In recent weeks, a climate of fear has spread in the LGBTI community of Cameroon because a group of criminals has infiltrated dating websites frequented by homosexuals.
1. The case of Philippe M. and Soppo
On Dec. 4, 2012, Philippe M. became the latest victim of this gang in Douala. He was attacked at home by three people who threatened to reveal his homosexuality unless he gave them money.
Back in 2011, Philippe M. had met Soppo (one member of this gang) on a dating site. The two men agreed to meet at Philippe M.’s home. After a night spent together, Soppo asked Philippe M. to give him money for his sexual services. To preserve his reputation, Philippe M. went along with this blackmail.
A year later, on Dec. 4, Soppo returned to Philippe M.’s home with three accomplices and again demanded money under the same threat of revealing his homosexuality. After a violent fight between the victim and his attackers, the gang escaped with some of his possessions, including passports, laptop, digital camera, etc.
Philippe M. managed to catch Soppo, who is considered the key member of the gang. The two men were taken to the Alternatives-Cameroun center by some close friends of Philippe M. The association called a gay-friendly police officer.
After hearing both parties, the officer told Soppo to return the stolen materials. Soppo’s accomplices brought Philippe M.’s goods to the Alternatives-Cameroun center.
2. The case of Josephine M. and Lynda N.
On Dec. 28, 2012, Josephine M. traveled from Douala to Yaoundé to spend New Year’s there. She met Lynda N on a dating site frequented by lesbians. The two girls agreed to meet in a hotel located in Nkomo neighborhood in Yaoundé.
After having been received by Lynda N in a room of the hotel, the latter apologized to her guest and pretended to go to the shop. After a while, another person came in the room and told Josephine M that he was a police officer.
He asked Josephine M to show him her ID card. She refused to do so unless he showed her his police ID card first.
The man then accused Josephine M. of being a lesbian and threatened to take her to the nearest police station.
Josephine M. managed to escape when her attacker was briefly distracted. She took refuge at the home of an LGBTI activist in Yaoundé.
At Alternatives-Cameroun, we have received many other complaints from members of the LGBTI community about blackmail and ambushes.
All these abuses were planned with the complicity of some members of the LGBTI community, and most of the abusers are also from this community.
It is sad to see that a community so strongly discriminated against by society has begun to fight itself. It is also sad to see that the LGBTI community in Cameroon is, as the French writer Aimé Césaire said, a crowd which doesn’t know how to be a crowd.
– YVES YOMB
Yves Yomb is executive director of Alternatives-Cameroon, an organization working for equality, tolerance, and respect for people who suffer from social exclusion. Alternatives-Cameroun was founded by young Cameroonian professionals fighting for human rights in Cameroon, especially for the rights of people who have sexual relations with people of the same sex.