Last month, hundreds of Cameroonians marched in support of the country’s human rights defenders in a protest organized by Camfaids and its partners.
Camfaids (the Cameroonian Foundation for Aids) combats HIV/Aids and works to achieve recognition of the importance of guaranteeing human rights for LGBTI people.
The peaceful march by nearly 300 people was part of a two-day protest against violence targeting defenders of human rights in Cameroon. It was scheduled for July 15 in memory of Eric Ohena Lembembe, the LGBTI rights activist, journalist for this blog, human rights activist and executive director of Camfaids, who was found murdered on that day in 2013.
The commemorative events in support of human rights defenders also included a visit to Lembembe’s grave, a panel discussion attended by 120, and a thanksgiving mass for dozens of people.
The theme of the day was “No to discrimination, assaults and assassinations of defenders of human rights in Cameroonian society. ”
Organizers said that event’s aims were to “challenge the authorities about the poisonous atmosphere surrounding human rights defenders” in Cameroon and to give moral support to the Lembembe family.
The marchers wore T-shirts in Cameroon’s national colors — green, red and yellow — and carried placards and banners bearing messages such as: “Stop violence against human rights defenders,” “Equal safety for all,” “Human rights defenders work with the state in its sovereign mission,” “Defenders fight for life, not for death” and “Rights are innate.”
Before the march started at 7:30 a.m., participants were urged to remain dignified, well-behaved and tolerant, without smoking, drinking alcohol or saying anything provocative.
Because the event organizers had obtained authorization from the prefect of the Mfoundi province, which includes Yaoundé, the march was escorted by police from Yaoundé’s Central Commissariat No. 1, including a police car and an officer on a police motorcycle.
The march was led by officials of Camfaids and by Michel Togue, a Cameroonian lawyer who defends LGBTI people. Among the marchers were members of the Lembembe family and leaders of Cameroonian human rights organizations, including Trésor Progrès (from Yaoundé), Enfants d’Afrique (Yaoundé), Humanity First (Yaoundé), Cerludhus (Yaoundé), CEPROD (Yaoundé), Affirmative Action (Yaoundé), ADEFHO (from Douala), REDHAC (Douala), Cofenho (Douala), SID’ADO (Douala) and Alternatives Cameroun (Douala).
Two observers from the National Committee for Human Rights and Freedom attended, along with representatives of Ariane Television, Equinox TV and Africa Media.
After the march, the panel discussion was held in the conference hall of the French Institute of Cameroon. The theme was “The Cameroonian defender of human rights in a socio-professional environment.”
The discussion was attended by 121 people, including members of the diplomatic corps, media representatives, leaders of local advocacy groups, and representatives of the National Committee for Human Rights and Freedom. The panel consisted of:
- Attorney Michel Togue, who explained his own role and that of human rights defenders;
- Sociologist Dr. Roger Onah, who explained the importance of human rights defenders for society;
- Elisabeth Benkam, vice president of SOS Racisme and president of the Cameroon Union of Journalists, as an activist;
- LGBTI activist Lambert Lamba, president of the advocacy group Cerludhus, who described violence against human rights defenders.
Journalist Pondo Prince served as moderator. Jean Jacques Dissoke was master of ceremonies.
Panelists suggested setting up a study committee that would urge the National Assembly to pass a law to protect human rights defenders.
The conference was covered by several media: radio (Africa 2, Kalak FM, LTM, FM Amplitude), television (TV Ariane, Equinox TV, LTM, Africa Media), and print (Le Messager, Nouvelle Expression, EDEN).
In addition to Camfaids, partner organizations that organized and supported the events of July 14-15 were:
- Trésor Progrès
- Cerludhus (Cercle de Réflexion et de Lutte pour les Droits Humains et contre le Sida; or Circle of Reflection and Combat for Human Rights and Against Aids)
- Enfants d’Afrique
- Lady’s Cooperation
- Goodwill Cameroun
The visit to Lembembe’s grave was organized by a committee headed by Angel Olina, president of Trésor Progrès.
The march organizing committee was led by Lambert Lamba, president of Cerludhus.
The panel discussion committee was led by Brice Evina, president of Camfaids.
The committee that arranged for the thanksgiving mass was led by Sandrine Bohn, coordinator of the gender section of Camfaids.
- LGBTI life improves in homophobic Cameroon (76crimes.com)
- Another attack on a Cameroon activist; a plea for help (76crimes.com)
- Appeal to Cameroon: Stop anti-LGBTI violence (76crimes.com)
- Cameroon: Human Rights Defenders Day proposed for July 15th (76crimes.com)
- Cameroon activist tortured, killed; the nation must respond (76crimes.com)
- Goal: Boost safety, effectiveness of LGBTI rights defenders (76crimes.com)