Cameroon groups: It's too dangerous to keep fighting AIDS

Eric Lembembe (Photo courtesy of Camfaids)
Eric Lembembe (Photo courtesy of Camfaids)

LGBT rights organizations in Cameroon have decided to halt AIDS education programs until their international partners help them to improve security so activists won’t be killed while trying to curb the spread of HIV among LGBT people there.

The announcement of that decision came today, a week after the discovery of the murdered body of  activist and journalist Eric Lembembe in Cameroon.

“We need protection,” said Dominique Menoga, president of Lembembe’s anti-AIDS group, the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (Camfaids) in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

“The associations have decided to stop working because of the climate of insecurity that prevails in Cameroon,” said Yves Yomb, executive director of the anti-AIDS organization Alternatives-Cameroon in Douala, Cameroon.  “It was urgent that we stop so we would not be further exposed to danger. We will work with our partners to see how we can improve working conditions and especially the security of our organizations and members.”

The decision by a newly formed coalition of anti-AIDS, pro-gay-rights organizations in Cameroon was announced today to USAID; Care Cameroon; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and the Cameroon National Association for Family Welfare (CAMNAFAW), which provide funding for HIV education programs for LGBT people in Cameroon.

In a memorandum to those agencies, the coalition stated that Cameroon’s “long-decried climate of homophobia has intensified and now has reached a critical point. The pursuit of our various missions (prevention of STIs / HIV, medical care, advocacy for rights, support of people imprisoned for their sexual orientation and / or gender identity) requires a minimum level of security, institutional support and financial support.”

Because of the current dangers for LGBT people in Cameroon, the coalition said, “we are forced to suspend immediately [these] projects. We reject a partnership that reduces our associations to simply a labor force that must work in precarious, dangerous conditions.”

The full text of the memorandum is below:

MEMORANDUM

In this memorandum, the associations supporting the LGBTI community of Cameroon announce the creation of a coalition that speaks for them with a unified voice.

The purpose of this coalition is to communicate as one with development partners, regional authorities and international organizations about strategic issues facing Cameroonian organizations.

In the fight for the rights of sexual minorities in Cameroon, the long-decried climate of homophobia has intensified and now has reached a critical point.

The pursuit of our various missions (prevention of STIs / HIV, medical care, advocacy for rights, support of people imprisoned for their sexual orientation and / or gender identity) requires a minimum level of security, institutional support and financial support.

At present, the high level of insecurity in Cameroon has unfortunately led to the murder of Eric Lembembe Ohena of CAMFAIDS. We also note that serious threats have been made against the locations and members of our organizations, to the point where continuing our current work unchanged would be dangerous.

For this reason, we are asking you for additional financial and institutional support to ensure:

  • A plan for securing our organizations, officers and members (the costs of around-the-clock guards for our center, insurance, and purchase of surveillance equipment).
  • Creation of an emergency fund to defend our organizations and activists.
  • Establishment of a common activity center in Yaoundé where maximum security can be provided.

Because of the dangers of the current situation, in cities of Yaoundé and Douala we are forced to suspend immediately the projects we have with USAID through Care Cameroon and with the Global Fund through CAMNAFAW. Minimal services will continue to be provided to our clients.

We reject a partnership that reduces our associations to simply a labor force that must work in precarious, dangerous conditions.

Contact persons:
– Jules ELOUNDOU / Humanity First Cameroon: + 237 99 49 71 24
– Michel ENGAMA / CAMFAIDS: + 237 97 38 97 99
– Perfect BEHEN / Alternatives Cameroon: + 237 99 93 29 65
– Rostand VONDAB / Affirmative Action: + 237 99 25 06 85

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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