Gay in Cameroon: after beatings in prison, rejection at home

Roger Jean Claude Mbede: "I feel rejected by everyone."

Roger Jean Claude Mbede: “I feel rejected by everyone.”

For sending amorous text messages to one of his acquaintances, Roger Jean Claude Mbede, 33, of Cameroon has spent 16 months in prison for the crime of homosexuality.

Mbede, who is also known as Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, won provisional release on July 16 for medical treatment, but returning to his old life has proved impossible.

Most of his family has abandoned him, so he has to live with a friend. He is scheduled for surgery on July 26 for a hernia, but doesn’t know how he will pay for the operation. His face is scarred from an assault in prison. And he might be returned to prison after a court hearing scheduled for Aug. 20.

In an interview on July 20, four days after his release from Kondengui Prison in the Cameroonian capital of Yaoundé, Mbede seems to have regained only his ability to smile.

“I’m back from afar,” he says.

Mbede had been in prison since March 9, 2011, losing 16 months of his life for the unfortunate decision to send text messages. He was sentenced April 28, 2011, to 36 months in prison and fined 33,000 CFA francs (about €50 or $61) for homosexuality, which under Cameroonian law is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years.

His lawyers, Alice Nkom and Michel Togué, won his provisional release this month after the court rejected more than a dozen applications.

Mbede’s story begins in late 2010, when he was studying for a master’s degree in the philosophy of education at the University of Central Africa in Yaoundé. He became acquainted with a senior official serving the president of the Republic of Cameroon, he says. After four months of a friendly relationship and telephone calls, Mbede says he fell into an ambush prepared by the man, who had complained of receiving declarations of love from Mbede.

“On March 2, 2011, he called, asking me to visit him at home. To my surprise, I was greeted there by two policemen who arrested me and took me in a cell under the control of the Secretary of Defense,” Mbede recalls. “For one week, I was subjected to tough interrogations, without knowing what was happening. A few days later, on March 9, the public prosecutor issued a warrant and I was sent to prison the same day. After three hearings, I was sentenced,” he says.

Life is hard in Kondengui Prison, especially when you’re gay. “As you enter the prison, the guards hurl insults at you, such as ‘faggot’ and ‘sorcerer.’ “

Prison conditions there are difficult for everyone — not enough of the uncomfortable beds, unclean water, promiscuity, and diseases such as tuberculosis, diarrhea, and skin diseases, he says.

On top of that comes daily homophobic abuse, both verbal and physical. Inmate complained to the prison superintendent that they would not live with a “faggot” in the same room. After suffering multiple cuts and bruises, Mbede has a scar on his brow from one of many assaults in prison.

Roger Jean Claude Mbede is having a difficult time returning to a normal life after prison.on after prison for homosexuality.

Roger Jean Claude Mbede is having a difficult time returning to a normal life after prison.on after prison for homosexuality.

During his time there, he received help from the Project for the Support and Assistance of Sexual Minorities, or PAEMH, while the Association for the Defense of Homosexuals, or ADEFHO, brought him food and provided medical and legal aid. Amnesty International pleaded for his release.

“The PAEMH was very supportive,” he says. “One of its leaders, Lamba Marc Lambert, brought me food to eat and clothes to wear. Without their assistance, I don’t know what would have happened to me,” he says.

He did not hear from his family after his arrest.

Mbede hopes that his conviction will be overturned in an appeal scheduled for Aug. 20. Then he plans to finish his studies, find work and become independent.

“For now,” he says, “I am staying at a friend’s house because my family rejects me.”

“My father told me that I am no longer his son,” Mbede says. “If he had to choose between a madman and me, he says he would choose the madman. My sister, meanwhile, says she would prefer to have a brother who is a thief or other criminal rather than a homosexual.”

As his July 26 hernia operation approaches, Mbede is worried about how he will pay for the surgery. He feels helpless and does not know where to start, he says.

Eric O. LEMBEMBE

About Eric O. Lembembe

Eric O. Lembembe, a journalist in Cameroon, is a leader of the Cameroonian Foundation For AIDS (CAMFAIDS), an association that seeks to promote and protect all human rights.
This entry was posted in Africa (Sub Saharan), Trials / punishments and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Gay in Cameroon: after beatings in prison, rejection at home

  1. Pingback: Cameroon releases Jean-Claude Roger Mbede for medical care | 76 CRIMES

  2. To have your family turn your back on you..this is both ridiculous and sad.

    Like this

  3. Eric Arnold says:

    Courage mon ami le plus dur est passé et je suis convaicnu que ça va aller comme on dit au pays

    Like this

  4. Pingback: Stephane Tchakam: Vibrant LGBT activist’s memory lives on | 76 CRIMES

  5. Pingback: Imprisoned, beaten, freed, Cameroon man gives back | 76 CRIMES

  6. Pingback: Prison for texting ‘I love you’? Petition pleads, ‘No!’ | 76 CRIMES

  7. Pingback: Roger Mbede remains free for now in Cameroon | 76 CRIMES

  8. Pingback: Cameroon men appeal 5-year sentence for gay sex | 76 CRIMES

  9. Pingback: Condamnés à 5 ans, 2 homosexuels réclament leur libération | 76 CRIMES

  10. Pingback: In his cell in Cameroon, awaiting trial for homosexuality | 76 CRIMES

  11. Pingback: Pressure grows on Cameroon to drop anti-gay law | 76 CRIMES

  12. Pingback: Prison for being gay — Roger Mbede loses appeal | 76 CRIMES

  13. Pingback: Cameroon jail looms for Roger Mbede; death threats for lawyers | 76 CRIMES

  14. Pingback: Beating death of LGBT activist Eric Lembembe in Cameroon | 76 CRIMES

  15. Pingback: TRANSCEND MEDIA SERVICE » LGBTI Africa: Cameroon’s “Gay Scare”

  16. Pingback: Homophobia victim Roger Mbede dies in Cameroon | 76 CRIMES

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s