SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA. ALBERT J. OGLE. JANUARY 16, 2014.
When leaders in the St. Paul’s Foundation network were approached by Dominique Mengoya who is President of one of the lead Cameroonian AIDS agencies, there was an immediate outpouring of support. We stood by Dominique’s community when his close friend Eric Lembembe was murdered and many of our donors raised the funds to send two Cameroonians to attend the last meeting of the African Human and People’s Rights Commission. It was important for all of us to be there in solidarity and together, we not only created a more significant presence for the Francophone LGBT community and their allies but convinced the Cameroonian government to reopen an investigation into Eric’s murder. Colin Stewart and I have been meeting by phone with leaders on a weekly basis and Erasing 76 Crimes has increased its numbers of articles in French. Our good friend, Kapya Kaoma, is looking for a few French translators to help disseminate “The Globalization of the Culture Wars” and some other seminal research that would be helpful to the Francophone community, so they realize some of the geo-political contexts they are dealing with. He is also hoping to provide some training to three regions in Africa later this year, including Francophone Africa.
Uganda- count us in
Dominique was delighted when Maxensia Nakibuuka agreed to attend the African Sexual Rights Conference in February and to take time from her busy schedule setting up a new HIV office for the Catholic community in Uganda, to help the Cameroonian community. We were all thrilled when her abstract was selected for actual presentation at the conference and last week, I heard more good news about my paper (on the negative role of fundamentalism on LGBT and women’s rights) was also accepted. We will be joined by Andy Kopsa of the US and a Cameroonian lesbian who has much to say about the erosion of LGBT and women’s rights in her country. We also hope to meet representatives of the Catholic Church to follow up on our formal complaint lodged with the Vatican against former Catholic Archbishop of Cameroon, Victor Bukot. You may remember, he used his Christmas sermon in 2012 to accuse LGBT people of committing Crimes against Humanity. We hold him responsible for raising levels of homophobia to such high levels that church and government agencies are complicit in the wave of fear, hatred and arbitrary arrests that all make Cameroon one of the worst places in the world to be gay.
More LGBT people arrested and imprisoned than anywhere else.
Human Rights Watch’s detailed report released in 2013 paints a very frightening picture of what it is like to be LGBT in Cameroon.
One of the two courageous attorneys who represent the 30+ LGBT people incarcerated since 2010, Alice Nkom says every time a gay person is arrested in Cameroon, the government pays no attention to their constitutional rights or international agreements they have entered into.
I recently met Michel Togué who is the other attorney (out of 2,000 in Cameroon) who regularly visits LGBT people in jail.
“We have ten LGBT young prisoners right now in Yaounde. Two of them were arrested and charged with being gay as a result of simply being drunk one night in a bar! Many people are in jail based on no or little evidence”.
Intimidation of straight allies and organizations working with the LGBT community is commonplace and Michel had to move his wife and four children outside Cameroon following death threats. You can read my story about him HERE
Dominique -This will strengthen the LGBT Francophone work
The St. Paul’s Foundation and our partners in Uganda want to work closely with Cameroon this year. We want to help them build infrastructure, write grant proposals, create an online French website and hire a journalist to help the Francophone community begin to tell their largely untold stories. We believe these simple goals will transform and strengthen CAMFAIDS and other advocacy organizations in Cameroon to not only be a significant force within Cameroon, but give a new confidence to the African Francophone community. This is why Dominique wants us to come.
We must succeed in raising the $11,000 needed to attend the conference which is only in three weeks time. Without your support, we will simply be impeded from doing the work I have just outlined and Cameroon will continue to lag behind many of the countries like Uganda or South Africa, where there are established LGBT and ally networks and organizations. With your help, we can all change that.
Rev. Canon Albert J. Ogle
St Paul’s Foundation