Two gay men, released from a Cameroon prison in January, have again been arrested. They have been held in police custody for the past two days, since shortly after they were attacked in a local marketplace on Sunday, March 24.
The incident began when Jonas Singa Kumie and Franky Djome (Franky Ndome), variously described as gay men and as transgender, went shopping last Sunday at the Essos market in Yaoundé. They dressed as they usually do — in women’s attire and wearing wigs. From a distance, their sexy outfits could give the impression of two young ladies shopping at the market. But in this particular market, their identities could not go unnoticed. They are well known, because Franky ran a hair salon here before being sent to prison in 2011 to serve a five-year sentence for homosexuality.
They are also known outside Cameroon, because of news reports about their trial, at which the judge imposed the maximum sentence after commenting that they were obviously effeminate because they wore wigs and had drunk Baileys, which he said is a typically feminine drink.
Jonas, interviewed March 26 at a police station, stated:
“When we walked by, people began to insult us. They called us queers, witches, women. Some merchants threatened to beat us up and began throwing stones and tomatoes at us.”
The pair stopped at a salon in hopes of getting manicures and pedicures, but within minutes a crowd formed around them. A fight broke out between the
two gay men and the merchants.
“People were throwing stones and other objects at us. We defended ourselves as best we could. One stone hit a nearby woman and she began to bleed profusely. Even more people jumped on us and hit us. Our purchases were stolen. They grabbed our identity cards and our money.
“Franky rushed to the nearest police station for help. The police then took us into custody.”
The injured woman, who had been hit unintentionally by a stone thrown by one of the pair, was taken to a nearby health center for treatment. Franky’s mother paid for first aid for the woman, settling a bill that came to 8,000 CFA francs (about $16), the mother said.
As of March 26, two days after the fight, neither the injured woman nor her husband had filed a complaint with police, but both Franky and Jonas remained in custody. They have received no legal assistance.
Officials of the Cameroonian Foundation For AIDS (CAMFAIDS), a gay rights and HIV education organization, spoke with the police commander, who referred them to the officer in charge of investigations for further information and potential mediation.
Reached by telephone, the husband of the injured woman told CAMFAIDS that he had not filed a complaint and did not want to press charges against Jonas and Franky. He went to the police station and told CAMFAIDS that he wanted the incident to be resolved amicably, because he did not want to be involved in sending people to the Kondengui prison and have that on his conscience. He wrote a letter declaring that he would not sue.
“In return, CAMFAIDS, Franky’s mother and the young pair pledged to help care for his wife until she is well. Immediately, a sum of 20,000 CFA francs (about $39) was given to him to pay for his wife’s treatment,” said Michel Engama, a CAMFAIDS member.
The letter was filed at the police station, but by 7 p.m., March 26, Jonas and Franky were still in custody. They were preparing to spend their third night in detention.
— Eric O. LEMBEMBE
This article is also available in French: “Cameroun: Jonas et Franky à nouveau aux arrêts.”
- In Cameroon, anti-gay voices grow louder (76crimes.com)
- Cameroon: Rights Abuses in ‘Homosexuality’ Prosecutions (hrw.org)
- Jonas and Franky, freed but now in hiding (Jan. 28, 2013) (76crimes.com)
- More articles about Jonas and Franky in prison and in court (76crimes.com)