In Cameroon, LGBT groups start working together — at last

Participants in the October 2016 workshop who planned the National Observatory for the Rights of LGBT People and Their Defenders. (Photo courtesy of Camfaids, which approved its publication)
Participants in the October 2016 workshop planned the new Human Rights  Observatory. (Photo courtesy of Camfaids, which approved its publication)

In Cameroon, LGBT associations are working together as never before, signing up to create a Human Rights Observatory that will act as a watchdog against violations of the rights of LGBT people and human rights defenders.

By Erin Royal Brokovitch

Brice Evina, the president of the Camfaids of the time, addresses the workshop in October. (Photo courtesy of  Camfaids, which approved its publication)
Brice Evina, then president of the Camfaids, addresses the workshop in October. (Photo courtesy of Camfaids, which approved its publication)

The idea for a Human Rights Observatory sprang up last summer during the July 15 Commemorative Day Against Violence Against LGBT Rights Defenders, which was organized by Camfaids (the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS).

The next step was a workshop held from Oct. 19 to 21 in Yaoundé at which  19 LGBT associations signed on to the initiative. They call their shared enterprise the National Observatory for the Rights of LGBT People and Their Defenders.

Twenty-one advocacy groups are involved in this joint venture, 20 of them LGBT associations — Camfaids, Sidado, Affirmative Action, Adefho, ELLES Cameroon, Lady’s Cooperation, Alcondoms, Acodev, Children of Africa, Trésor Progrès, Cofenho, CAMEF, the Association for Humanitarian Assistance, the Association Against AIDS, ASGJA, Future Youth of the West, Hummingbird, Friends of the Heart, Cerludhus and Adepev.  Their chosen partner in the venture is Redhac (the Network of Human Rights Defenders in Central Africa), the 21st group.

In the past, attempts at cooperation among Cameroonian advocacy groups have often failed, falling victim to dissension and leadership wars that  weakened the Cameroonian LGBT movement.

This time, the partner organizations come from throughout Cameroon — Douala, Limbe, Bertoua, Kribi, Bafoussam and Garoua, as well as the capital, Yaoundé — though not all Cameroonian LGBT groups have joined the effort.

During the workshop, the groups were reassured that the Human Rights Observatory would not diminish their independence or autonomy.  They also learned that the project expands on human rights reporting work already begun by Camfaids.

Two of the associations — Affirmative Action and Camfaids — will take turns hosting the observatory. By a vote, Camfaids was selected to be the first host organization.

Governance documents were presented and officers were elected:

President: Achille TIEDJOU, Adefho
Vice-president: Lambert LAMBA, Cerludhus
Secretary General: Emile EBONGUE, Friends of the Heart
Deputy Secretary-General: Jacques BOGLA, Acodevo
Treasurer: Berthe AWOH, Lady’s Cooperation
External Auditor: Flora NGANGU

The officers were installed during a December ceremony in Douala that was attended by the High Commissioner of Canada and representatives from the embassies of the United States, France and the European Union, along with a representative from the National Commission of Human Rights and Freedoms and prominent attorney Alice Nkom, who is a strong defender of  LGBT rights in Cameroon.

During that meeting, held from Dec. 14 to 16, participants reviewed plans for the Human Rights Observatory. They also made plans for a third workshop, which will focus on the national, regional and international protections of human rights, including both physical and digital protection of LGBT persons in Cameroon.

Erin Royal Brokovitch, the author of this article, is an activist for LGBTI rights in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym.

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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