Again and again, LGBTI rights groups in Cameroon have been targeted by homophobic vandals and burglars. Complaints to police been met with indifference and inaction.
By Ghislain J. Nkontchou
On Saturday June 11, TransAmical, an association working to defend the rights and well-being of trans people in the city of Yaoundé in Cameroon, was the victim of a burglary. The loss was discovered in the early morning of Monday June 13, by the group’s financial director.
The burglars had forced open four doors and ransacked workstations. They stole a photocopier, scanner, printer, video projector, voltage regulator and a WiFi modem.
TransAmical issued a press release to alert sister organizations and to advise them to increase their vigilance and to strengthen their security systems.
A few days later, on June 16, in the Obobogo district in Yaoundé, the association ASCEAUPEV+, which fights against HIV/AIDS and defends the rights of sexual and gender minorities (SGM), was also the victim of burglary and vandalism. The burglars stole work equipment and tagged the walls of the group’s headquarters with homophobic insults.
Such incidents are part of a pattern that has continued for many years.
These are some of those crimes:
- The offices of the LGBTI advocacy organization Alternatives-Cameroon were burglarized in 2021 and in May 2022.
- The apartment of a lesbian rights activist was burglarized in 2019 after a disgruntled neighbor accused her of being too masculine.
- The home of the president of the LGBTI rights advocacy group Humanity First Cameroon, was burglarized twice in 2016. The burglars left him a letter full of homophobic threats.
Under Cameroonian law, vandalism is punishable by a prison sentence of one month to two years and a fine of 20,000 to 120,000 CFA francs (about U.S. $30 to $180). But no one has been charged with any of the offenses listed above.
This summer, both organizations lodged complaints with the Judicial Police of the Center region. Police opened an investigation but to date has found no one responsible.
Comments from the author:
The security of LGBTI organizations in Cameroon is an important concern, involving not just property but also the security of human rights defenders who work at peril of their lives for the well-being of the community.
LGBTI associations have appealed to law enforcement to ensure increased safety for their working environments. In addition to that, most of these acts could have been avoided if a good security policy with effective control measures had been implemented. Before further burglaries occur, LGBTI associations need to rethink and tighten their security policies in order to protect their property and people.
Ghislain J. Nkontchou, the author of this article, is a human rights activist from Cameroon who is currently a graduate student in international affairs at Baruch College in New York. He is a contributing editor for Erasing 76 Crimes.