Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and a dozen activists protested outside the Cameroonian High Commission in London yesterday (24 July) to demand action over the murder of Eric Lembembe.
Lembembe’s body was found earlier this month with numerous broken bones and his face hands and feet burned with an iron, weeks after he issued a public warning about ‘anti-gay thugs’.
The protest was to call on Cameroon’s government to bring Lembembe’s attackers to justice. Eugene Fomekong, who was a fellow gay rights activist in Cameroon and fled the country fearing victimization, said:
‘We are urging an immediate investigation into the death of our fellow human rights activist, the prosecution of those responsible, the immediate release of all those in prison because they are LGBTI and for everyone in Cameroon to be able to exercise their full human rights.’
Tatchell and members of the African LGBTI organization, Out and Proud Diamond Group gathered outside the Cameroon High Commission in Holland Park, London with banners and posters.
‘Eric was a courageous public champion of the rights of LGBT people and people with HIV,’ said Tatchell. ‘He was subjected to a particularly horrific, brutal attack.
‘Many other LGBT people in Cameroon have been victims of violent threats and assaults. Several are in prison for consenting same-sex relations. Roger Jean-Claude Mbede was jailed for three years for sending a text message to another man saying "I love you". Such harsh punishments are barely believable.’
The veteran campaigner also described Cameroon as ‘one of the most homophobic countries in the world’ and said that President Paul Biya has ‘queer blood on his hands’. He called for the former French and British colony to be suspended from the Commonwealth of Nations.
Tatchell called on those who are angered by the murder of Lembembe to take action and write to President Biya via the high commission in London.
The US State Department issued a statement straight after Lembembe’s death saying they ‘deplore’ the murder and urging the Cameroonian authorities ‘to thoroughly and promptly investigate and prosecute those responsible for his death’.
After Lembembe’s murder the police did not arrest a single suspect, the BBC reported.
In January this year President Biya told journalists in France that attitudes towards gay people are changing in his country. ‘People are talking, minds can change one way or another but currently it’s a crime,’ he said.