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Cameroon activists say their goodbyes to Yves Yomb

Human rights activists and other members of Cameroonian civil society gathered last week to pay tribute to LGBTI activist Yves Yomb, who died  in June.

From the African Human Rights Media Network

This photo of Yves Yomb had a place of honor at last week’s memorial gathering.

By Courtney Stans

Last Friday was a day of sadness and solidarity as Cameroonian LGBTI advocates gathered to honor the memory of Yves Yomb and praise him as a great defender of human rights.

For many years, Yomb was executive director of Alternatives-Cameroun, which fights against HIV / AIDS and for LGBTI rights.

During the evening gathering at the Yaoundé headquarters of the anti-AIDS organization Moto Action, friends and colleagues remembered him as they heard memorial speeches and looked at photos from his life, cut short by disease in Paris.

Representatives of the Unity platform, Sourire de Femme, RECAP +, Transamical, Empower Cameroon, Alternatives-Cameroon, Camfaids, Affirmative Action and many others were on hand.

The Coalition of Civil Society Organizations Fighting HIV / AIDS (CSCC), which organized the event, expressed appreciation for support from Care Cameroon and Horizons Femmes.

Several speakers celebrated Yomb’s achievements, including Dr. Steave Nemande, the former president of Alternatives-Cameroon, and Patrice Ndzie, president of the CSCC.

In June, the U.N.’s anti-AIDS agency published an appreciation of Yomb’s life and his work. These are excerpts from that piece:

Yves Yomb (Photo courtesy of UNAIDS)

Remembering human rights activist Yves Yomb

His journey to becoming an activist began in his home country, in 2006. At the height of a media campaign targeting gay men and other men who have sex with men, Mr Yomb was a founding member of Alternatives- Cameroun, one of the first human rights organizations in western and central Africa to advocate for tolerance and social inclusion.

“We told ourselves that if we didn’t act, no one would,” he once said.

For more than a decade, Mr Yomb was at the forefront of the fight for the rights of sexual minorities and human rights in Africa, and wherever else the struggle took him. Ahead of the 2018 International AIDS Conference, he spoke at the launch of UNAIDS’ global report in Paris, France, calmly and with determination, recalling that the response to HIV is an uncompromising struggle for human rights and international solidarity.

Mr Yomb was the spokesperson of Africagay against AIDS, the first network dedicated to promoting access to rights and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in francophone Africa, which in 2019 became the Global Alliance of Communities for Health and Rights (GACS PLUS), a member of Coalition Plus. Always at the forefront of the fight, he called on UNAIDS to renew its support for civil society, an initiative that led to the birth of the Civil Society Institute for West and Central Africa.

“Without rights, the people most affected by the AIDS epidemic cannot have access to health services. This is what feeds the hidden epidemic we are fighting against. This is what fuels the hidden epidemic we are fighting,” he said.

“Yves Yomb was a great voice and argued in a way that left no one indifferent. … he advocated for the respect of human rights. He argued tirelessly for increased support for civil society in all its diversity. Rest in peace, brother. We will continue the common fight,” said Helene Badini, UNAIDS Senior Regional Community Support Adviser.

Courtney Stans, the author of this article, is a Cameroonian journalist who writes under a pseudonym. Contact her at [email protected].