Cameroon: 50 public figures named in gay witchhunt by Cameroon's papers

The Guardian
Cameroon has been rocked by an anti-gay crusade in newspapers that have accused more than 50 prominent figures of homosexuality.
Homosexuality is illegal in Cameroon as in many African countries, with jail sentences of up to five years, and editors say they are on a campaign against "deviant behaviour".
The latest list by the weekly tabloid L'Anecdote sold out within hours and vendors resorted to selling photocopies. Those named included government ministers, news readers, popular singers and sports stars.

"Men making love to other men ... is filthy. It may be normal in the west, but in Africa and Cameroon in particular, it is unthinkable," L'Anecdote's publisher, Jean Pierre Amougou Belinga, told Reuters. "We could not remain silent. We had to ring the alarm bell. We don't regret it and we have to do it again ... in spite of numerous death threats that me and my journalists have had."

The tabloid La Meteo launched the campaign to "out" gays in Cameroon at the end of January with the publication of a three-page dossier of names, following a vehement denunciation by the Roman Catholic archbishop, Victor Tonye Bakot, at Christmas.

Archbishop Bakot criticised the European Union for giving legitimacy to homosexuality. He lashed out at those calling for same sex marriages and derided gay people who wanted to adopt children.

The archbishop claimed that Cameroonians had "resorted" to homosexuality in order to advance their careers and earn more money. The archbishop's arguments were largely repeated by the newspapers.

The lists have been attacked by the communications minister, Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo, one of those named.

He has threatened legal action and warned that the newspapers risked breaking up families. "Whether heterosexual or homosexual, sexual intercourse takes place in an intimate environment between two persons," he said.

Others named have said they were consulting their lawyers. Two of those named have written letters to the newspapers denying the reports. So far the Cameroonian 's president, Paul Biya, has not entered into the controversy.

According to some traditional beliefs, homosexual people are said to be cursed or bewitched.

Same-sex intercourse carries a penalty of six months to five years in prison and fines of up to $370 (£210) under Cameroonian law.

South Africa is to become the first African country to legalise same-sex marriage following the ruling in December by its top court that it was unconstitutional to deny gay people the right to marry.