Africans seek protection for LGBT Africans, and you can help

Eric Lembembe (Photo courtesy of Facebook)
Eric Lembembe (Click image to donate.)

Please support this fund-raising effort on Indiegogo, which could lead to life-saving changes in Africa.

The time is right for a dramatic show of support by Africans on behalf of LGBT rights in Africa, but to do so, they need your help.

1. Justice 4 Eric: The Short Version

This opportunity has emerged from the work of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation*, which has been working closely with several LGBT groups in Cameroon, especially the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS). In July 2013, just weeks after speaking out publicly about the threats and violence targeting these groups, CAMFAIDS’ executive director, Eric Ohena Lembembe, was brutally tortured and murdered in his own home. Since his murder, his colleagues at CAMFAIDS and other LGBT organizations have faced escalating threats.

Eric’s tragic fate is all too familiar in Cameroon, where people who are LGBT and their advocates regularly face threats, arrests, torture, and mob attacks.

But threats have not silenced these brave Cameroonian human rights defenders. Instead, they worked on a 45-page report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights detailing the Government of Cameroon’s dismal record on LGBT rights. Now, they need your help to travel to the African Commission next month to make their case in person.

With your financial assistance, Africans can stand up for the human rights of LGBT Africans — the most effective and far-reaching kind of advocacy on that continent. Their voices must be heard. Eric’s death must become a wake-up call for Africans to stop persecuting their gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer brothers and sisters. With your help, the African Human Rights Commission can set a precedent for all African countries that LGBT rights are human rights. Not just in Europe and the United States. But all across Africa, too.

stpaulfoundation logo
Click image to donate to Justice 4 Eric Lembembe.

* St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation is a California-based non-profit that engages in dialogue and coalition-building between secular and religious organizations that share the same values and outcomes for marginalized people, particularly women and LGBT people.

2. Justice 4 Eric: We Can Make It Happen

The goal is to send a broad spectrum of Cameroonian organizations working on LGBT issues to attend the African Human Rights Commission session in October. Each additional person who can attend will increase the attention that LGBT rights will receive, amplifying their powerful message and showing strength in numbers.

Each $2,750 will sponsor the travel of one additional representative. The costs we need to cover are:

  • Airfare from Cameroon to the Gambia (where the African Commission meets): $1,600
  • Registration for the 3-day NGO Forum before the session: $100
  • Visa to enter the Gambia: $100
  • 7 nights in a hotel, plus food and ground transportation: $700
  • The remaining $250 costs are approximate fees for this online campaign paid to the site.
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Click image to donate to Justice 4 Eric Lembembe

Our goal is $2,500 (plus $250 in Indiegogo fees, for a total of $2,750); meeting that goal will mean one representative from one Cameroonian organization working on LGBT rights will be able to attend the October 2013 African Commission session and the pre-session NGO Forum. But if we exceed our goal and raise $5,000, representatives from two different groups can go. And if we raise $7,500, we can send representatives from three groups. The more we raise, the more Cameroonian LGBT organizations’ voices will be heard, and the more impact their voices will have with the African Commission and in the forum with hundreds of other African human rights groups. (Any funds that do not meet one of the $2,500 benchmarks will go toward improving the security and impact of LGBT groups in Cameroon, especially CAMFAIDS, which has suffered the most from homophobic violence.)

Your donation will make a real difference on the ground in Africa. To show our appreciation, we also have some great gifts for you!

  • For your donation of $25, you’ll receive a video called “Love Heals Homophobia,” featuring four important straight African American clergy talking about their journeys to full acceptance of LGBT people and how to create congregations that celebrate diversity.
  • Several of Eric Lembembe's article appear in the book "From Wrongs to Gay Rights." (Click the image for a link to more information about the book.)
    Click this image to donate to Justice 4 Eric Lembembe. (Several of his articles were published in the book “From Wrongs to Gay Rights,” which is available with a donation of $100.)

    For your donation of $100, you’ll receive a copy of From Wrongs to Gay Rights: Cruelty and Change for LGBT People in an Uncertain World. This book includes chapters by Eric Ohena Lembembe (who was also a journalist), Erasing 76 Crimes blog editor Colin Stewart, Reverend Albert Ogle of St. Paul’s Foundation, Miles Tanhira, Andy Kopsa, Rachel Adams, and Clare Byarugaba.

  • For your donation of $1,000, you’ll receive a Granite Pillar Award from St. Paul’s Foundation. Emblazoned with St. Paul’s logo and your name, these table-size awards honor those pillars of our community who literally support others in their work for global justice.

3. Justice 4 Eric: The Impact

Your donation will make a tangible contribution to promoting LGBT rights in Africa. LGBT people face severe persecution in Cameroon:

For further information, please read the report that these groups on the ground in Cameroon will present to the African Commission. You’ll see just how dire conditions really are.

These brave LGBT groups in Cameroon are uniquely positioned to honor Eric’s legacy and deliver the message that LGBT rights are human rights. When groups from the United States or Europe raise these concerns, the Government of Cameroon dismisses them, saying it’s a matter of “African culture.” In fact, when the Government of Cameroon submitted its latest report to the African Commission in April, it didn’t mention LGBT rights at all. It asserts that homosexuality is a “western import” and falls back on references to “African values” — values that apparently condone the torture and murder of people because they are trying to provide services to people who are at risk of HIV/AIDS. Of course, these values are not at all true African values — but the best people to make this argument are Africans themselves.

Logo of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. (Click on the image to donate to Justice 4 Eric Lembembe)
Logo of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. (Click on the image to donate to Justice 4 Eric Lembembe)

When Africans stand up and speak for the rights of LGBT Africans, the Government of Cameroon has a harder time coming up with a plausible response. These groups want to attend the pre-session NGO Forum to meet with hundreds of other African human rights organizations to build momentum for the LGBT rights movement in Africa. If, this October, the African Commission calls out the Government of Cameroon on its horrible human rights record for LGBT people, it could set a precedent for all of the other African countries that persecute people who are LGBT. Half of the countries in the world where it’s illegal to be LGBT are in Sub-Saharan Africa, and Africa is more intolerant of homosexuals than any other continent, so a bold statement from the African Human Rights Commission could be groundbreaking.

There are signs that the African Human Rights Commission will be receptive. In July, the Commission’s expert on human rights defenders sharply condemned Eric’s murder and called for the Government of Cameroon to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation. The Government of Cameroon, meanwhile, has stalled its investigation and lashed out at LGBT rights groups for making the government “look bad” in the western media.

These advocates speak eloquently about human rights conditions in Cameroon and the need for change. They’ll use this opportunity to build support among other African human rights organizations and to press their case with the African Commission. We’ve worked with them in the past, including most recently to raise funds for Eric’s funeral. So you know your donation will be put to great use.

4. Justice 4 Eric: Other Ways To Help

Even if you can’t contribute financially, there are real ways you can help. First, learn about what’s going on in Cameroon. Second, spread the word about this campaign — use the handy Indiegogo share tools! Third, encourage the bloggers you read to devote more attention to LGBT rights in Africa. Finally, stay tuned for updates from the African Human Rights Commission meeting October 18-25 — if our colleagues can be there, the meeting has the potential to be a turning point for LGBT rights in Africa!

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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