Anorak News | The ordeal of Jean-Claude Mbédé: Africa’s anti-gay bigots in action

The ordeal of Jean-Claude Mbédé: Africa’s anti-gay bigots in action

by | 19th, February 2013

ROGER Jean-Claude Mbédé is serving a 3-year prison sentence for sending another man this SMS text:

“I’m very much in love w/u.”

Cameroon’s Secretary of State for Defense (SED) swooped. They arrested Mbédé on “suspicion of homosexuality”. On March 9th, 2011, he was charged with “homosexuality and attempted homosexuality”. One month later, 

He was fined 33,000 Francs CFA (about $61 USD).

The law states – Section 347a of the Cameroonian Penal Code:

“Whoever has sexual relations with a person of the same sex shall be punished with imprisonment, ranging from six months to five years and with a fine of between 20,000 and 200,000 CFA Francs”

Mbédé says his ordeal began when he was a student at the University of Central Africa in Yaoundé. He encountered a senior official working with the president of the Republic of Cameroon. They spoke over the phone. Mbédé says that four months into their friendship, the other man trapped him. This other man has been upset that Mbédé had made declarations of love. This other man is, of course, totally not gay. But he has a friend who might be:

“On March 2, 2011, he called, asking me to visit him at home. To my surprise, I was greeted there by two policemen who arrested me and took me in a cell under the control of the Secretary of Defense. For one week, I was subjected to tough interrogations, without knowing what was happening. A few days later, on March 9, the public prosecutor issued a warrant and I was sent to prison the same day. After three hearings, I was sentenced.”

In December 2012, his appeal failed. Having been released on bail July to have a hernia treated, an appeals court upheld that three-year sentence. He told the Associated Press:

“I am going back to the dismal conditions that got me critically ill before I was temporarily released for medical reasons. I am not sure I can put up with the anti-gay attacks and harassment I underwent at the hands of fellow inmates and prison authorities on account of my perceived and unproven sexual orientation. The justice system in this country is just so unfair.”

Cameroon is no bastion of freedom. In Novermber 2012, Rupert Colville, for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, looked at Cameroon’s homophobia:

The current Cameroonian penal code criminalizes “sexual relations with a person of the same sex” and provides for a penalty of up to five years imprisonment and a fine. The law as it stands is in breach of Cameroon’s international human rights commitments and violates rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination, both of which are guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

While the penal code relates specifically to sexual conduct, we are seriously concerned that it is being applied in a broad-brush way to prosecute many individuals on the basis of their appearance, their mannerisms, style of speech or general conduct. In 2011, for example, Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé was convicted of suspected homosexual conduct after the authorities discovered he has sent a text message to another man that read “I am very much in love with you”. Last month, Jonas Singa Kumie and Franky Djome were convicted on the basis of evidence of their appearance, which was perceived as effeminate, and the fact that they had been seen drinking Bailey’s Irish Cream.

Reports are that Alice Nkom and Michel Togue, two Cameroon attorneys acting for Mbédé were threatened. “Togue received a text message threatening his children. Photos of his children leaving their school were attached to the text message.”

Thousands want Mbédé freed. petition wants change.


Posted: 19th, February 2013 | In: Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink