Tortured and murdered: Eric Ohena Lembembe

Following the murder of activist Eric Ohena Lembembe, terrified LGBT groups in Cameroon – including Affirmative Action, Alternatives Cameroon, CAMFAIDS and Humanity First Cameroon – have said that they are suspending their vital work in combating HIV/AIDS.

The brutalised and broken body of Lembembe, an outspoken LGBTI activist and journalist, was found in his home in Yaound� last week by friends.

His killing follows several attacks on the offices of human rights defenders, including those working for equal rights for LGBTI people. Lawyers who represent LGBTI clients have also received repeated death threats by email and SMS, including threats to kill their children.

“In the fight for the rights of sexual minorities in Cameroon, the long-decried climate of homophobia has intensified and now has reached a critical point,” said the groups in a memorandum to their funders and partners, who, they appeared to suggest, have left them to work under dangerous conditions.

They explained that “because of the dangers of the current situation, in cities of Yaound� and Douala” they have been forced to immediately suspend a number of their projects.

The groups said: “The pursuit of our various missions (prevention of STIs / HIV, medical care, advocacy for rights, support of people imprisoned for their sexual orientation and / or gender identity) requires a minimum level of security, institutional support and financial support.

“At present, the high level of insecurity in Cameroon has unfortunately led to the murder of Eric Lembembe Ohena of CAMFAIDS. We also note that serious threats have been made against the locations and members of our organisations, to the point where continuing our current work unchanged would be dangerous.”

They appealed to their partners and funders to offer additional financial and institutional support so that they can pay for increased security as well as the creation of an emergency fund to defend the organisations and activists, and the establishment of a common activity center in Yaound� where maximum security can be provided.

The groups further added that they “reject a partnership that reduces our associations to simply a labour force that must work in precarious, dangerous conditions”.

Consensual same-sex conduct is criminalised under the Cameroonian penal code, punishable by up to five years in prison. At least 28 people have been prosecuted under the law since 2010.

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