Cameroonian LGBT activist and journalist Eric Ohena Lembembe was found dead in his home on July 15, his body bearing signs of torture. Lembembe was an outspoken activist and executive director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS).
According to a press release from the Human Rights Watch (HRW):
Lembembe’s friends discovered his body on Monday evening after being unable to reach him by telephone for two days, and went to his home. They found his front door padlocked on the outside, but could see Lembembe’s body lying on his bed through the window. Lembembe’s friends alerted the police, who broke down the door. According to one friend, Lembembe’s neck and feet appeared to have been broken, and his face, hands, and feet had been burned with an iron.
“Everyone is devastated, sad, and emotionally distraught,” said Damian Ugwu, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHR) Africa Regional Program Coordinator. “Some could not sleep because of fear. They think, ‘I could be next.’ No one knows what happened to Eric or who killed him, so people are afraid they might meet the same fate. Given the recent spate of homophobic attacks in Cameroon, there is strong speculation that Eric’s death is connected to his sexual orientation and his work.”
Lembembe’s death is the latest in a series of violent attacks against Cameroon’s LGBT community. Though each has been reported, Cameroonian authorities have yet to apprehend a single suspect. Earlier this month, Lembembe criticized the government for fostering a “climate of hatred and bigotry.”
HRW senior LGBT rights researcher Neela Ghoshal is calling for President Paul Biya to “break his silence” on the spate of violence and “publicly condemn this brutal attack.” Other activists, though frightened by Lembembe’s murder, remain undaunted in the fight for equality.
“Some might go underground for a while,” he said. “Eric’s death is very painful to the movement, but I do not see this as stopping LGBTI Cameroon in the long-term. I see a very committed movement.”