By Erin Royal Brokovitch
The author of this article is an LGBT rights activist in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym.
Two years ago, René M. opened a café on a small parcel of land that he bought in the village of Leboudi, located in the Lékié region of central Cameroon, about 30 kilometers from the capital city, Yaoundé.
Since then, some of the Leboudi villagers have been trying to throw him out and take over his land.
Three weeks after René opened his new business, in September 2012, a mob of 25 people showed up at the café, threatening him and accusing him of being homosexual.
The group, led by a man in the attire of a presidential policeman, hauled René to the offices of the leader of the Leboui region. At the moment, that official was absent, so the crowd then took René to the Nkolbisson police station in Yaoundé.
The accusation against him: attempted homosexuality and corruption of youth. The basis of that accusation was a statement by a local 27-year-old man that René had made advances to him. The accusation came from a man to whom René had taught karate in his spare time.
René could not understand the exchange between the Yaoundé police officer and the complainants, which was conducted in Eton, a local language in Leboudi that René does not understand. The officer refused him the right to notify his family, so René remained incarcerated for six days at the Nkolbisson police station. He was released after he secretly managed to contact his mother.
At first glance, René seems to be a victim of homophobia, which is common in Cameroon. But he is actually the target of a scam by villagers in Leboudi who, in the guise of opposition to homosexuality, are trying to deprive him of his property through lies and corruption.
After his release in 2012, René took refuge in his hometown in western Cameroon. There, his mother realized that her son was the victim of a hoax. The villagers who seized René and turned him over to police asked for a payment of 300,000 CFA francs (about US $620) and a signed statement by his family that he would never return to Leboudi.
What’s more, the Eton-speaking police officer investigating the case added a claim that René was possessed by a gay “demon” that frequently caused him to jump onto his cellmates and try to sodomize them — a malicious fiction, René insists.
Before long, René went back to Yaoundé. There he met with a few supportive neighbors from Leboudi who encouraged him to return to his property. Attempting to reclaim his rightful ownership of his land in Leboudi, this time René had support from the leader of the Lékié region. With that backing, he again opened his café.
For a while, he believed his troubles were behind him, but in 2013 he received a bailiff’s official notification about the complaint by the 27-year-old who charged René with making homosexual advances. A hearing in the case was scheduled for September 2013.
Going to court that day, René and his attorney found no evidence that the case ever existed. No complainant was present. René wondered whether his persecutors were working with the bailiff to harass him.
For a few months, René again lived at peace, but in early 2014, two young men in Leboudi became friends and decided to live together as roommates. Quickly, rumors spread that they were gay — and that René had initiated them into homosexuality.
Then things got worse. In April 2014, on Easter Eve, the uncle of the 27-year-old, a staff sergeant in the army, confronted René, accused him of perverting local youths, and threatened to make him pay for his misdeeds.
On Easter Sunday, the uncle returned with a military escort. One man in the group offered to help René in return for a bribe.
This time, René had support from a neighbor, a chief warrant officer in the army, who told the staff sergeant he should be ashamed of himself. Confronted by the neighbor, the crowd vanished.
The next day, René lodged a complaint against the staff sergeant at the man’s military security unit.
But the nightmare was far from over. That evening, another threatening mob entered the café, brandishing machetes and other weapons. As his customers fled, René was beaten and dragged along the ground for 1,000 meters until the mob reached the offices of the region’s leader.
One of the attackers told the mob that they were acting naïvely — “like a Tintin” — by taking René to the official. Instead, he proposed beating René to death.
The 27-year-old was forced to appear before the regional leader, where he admitted that his accusation against René was false. The leader ruled in René’s favor and told the crowd to go home.
Finally, the mystery of the crowd’s motivation was dispelled by one of the attackers. He disclosed that some of the former owners of René’s land were unhappy with the sale and were trying to get it back. He offered to support René in return for a bribe.
René refused to pay the bribe, but decided to abandon his efforts to reopen the café.
He still lives in Leboudi, despite his fear that hostile villagers will resume their harassment. For his own protection, he moves around the village by secret paths rather on the main roads.
His opponents continue to threaten him and say they won’t leave him in peace as long as he and his homosexual “demon” remain in Leboudi.
- Report: 4 lesbians arrested in Cameroon (76crimes.com)
- Shocking Story of Cameroon Police Beating 2 Women Accused of Same-Sex Relations (oblogdeeoblogda.me)
- Cameroon athlete suspended on rumors of homosexuality (76crimes.com)
- Persecution of homosexuals in Africa hinders fight against AIDS (updatednews.ca)
- LGBT in Cameroon: imprisoned for 16 months, no trial (76crimes.com)
- Pope replaces Cameroon’s anti-gay archbishop (76crimes.com)