Only weeks after he issued a warning about "anti-gay thugs," a prominent gay-rights activist in Cameroon was tortured and killed. The body of Eric Ohena Lembembe was discovered at his home in the capital, Yaounde, by his friends. According to a statement from Human Rights Watch, Lembembe had been unreachable for two days. One of the friends that found the body said that Lembembe's neck and feet looked broken and that he had been burned with an iron.
Lembembe was a journalist and also served as executive director of CAMFAIDS, a Yaounde-based human rights organization. He spent years documenting blackmail attempts, violence and arrests targeting Cameroon's gay community.
"Eric was an inspiring activist whose work was deeply appreciated by human rights activists in Cameroon and around the world," said Neela Ghoshal, a senior lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights researcher at HRW.
In Cameroon, people can receive a prison sentence of up to five years for homosexuality and the country puts more people in jail for gay sex than any nation in sub-Saharan Africa, The Huffington Post reported.
"It is a big loss for our community, and we are a bit scared about what can happen to us," said Yves Yomb, the executive director of gay rights group Alternatives-Cameroon. "He was one of the leaders of this community. So what can happen to the other leaders?"
Yomb lauded Lembembe’s tenacity to fight for what he believed in.
"He was very, very, very active in the fight for LGBT rights in Cameroon," Yomb said. "In his work as a journalist, when he wanted to have information he would call you until you gave him the information that he needed."
Lembembe released a statement on July 1 that could have angered the anti-gay community: "There is no doubt: anti-gay thugs are targeting those who support equal rights on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Unfortunately, a climate of hatred and bigotry in Cameroon, which extends to high levels in government, reassures homophobes that they can get away with these crimes."