Gay man's family just let him die: Cameroon report

Jean-Claude Roger Mbede with activist attorney Alice Nkom of Cameroon
Roger Jean-Claude Mbede and attorney Alice Nkom. (Photo courtesy of Amnesty International)

The family of ailing Cameroonian homophobia victim Roger Jean-Claude Mbede took him out a hospital last month and took him at home to die, according to his former attorney, Alice Nkom.

“His family said he was a curse for them and that we should let him die,” the Associated Press quoted her as saying.

Mbede, 34, died Jan. 10 in his home village of Ngoumou, near Yaoundé.

He had become well-known worldwide as an Amnesty International “prisoner of conscience” while he served 16 months of a three-year prison sentence for sending an amorous text to a male acquaintance. He won provisional release in July 2012 for medical treatment of his hernia.

In late 2012, the Central Appeals Court refused to overturn the original lower-court decision that sentenced him to prison.  His appeal of the Central Appeals Court ruling was pending while he sought further medical care. The AP quoted Nkom as saying:

“I accuse the state. If there had not been criminalization of homosexuality, he would not have gone to prison and his life would not be over. His life was finished as soon as he went to prison.”

Mbede’s hernia was discovered while he was in prison. While Nkom blamed both his family and the government, others focused on the family, because he was reportedly denied any medical care. AP reported:

Lambert Lamba, a Cameroonian activist who works on behalf of sexual minorities, said Mbede had been out of the hospital for about one month prior to his death and had received no medical care during that time.

“His family said they were going to remove the homosexuality which is in him,” Lamba said. “I went to see him in his village. He could not stand up, he couldn’t speak.”

Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, said that  Cameroonian police should investigate the reports that Mbede died because he was denied medical treatment.

“Roger was a courageous man who became an accidental activist after he was arrested simply for expressing his love for another man,” she said.

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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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