Yaounde-based human rights organization. He documented violence, blackmail and arrests targeting Cameroon’s sexual minorities.

Lembembe also contributed regularly to the Erasing 76 Crimes blog, which is a blog focusing on countries where homosexuality is illegal.

HRW senior LGBT rights researcher Neela Ghoshal stated “Eric was an inspiring activist whose work was deeply appreciated by human rights activists in Cameroon and around the world.”

Homosexuality is punishable by up to five years in prison in Cameroon, and the nation has the highest rate of prosecution of gays in sub-Saharan Africa. Lembembe was among the first to mobilize following the increase in persecutions back in 2005.

Yves Yomb, the executive director of the LGBT group Alternatives-Cameroon, stated “It is a big loss for our community, and we are a bit scared about what can happen to us. He was one of the leaders of this community. So what can happen to the other leaders?”

Yomb went on to say “He was very, very, very active in the fight for LGBT rights in Cameroon. In his work as a journalist, when he wanted to have information he would call you until you gave him the information that he needed.”

In the last two weeks, Lembembe spoke out against a recent number of break-ins at LGBT rights organizations in Cameroon saying “There is no doubt: anti-gay thugs are targeting those who support equal rights on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. 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.”

Ghoshal was among those who found Lembembe’s body. Law enforcement officials have not reacted to the murder either. Ghoshal is certain that the killing was likely homophobic in nature saying “As far as they know he didn’t have any other disputes, relationship disputes or money matters, so they attribute this to a likely homophobic killing, but that’s just speculation at this point.” She went on to say “What worries us is that in the previous incidents of homophobic threats or violence, the police have done the basics but it’s never gone beyond taking statements. It remains to be seen whether the police will carry out a serious investigation into this matter.”

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