In Cameroon, a new list of people accused of being homosexuals has put 82 people’s lives and careers at risk.
By Erin Royal Brokovitch
A venomous list of 82 alleged homosexuals is spreading in Cameroon, published anonymously and distributed electronically through social networks.
It began on Dec. 11 as a PDF document attached to electronic messages with the title “LIST OF GAYS IN CAMEROON AND A PORTION OF THEIR DIRTY DEEDS.”
The list arrived 15 years after the newspaper Anecdote published a similar list that ruined the lives and reputations of 50 Cameroonian homosexual citizens and their families. In that case, the public response led the Paul Biya, the president of Cameroon, to speak out to calm outraged public sentiments.
LGBT community members nervously opened the latest document to see if their names were there, which would mean they had suddenly become vulnerable to homophobic attacks on their lives, families and careers. The list outed many gay men who had been living discreetly in Yaounde and Douala.
This month’s list attacked Christians and Muslims; employees of the telecommunications firms Camtel, MTN and Orange Cameroon; workers at the CUD community development agency and the business services firm Intelcia; a jeweler, a banker, a hairdresser, a doctor, a decorator, a dancer, a nightclub manager, a merchant, a pharmacist and a photographer among others.
In Cameroon, the previous list of this kind was distributed last year through the same channels, especially WhatsApp. A radio host who was on that list confided that he became depressed after finding his name on the list, endured hostile comments from his colleagues and a few months was removed from his show.
None of the people on the last list are listed again on the new list. It’s new people every time.
For the first time, the new list includes the names of LGBT rights activists and AIDS fighters. One of them is Yannick Ndomo, a human rights activist in the LGBT community since 2011, who has worked in a Global Fund program combatting AIDS and tuberculosis among men who have sex with men.
This year’s list includes minors who are dependents still living with their parents. In Cameroon, parents often evict children if they learn that the children are gay. Gay youths end up on the streets, cut off from the schools they had been attending, depressed or contending with other mental health problems.
The list is similar to homophobic lists published in Uganda in 2010 and 2013 and in Kenya in 2015.
At the end of 2010, Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone released names and photos of alleged homosexuals, including LGBTI activist David Kato. LGBT rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda filed a lawsuit against the newspaper. The Ugandan High Court ordered it to stop publishing the names of alleged homosexuals and pay each of the three plaintiffs (activists Kato, Kasha Jacqueline and Pepe Onziema) a fine of 1.5 million Ugandan shillings (about U.S. $450). In January 2011, shortly after that verdict was announced, Kato was murdered.
In Cameroon, the latest lists have not been published by a newspaper that could be sued. Instead they appear on WhatsApp, where human rights activists do not know how to block them.
Erin Royal Brokovitch, the author of this article, is an LGBTI rights activist in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym.