Log-book: June 2006
In Cameroon At the Senegal Consulate The Forum and public discussion against homophobia
I arrived in this country for the first time and rapidly got to know Douala, the economic capital, with its great harbour on the ocean and Yaoundé, the political capital.
When I said to the Cameroonians that my destination was Moloundou, they were astonished! They had never gone to this most out-of-the-way village of Cameroon situated at the border of the Congo but they knew that Moloundou was far away and the trails to go there are not safe. Their curiosity is even greater. Why are you going there ?
Because I have been invited by Mathias, a Cameroonian Pentecost's minister. A few years ago, he had chosen with his wife to leave his ministry in Douala to live amongst the pygmies who were put aside and threatened. He was said to be crazy.
Another life started for him, his wife and his children. Mathias felt isolated. He wanted me to see the work he was doing and to be reinforced in his project. His project seemed evangelical to me so I decided to go on location.
Mathias travelled 1300 Km to meet me at the airport. On my departure he was also there and he did not hesitate to make this long trip to accompany me.
It took us three days to arrive in Moloundou. It was hot and humid and there was exuberant vegetation. The trees with flowers are enchanting and I admired the butterflies with their long wings. In the overcrowded taxi bus, I was the only white man and it was the same the whole weeklong. The trucks carrying trees regularly pass on the trail raising clouds of red dust transforming little by little our faces and clothes. A violent storm broke out. There was no more dust but the trail became almost impassable.
Some 300 trucks leave the forest everyday in Cameroon. They are loaded with enormous tree trunks, heading for the harbour of Douala. Accidents are not uncommon on the trails. I saw three loads toppled over in the ditch.
I was staying in the poor house of the minister. We are a great number! Not counting the children, there were also young pygmy orphans living there. When you need water, you take a bucket and fill it up at the well. When night fell, we lit the oil lamp.
With Mathias and his wife, we sat in front of the house alongside the road. The evening was calm. We took the time to talk. A few mosquitoes joined us.
The equatorial forest impressed me. It is said to be a primary forest. Trees with giant trunks have grown in the middle of a tangle of lianas and bushes. We could hear the birds. Trees 50, 60 metres in height were overlooking the huge forest.
It is there that I met the Pygmies, called here Bakas. Their life is the forest. They find what they need to eat in the forest.
I found them reserved and attentive. They greeted the stranger that I was who had come to visit them. Most do not have a civil status. To build trust, give them access to school and health care, those are the tasks to which are dedicated Mathias and other Christians. Let us not forget the plantation of oil palm trees that give hope to the Bakas.
The forest is the prey of the timber companies. The destruction of trees for commercial purposes is weakening this natural heritage of humanity. Wildlife and plants is slowly disappearing.
By touching the forest it is also touching the Pygmies. Large-scale deforestation is threatening their future.
At the Senegal Consulate
- Five Senegalese have been arrested by the police and taken to prison to await their deportation to Senegal. First the Consulate started to verify if they were really Senegalese. In order for the people concerned to take the plane and be returned to their country they must have their passes signed by the Consul.
As usual in such cases, the organizations made every efort to stop the expulsions.
- It is shameful and humiliating for people with no official documents to go back to their country with their hands hancuffed.
Each month a Senegalese normally sends back 50 Euros to his family. It is an important sum making it possible for his family to survive one month.
A delegation asked to meet the Consul to ask him not to sign the passes. We were admitted without delay. But in the meanwhile, the Senegalese were released. The Consul had not signed.
He had a meeting with us in a brotherly way during one hour and told us with modesty that their release was due to our concerted action. In spite of the agreements between Senegal and France and the pressures that have not failed to be exerted against him, the Consul did not give away. Last year, he signed only 60 passes. At present, there are 175 000 Senegalese of which approximately 45 000 have no official documents.
The President of the Republic of Senegal is coming for a visit of one week in France. It is a good opportunity to meet him. The Consul encouraged us to make this approach. Contact was made with the Senegal Ambassador. We will ask the President to speak in favour of the regularization of allSenegalese with no official documents.
The Forum and public discussion against homophobia
The International Day Against Homophia is an opportunity to organize a forum and a public discussion at the headquarters of the Communist Party: " From the fight against discriminations to emancipation ".
I responded to the invitation that I had received. A practical and original evening. Political, union and social leaders mounted to the rostrum. Even today, homosexuals and transsexuals suffer from being rejected on a daily basis more or less openly by the rest of society at work, at school and even in their own homes. Reactionary speeches are partly responsible for renewed contempt and intolerance that has given way to an upsurge of violent acts.
In the grand hall, speech flowed freely. A young man with dyed hair came up to the microphone. He testified calmly of the insults made at him by classmates because of his homosexuality. Nobody supported him. He was expelled from the school. His speech gave the tone to the rest of the evening. A number of testimonies were given with much emotions and sufferings.
Rejection by others, community withdrawal, refusal of differences, fears and shame of oneself: all this must fought by dialogue and new legislative rules.
How can improvement be made on a day-to-day basis? What roles must the schools, professionals, territorial communities and country leaders play? No mention was made of the Church. How can help be given to those men and women who remain silent, oblige themselves to appear to be homophobic and take refuge in lies, dangerous practises or suicide?
After the debate, a get together is organized. A great number of us stayed to drink and get to know each other.