Cameroon - silence please

The Cameroonian government has attacked media coverage of the vicious murder of a gay rights activist Eric Ohena Lembembe saying that journalists have "have launched attacks on our nation, dragging its image into the mud."

Lembembe’s death was briskly followed by the meting out prison sentences to 48-year-old Joseph Omgbwa and 19-year-old Nicolas Ntamack. Furthermore, Lembembe’s partner is currently in hiding afraid for his own life, signs that the already precarious situation for LGBT people in Cameroon is still violently so, and that the government and its justice system will persist in their persecution of LGBT people.

So, what was Cameroon expecting – universal silence and thus approval of their actions?

What is the expected outcome when a government targets a particular group of people for persecution and prosecution and bolsters erroneous beliefs about that group among its citizenry?

Death, impunity - Cameroon’s crusade is not an untested theory and history has many examples as to where such actions lead.

The Cameroonian government has, as have many other states, been unrepentant in its dehumanization of LGBT people and is seemingly trying to wash their hands of the consequences by – unsurprisingly – attacking the media and non-governmental organisations.

“…anyone who want to die should just try that gay thing in Cameroon we will just set fire on him,” states a commentator on cameroononline.org and “One of the surest ways to getting ostracized and even slain in Cameroon is through homosexual conduct,” says another.

For the rest of society - those who approve or those who condemn what has happened - having to live in a society in which such violence roams unchecked…

Undoubtedly, Lembembe’s attackers must have considered him subhuman in order to do as they did, and it is with the consent of the wider society and its government that such people can be allowed to escape justice as many international human rights activists fear will happen. 

Perhaps "the mud" is where Cameroon's image should remain for a while. 

Photograph: Alfred Weidinger

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