Slain LGBT activist's work survived his murder

Three memorials to slain journalist/activist Eric Lembembe are published here on the occasion of his birthday this coming weekend:

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Remembering Eric Lembembe, carrying on his work

Eric Lembember (Photo courtesy of Facebook)
Eric Lembembe (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

My heart is heavy, often, whenever I think of my friend and colleague Eric Lembembe, the brave, high-principled LGBT rights activist/journalist who was murdered in Cameroon last July.

Today is one of those sad times, because we are approaching Jan. 26, which would have been his 34th birthday.

Another sad day that involving Eric occurred two weeks ago as I reported on the tragic death of another Cameroonian human rights icon, Roger Jean Claude Mbede, who died Jan. 10 in the hostile custody of his homophobic family.  In writing about the death of that former Amnesty International “prison of conscience” who was imprisoned for sending a loving text to a male friend, I found that the best reporting on Roger’s past had been done by Eric.

So my article about Roger’s outrageous and heart-breakingly sad death from medical neglect dredged up memories of Eric’s own outrageous and heart-breakingly sad death at the hands of murderers who have not been brought to justice nor even identified.

The only consolation is that Eric’s work has been carried on, especially by the anti-AIDS, pro-LGBT rights group Camfaids (the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS), which he co-founded in 2009.  Although Eric was murdered and co-founder Dominique Menoga had to flee to France to avoid a similar fate, Camfaids remains a strong advocate for justice in Cameroon. It continues its battle against AIDS in the LGBT community and still assists those who are unjustly imprisoned for being homosexual.

Advocacy for lesbians and trans women

Logo of Camfaids
Logo of Camfaids

The latest project by Camfaids is a report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in which it urged the committee to challenge the Cameroonian government to guarantee the human rights of lesbians, bisexual women and transgender women, specifically to:

  • Ensure equal treatment under the law for women and girls who do not conform to stereotypes about women’s gender-based roles.
  • Ensure that discriminatory stereotypes about women’s sexuality and gender expression are overcome, along with resulting stigma, as required in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which Cameroon has signed.

The report (in English and French, both in PDF format) was produced by Camfaids, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and the Cameroonian lesbian-rights advocacy group Lady’s Cooperation.

Their report includes documentation of the Cameroonian government’s failure to protect lesbians, bisexual women and transgender women from discrimination, arbitary arrest, unjust imprisonment and exclusion from HIV  prevention efforts.

Remembering Eric Lembembe and Martin Luther King Jr.

International LGBT rights activist the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle writes about the similarities and differences between Eric Lembembe and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the causes they fought for. An excerpt from the full column:

“They shared a common dream of human dignity and equality, a sense that they may not live long enough to see the fruit of their work and they both had a lot of people who wished them dead.

“Unlike King, who was despised by some white Americans, Lembembe was despised by fellow Africans simply for being honest about the way God made him. Eric, like King, was also a man of faith, a practicing Catholic who dealt every day with the effects of homophobia spewing from some of the top Catholic leaders in the country.”

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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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