Republic of Hate

  • Eric’s friends and colleagues have looked at his life, and they understand why he died: he was a threat to the homophobic establishment of the country. He was an outspoken voice for tolerance, for justice and for health for all Cameroonian citizen - Colin Stewart


Watching a news item a week or two back it struck me that many countries in Africa are fuelled by a hatred for gay people. A retired British banker, Bernard Randall, faced 7 years in prison because of his gay sexuality. There are many good reasons that can be put to buttress a case for jailing bankers. Their sexuality is hardly one of them.

Earlier in the year I had scribbled a few thoughts about an incident in Cameroon but they slipped off the radar, only to make their way back as a result of the persecution of Randall in Uganda. President Paul Biya has been in power in Cameroon since 1982 and under his rule the position of gays has grown precarious, and in some cases the outcome has been fatal.

While Cameroon is said to enforce its anti-gay laws with more vigour than elsewhere similar legislation is in force in 38 African countries. Nigeria and Uganda are reported to be contemplating laws that would criminalize the expression of an opinion in support of gay rights. Much of it would seem to be prompted by religious hatred which fosters an envoronment in which gay people are characterised as sinful whereupon open season is declared. They are hounded and repressed by those opposed to their sexual orientation.

My earlier aborted piece concerned Eric Ohena Lembembe,  a prominent LGBTI rights activist and executive director of Camfaids, an advocate body for the LGBTI community. In July he was found tortured and murdered at his home. A colleague, Neela Ghoshal, explained:

When the police broke the door down, they found that Lembembe’s body bore signs of torture. His neck and his feet were broken, a friend told me. His face, hands, and feet had been burned with a clothes iron. 

Lembembe was also a journalist and blogger and worked closely with Human Rights Watch. ‘His organization assiduously documented arrests, violence, and blackmail against LGBTI people in Cameroon.’ In March he had met with a reluctant police chief ‘to raise the many cases we had documented of arbitrary arrests, ill treatment, and torture of people alleged to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.’ He and Neela Ghoshal were ‘faced off against seven bulky men in uniform.’ It was unalloyed intimidation.

According to Ghoshal who is a Senior Researcher with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program:

Advocating for equal rights in Cameroon, where LGBTI people face severe discrimination and violence, takes tremendous courage. Eric’s activism paved the way for a society based on equality and non-discrimination.

On a number of occasions prior to his death the violence was ratcheted up. Attacks had been launched on a range of human rights bodies including those involved in advocacy work on behalf of the LGBTI people. In June attackers torched the Douala headquarters of Alternatives-Cameroun. It had provided HIV services to LGBTI people. Threats were also made to murder the children of legal figures who defend the rights of the LGBTI community. The country’s cops have virtually done nothing to detect the assailants. This has prompted Ghoshal to say:

We don’t know who killed Eric Lembembe, or why he was killed, but one thing is clear: the Cameroonian authorities’ utter failure to stem homophobic violence sends the message that these attacks can be carried out with impunity ... The police should not rest until the perpetrators of this horrific crime are brought to justice. President Biya should break his silence on the wave of homophobic violence in Cameroon and publicly condemn this brutal attack.

Yet there seems little let up in the hate campaign. Cameroon’s ambassador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Anatole Fabien Marie Nkou, last month dismissed accusations that the killing was a hate crime and a homophobic murder as 'just things that have been made up', adding 'look at the details of this person’s life and you will understand why he died.' It is hard to see how this is anything other than a green light for regicide against people pejoratively depicted as African queens in Cameroon's Republic of Hate.


  1. The flat earth religious bigots of the dup and unionism would be as equally brutal to anyone from the gay community here, the old saying about people in glass houses applies, though as it seems there are quite a few bible thumpers who are in elected positions who are closet gays wee Jeff comes to mind here,it seems to me that like those bigots the more they shout and abuse others the more they themselves have to hide,remember Paul Berry dup bible thumper he ended up liking to have his berries tickled by another man,hyprocites the fucking lot looking for a scapegoat to hide their own inadequacies.

  2. The homophobia and anti gay legislation is just one more piece of the putrid potpourri the English ruling class used to 'civilise' the peoples of the Empire.

    Indeed it is the very same type of 'christians' who followed the baggage train of the British army into Africa, India, Australia, etc, to bring civilisation to the natives. Who are today inciting people to turn on gays in Africa and else where were the writ of the butchers apron once ran.

    Only yesterday India’s Supreme Court ruled that a British colonial-era statute outlawing “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” was constitutional.

  3. This is yet another sad example of the culturally raped and oppressed venting their accumulated rage on a scapegoat group. Again and again, the wounded and insecure repeatedly lash out at the vulnerable in their own midst, in their own communities. As Mickey Rourke playing the American author Charles Bukowski in the film "Barfly" so saliently observes, "Oooo, baby, misdirected animosity." Africans turning on gays. Hmm, not unlike Israelis turning on Palestinians, or like blacks in South Central turning on Korean shop owners, like poor whites turning on blacks in the Jim Crow South. The litany goes on and numbingly on. Whatever the readers of The Pensive Quill may think of Sinéad O'Connor, she makes some very good points in her hip-hop meditation "Famine": "Look at our old men in pubs, look at our children on drugs. We've even made killers of ourselves, the most childlike, trusting people in the universe." She doesn't let the British off the hook either, thankfully. Old England to blame, old and cretinous and cruel, their great piles testaments to abuse, their rotten church Henry's ecclesiastical shade and tool of madness.

  4. Michael

    Great words from Sinéad, when they cannot grind some people into the ground, the English ruling class and their Irish acolytes have a long history of making out there a thief or a fool.

    Ms O'Connor is neither.