Africa

LGBTI rights leader faces Cameroon police shakedown

Minuit à l’aéroport de Yaoundé-Nsimalen. (Photo de CameroonWeb.com)

Midnight at Yaoundé-Nsimalen Airport. (Photo courtesy of CameroonWeb.com)

The president of the LGBTI rights group Humanity First Cameroon returned from a trip yesterday to find a police sergeant waiting for him with death threats and a demand for money in exchange for his freedom.

Returning shortly after midnight at the end of a trip to Europe, Jules Eloundou was accused of homosexuality. The friends who came to pick him up were detained and assaulted.

Jules Eloundou (Photo d'ILGA)

Jules Eloundou (Photo courtesy of ILGA)

It was just 1 a.m., on June 24, when Eloundou’s plane landed at Youndé- Nsimalen Airport.  He was promptly detained by police sergeant Joel Tagne, who said that he had also detained Eloundou’s two friends after seeing them making love.

He told Eloundou that, for a payment of 200 euros, he would refrain from  instituting legal proceedings against them. One of the friends, JP, gestured to Eloundou that he should not believe what the sergeant was saying. Eloundou replied that he had no money anyway.

Tagne repeatedly said that he witnessed a love scene between JP and Gaël. Eloundou replied that he knows how JP behaves and that, even if the two men were gay, they would only make love in private.

At that, Tagne’s tone changed. He accused Eloundou of also being a homosexual. He took Eloundou’s identification papers; he had already taken those of JP and Gaël.

Eloundou exclaimed “What sort of country is this?” Before a crowd of travelers, he spoke out against arbitrary accusations and abuse of individuals’ freedoms.

Tagne began threatening Eloundou and his friends, labeling them “dirty fags.” He said, “Call anyone you want. I’m in charge here. I can kill you if I want to.” He then threw away and scattered their identity cards.

Tagne called over other police as reinforcements. They joined him in hurling insults, claiming that homosexuals are responsible for all of Cameroon’s problems.

“It is because fags like you that we do not advance professionally. You block the country, everywhere! ” one police officer said.

À l'intérieur de l'aéroport de Yaoundé-Nsimalen. (Photo de DataB.us)

Inside the Yaoundé-Nsimalen Airport. (Photo courtesy of DataB.us)

They even accused the taxi driver of being a homosexual, since he had given  Gaël and JP a ride to the airport. “If you give a faggot a ride, that must mean you’re a faggot too,” the officer said.

The nightmare had begun a few hours earlier when JP and Gaël were walking through the terminal, waiting for Eloundou’s delayed plane. Tagne intercepted them, took their identification cards, claimed that he had seen them making love, and arrested them.

Gaël had both men’s identity cards, which Tagne declared was evidence that they were a couple. He locked them in a detention room at the airport and told them he would release them in exchange for US $274 (130,000 FCFA), which they would get from Eloundou.

Humanity First logo

Logo of Humanity First

They refused and Tagne hit them.  He said he was sorry that he did not have a gun with him, because he would use it to kill them. He began beating Gaël, injuring his face and his leg.

None of the three victims yielded to any of the police demands.

Frustrated, Tagne released them at 4 a.m.

In the process, Eloundou lost his mobile phone and was forced to pay 3,000 FCFA (about $ 6) for parking instead of the official rate of 500 FCFA (about $ 1).

The three victims have filed a complaint about how the police treated them. They also retained an attorney to pursue the case. Gaël received treatment for his injuries and was given a formal medical certificate describing them.

The author of this article is an LGBTI rights activist in Cameroon.

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