Cameroon: Life of a gay activist turns to drama

By Erin Royal Brokovitch

The beaches of Kribi, Cameroon
The beaches of Kribi, Cameroon

Jacques, 29, is the president of the group Acodévo Océan in Kribi, Cameroon, an LGBT community based organization. An activist since 2012, he becomes the object of a series of violent blows and attacks because of his activism and because he is different.

It is a shady and shameful history that combines revenge, a scam, some blackmail, a trap and abuse of legal process against the backdrop of homophobia that Jacques has experienced.

The case dates back to February 2015.  Jacques ends up behind the walls of the central police station in Kribi after a wild story in which he risked his life to a certain degree.

It is Alain Giresse, 35, a former member of Acodévo Océan, where Jacques is president, who has decided to lead the attack.  A person deemed unstable by fellow Acodévo members who prefer to keep away because they found his behavior suspicious.  Nevertheless, Jacques had kept in touch with him, and he often went to see Alain privately.

The story that lost Jacques

On February 14th, Alain calls Jacques saying that his mother had a stroke, and that he wants a loan.  Jacques cannot respond positively.

On February 27th, he again calls Jacques to say he is hungry. He offers Alain 2,000 FCFA (about $ 4).

The next day, Alain calls again and invites Jacques to his neighborhood at 10 pm. He asks Jacques for 3,000 FCFA (about $ 6) and promises to thank him in kind if he agrees. Jacques again informs him he has no cash. They will, however, have an intimate meeting that night.

In a dramatic turn of events, when it comes time for Alain to escort Jacques home, he again asks Jacques for money. When Jacques reiterates that this is not possible, Alain then becomes violent toward Jacques.

This alerts the neighborhood; Alain is now shouting that Jacques is “homosexual.”  Appreciating the gathering group and fearing the worst for his life, Jacques asks Alain to come with him to the police to escape the mob.

At the police station, Alain Giresse makes serious false statements: stating that Jacques is homosexual, he says he was forced to sleep with him when Jacques confessed that he was returning from another sex meeting with someone else, but that he was not satisfied … accusing Jacques of  harassment.  A grotesque version, given Alain’s imposing stature of 1.80m compared to Jacques slight build, and added to that is the fact  that Alain practiced martial arts. He also told police that Jacques is the president of an association that celebrates marriage between same sex people, pure aberration as Acodévo Océan is an community-based group that fights against HIV and for the rights of LGBT.

In the land of “the tyranny of 347 bis” (i), this story is a godsend for police.

Indeed, Jacques is detained. Late at night, he was taken to hospital by the investigator handling the case, Mr. Mabola, who referred him to undergo intrusive anal examinations to, as is the habit of security forces in Cameroon, confirm Jacques’ homosexuality.

At the hospital, at about 1:30am, Jacques suffers another setback. A nurse recognizes him does not shy away from shouting out in the halls, that Jacques is homosexual, that he is HIV positive, and that he often comes to this hospital for treatment, which Jacques challenges.

In the end, the doctors provide their diagnosis and confirm that Jacques is gay.

Back at the police station, it was not until the next day that they allow Jacques to see his family. When the relatives arrive, they find that Alain Giresse filed a police complaint for “Aggression, assault and harassment .“

He claims he lost a phone worth 250,000 CFA francs (about $550), and demands damages amounting to 50,000 CFA francs ($110).

The accusing Alain Giresse together with police succeed here with their scam, as Jacques’ family pays this money to ensure his release.

A disturbing story that again demonstrates the vulnerability of gays in Cameroon; any con artist and blackmailer, without any proof of anything, can accuse and one could end up in a prison cell.

As to this particular case of Jacques, it is actually an episode in a long series of setbacks. In November 2012, for example, he was expelled from teaching school after the Kribi police denounced him as gay, and therefore presented a danger to students.  In fact, Jacques participated in an advocacy workshop directed to law enforcement officers to raise awareness for the implementation of an HIV project for activities involving the “Global Fund”, a workshop hosted at the time by CAMNAFAW, sub-recipient of funds from the Global Fund.

These are instances that he, and members of this new group, all as brave one as the other, must endure persistently. On another false accusation on charges of homosexual acts, one of them, Benoit K, had received a 1-year suspended sentence in July 2012.

Note (i): This was the title of the 2014 Annual Report on human rights violations in Yaoundé by Humanity First Cameroon.

The author of this article is an activist for LGBT rights in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym.

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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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