The good news: Two young men in Cameroon won a court appeal this month and were freed from prison, where they had been serving a five-year sentence for alleged violations of Cameroon’s anti-homosexuality law.
The bad news: They had to go into hiding, because immediately after they were released from prison, they were pursued by an anti-gay mob, including at least one policeman.
The case of Jonas Singa Kimie and Franky Ndome Ndome is recounted in a new report about human rights violations in Cameroon, published by Amnesty International.
Here is the section about them:
In November 2011, a court in Yaoundé found three men guilty of practising homosexuality and sentenced them to the maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 200,000 CFA francs. The three men, Jonas Singa Kimie, Franky Ndome Ndome, and Hilaire Nguiffo, aged 19, 25 and 36, respectively had been arrested in Yaoundé on 25 July 2011 after the authorities accused them of engaging in same-sex relations. In circumstances that remained unclear, Nguiffo was released and was tried in absentia. Kimie and Ndome appealed against their conviction and sentence. Between March and July 2012, the court of appeal adjourned the appeal hearing four times.
The appeal hearing for Jonas Singa Kimie and Franky Ndome Ndome took place on 21 September but no decision was made by the Court of Appeal. Between October and December 2012, the appeal hearing was adjourned four times.
In early July 2012, Amnesty International learned that Franky Ndome Ndome was, on the morning of 18 June, subjected to insults and assault by several prison guards at Kondengui prison. According to a human rights lawyer who saw him after the attack, Ndome was assaulted while returning from Wing 8 of the prison where he had gone to buy condiments to prepare his food.
A female prison guard saw him returning from Wing 8 and described him as a “pédé” (faggot). Three male prison guards joined her, threw Ndome to the ground and started kicking him as he lay on the ground. The lawyer told Amnesty International that he had been informed by Ndome that the assault lasted about 40 minutes.
The female guard got a pair of scissors and cut his hair braids while pulling at them. The guards then used a chain to attach his hand to his foot and made him sit in an open drainage from the wing housing sick prisoners. Ndome told the lawyer that he remained in this position under the sun without food or water till 5pm. Ndome was reported to still be bearing scars from the beatings at the start of July. The lawyer told Amnesty International that the authorities had failed to investigate the circumstances and reasons for the assault or to take any action against the guards.
In December 2012, Amnesty International delegates visited Kondengui prison and met the prison governor and doctor, as well as Ndome, Kimie and several other prisoners held there for homosexuality. The prison governor told the delegates that he had no knowledge of the assault against Ndome because the latter had not reported the incident to him. Ndome explained to the delegates that he was beaten by the prison guards because he had told the female guard that he was not available to plait her hair. He said that he told the guards that no amount of violence or other ill-treatment would make him do what he did not want or had no time to do.
Ndome and Kimie told Amnesty International’s delegates that they had been arrested solely because they chose to wear women’s clothes. They explained that at the time of their arrest they were not involved in any sexual act with each other or anyone else. When asked by the delegates if they admitted to being gay, they told the delegates that their sexual preferences were a private matter and no one else’s business. Moreover, they added, given the hostility of the authorities and others among Cameroonian society towards gay and lesbian individuals, it would have been foolish for them to dress in a manner that would expose them to homophobia. They insisted that they were aestheticians and chose to dress like women from the time they met at a college in Yaoundé that trained beauticians. They told the delegates that they were aware of and were indeed subjected to prejudice and violence by prison authorities and fellow inmates but would not stop dressing the way they felt best comfortable with. “We always felt like females from the time we were children and no one would change that”, Franky said. “We have been imprisoned for dressing differently and not because we are gay”, Ndome told the delegates.
On 7 January 2013, Amnesty International received the good news that the Court of Appeal in Yaoundé had just declared Ndome and Kimie innocent of the offence of homosexuality. They were released on 11 January but reportedly pursued by a group of hostile individuals, including at least one policeman, seeking to attack them. Fearing being attacked, Ndome and Kimie were in hiding in mid-January.