Cameroon police arrest LGBT activist, block AIDS clinic

Le communiqué est disponible en français ici.

Location of Douala in Cameroon (Map courtesy of Penpals-du-Monde.blogspot.com)

Map of Cameroon (Courtesy of Penpals-du-Monde.blogspot.com)

Police in the Deido section of Douala, Cameroon,  arrested the vice president of the anti-AIDS pro-LGBT-rights group Alternatives-Cameroon on Feb. 14 after receiving an accusation that he is a homosexual.

The man who was arrested, identified as Dr. Richard [Richard Kwa Bette], remained in detention today, awaiting word on what charges he would face.

Because of the arrest, Richard, a doctor, was unable to work on Feb. 15 at the  association’s  Health Center, where he was scheduled to oversee a health screening campaign for MSM (men who have sex with men) as part of Cameroon’s National Strategic Plan against HIV and Tuberculosis.

Alternatives-Cameroun logoAlternatives-Cameroon issued a public statement (reprinted below), accusing the police of harassment and of ignoring repeated complaints against blackmailers and extortionists who target LGBT people in Douala.

In the latest case, Alternatives-Cameroon said the accusation against Richard was made by “Mr. Soppo (a member of the Arold Ndelo gang), who has been responsible for several cases of scams and blackmail of alleged homosexuals in the city of Douala, Cameroon”:

“According to police, Soppo was arrested for theft and, like most members of the gang, he raised the issue of homosexuality, presenting a list of alleged homosexuals in the city of Douala, including the names of Dr. Richard and other members of Alternatives-Cameroon. In response, the Deido police brigade launched a manhunt, which led to the arrest of the vice president of Alternatives-Cameroon. The manhunt is still under way.”

Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Cameroon's minister of communication (Photo courtesy of Camer.be)

Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Cameroon’s minister of communication (Photo courtesy of Camer.be)

Alternatives-Cameroon said that Richard was lured to the police station on the pretext that a household employee of his had been arrested. When he arrived at the police station, he learned that police were actually after him. The organization demanded his immediate release.

The group also pointed out that the arrest against demonstrates the inaccuracy of the statement of Issa Bakary Tchiroma, Cameroon’s minister of communication, on Jan. 23 that in Cameroon “There is no judicial harassment” of homosexuals. 

This is the press release from Alternatives-Cameroon:

Homosexuality in Cameroon: Crisis Alert!

Vice president of Alternatives Cameroon arrested

The vice president of Alternatives-Cameroon (Dr. Richard) was arrested on Friday, February 14, 2014, by the Deido police brigade after being accused by Mr. Soppo (a member of the gang of Arold Ndelo AKA Nicky Menage), who has been responsible for several cases of assaults, scams and blackmail of alleged homosexuals in Cameroon and death threats against human rights defenders, especially those defending the rights of sexual minorities.

Background

On February 14, 2014 , Dr. Richard (vice president of Alternatives-Cameroon ) was contacted by an employee at Dr. Richard’s home after that employee was arrested by police in Deido, Douala, Cameroon. Dr. Richard immediately went to the police station to inquire about the charges brought against his employee home and to help him. On his arrival at the police station, he learned from the police commander that it was actually Dr. Richard whom the police sought and that the arrest of his employee was just a way of apprehending him. At his hearing , he learned that he had been accused by Mr. Soppo (a member of the Arold Ndelo gang), who has been responsible for several cases of scams and blackmail of alleged homosexuals in the city of Douala, Cameroon. According to police, Soppo was arrested for theft and, like most members of the gang, he raised the issue of homosexuality, presenting a list of alleged homosexuals in the city of Douala, including the names of Dr. Richard and other members of Alternatives-Cameroon. In response, the Deido police brigade launched a manhunt, which led to the arrest of the vice president of Alternatives-Cameroon. The manhunt is still under way.

In a press release dated January 29, 2014, the association previously denounced the inaction of Cameroonian authorities, including law enforcement, who, despite evidence of assaults, ambushes and blackmail presented to police by victims and by Alternatives- Cameroon, have preferred to act on accusations against allegedly homosexual citizens rather than focusing on the real reasons for the complaints.

Yet the minister of communication in his press briefing of Thursday, January 23, 2014, stated: “There is no judicial harassment of homosexuals in Cameroon.” Here once again, reality  contradicts his statement. With the arrest of the vice president of Alternatives-Cameroon based on an accusation, human rights have suffered once again. This situation fuels the fears and intensifies a climate of insecurity for human rights defenders.

Arson is the suspected cause of the fire that struck the Alternatives-Cameroon center in Douala on June 26. (Photo courtesy of Alternatives-Cameroon)

The Alternatives-Cameroon health center is back in operation after an arsonist attacked it in June 2013. (Photo courtesy of Alternatives-Cameroon)

Dr. Richard is not only the vice president of the association, but also a doctor at the association’s  Health Center, where he was scheduled to oversee a health screening campaign for MSM (men who have sex with men) on February 15, 2014, as part of Cameroon’s National Strategic Plan.

Alternatives-Cameroon is deeply disturbed and dismayed  by the events that preceded the arrest, because the house of Dr. Richard was raided by police without his knowledge and without a warrant. The association calls for urgent intervention by local authorities to deal with this arbitrary and completely illegal arrest.

Alternatives-Cameroon once again condemns:

•    The intimidation and humiliation suffered by Dr. Richard at the hands of police in their attempts to make him admit that he is homosexual;
•    The injustice of law enforcement and judicial authorities who repeatedly misinterpret the law about homosexuality;
•    The laxity and complicity of those who build the climate of insecurity among the LGBTI community and among human rights defenders.

Alternatives-Cameroon calls for Cameroonian authorities:

•    To ensure the protection of human rights, including the rights of those working for the rights of sexual minorities, and
•    To take concrete steps to create a society in which the words of the minister of communication in his press conference will be true — in which there will be “no judicial harassment against suspected homosexuals in Cameroon.”

The Alternatives-Cameroon association, through this release:

•    Sends an SOS to express its great fear of ongoing extortion, violations, violence and abuse against members of the LGBT community in Cameroon and especially against their defenders.
•    Expresses its dismay over the conditions endured by prisoners detained homosexuality charges, who are subjected to bodily and mental harm in an attempt to force them to confess their alleged or real homosexuality;
•    Recalls the case of activist and journalist Eric Ohena Lembembe, who was found murdered in his home — a crime that could be repeated against other LGBT activists if nothing is done.
•    Urges Cameroonian authorities to recognize the rights of all people, no matter their color, tribe, social status or sexual orientation.

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About Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart, a 40-year journalism veteran, is publisher and an editor of the "Erasing 76 Crimes" blog. More profile information on Google+. Colin Stewart, un vétéran du journalisme de 40 ans, est éditeur et rédacteur en chef du blog "Erasing 76 Crimes." Plus d'informations de profil sur Google+.
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8 Responses to Cameroon police arrest LGBT activist, block AIDS clinic

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