Friday, December 11, 2020

Cameroon: Ayah Foundation discriminates against homosexuals -- an affront to humanitarianism

Homophobia is rife in Cameroon, a majority Christian country where homosexuality is still illegal in 2020 and homophobes take their cues from religion and a colonial law that is at odds with international human rights - and humanitarian - standards. Homophobia in Cameroon is alarming but not surprising. However, it is definitely surprising when homophobia and blatant discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation emanates from a humanitarian non-governmental organization. 

The Ayah International Foundation (AIF), commonly known as the Ayah Foundation, is an association described on its website as "a humanitarian organization with neither political nor religious affiliations committed to preserving and/or improving the lives of vulnerable persons around the world." Despite its charitable works - from orphanages to refugee camps and to supporting persons internally displaced by a crisis that broke out in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon in 2016 - numerous posts on the Facebook page of the foundation's president, which doubles as the foundation's Facebook page, from December 2019 into January 2020 reveal that the foundation, or at least its leadership, is homophobic and discriminates against individuals based on sexual orientation.

On December 30, 2019, in a Facebook update titled "Understanding Homosexuals", a photograph of a young girl was posted on the Ayah DeHumanitarian Facebook page and followers were asked to look at the "beautiful African queen" and "give me one reason why a man will go after a man for heaven's sake?" The Facebook page went to ask its audience, "Isn't the woman the best 'thing' God created?"

On the same day, in another Facebook post titled "AIF Doesn't Accept Donations from Homosexuals", the Foundation, through its president, reinforced its so-called "crusade" against homosexuality, which it dubbed "unholy". The organization "categorically" stated that it would "never knowingly receive funds from any homosexual" association or group. The association went on to state that it would refund the donation of an individual "if he proves to us that he is a practicing homosexual" and that he made a donation to the association.

In one of the screenshots of exchanges with the individual who took the association to task, the AIF president referred to the individual as "sick" and in need of "serious help".

At the time of this writing the post had garnered 159 comments, including a slew of homophobic comments -- none of which the foundation or it president disavowed or condemned.

Tripling down on its homophobia, the "DeHumanitarian" asked a question on his Facebook page the next day, December 31, 2019, about "preserving" Africa from homosexuality.
On the same day, he went on to post a piece calling on a ban on same-sex schools in a bid to "combat homosexuality".

On January 1, 2020 the AIF shared a post by a Cameroonian LGBTQ activist, Kiki Bandy, taking the foundation to task for its homophobia. In the post, the activist challenged Ayah Foundation to update its website with information that it does not accept donations from homosexuals, and she predicted that the post will hurt the foundation. In a post the next day, the president of the foundation promised to do so. The foundation also announced that it had reached out to the Cameroonian LGBTQ activist in a bid to refund her donation.

On January 7, 2019 the Ayah Foundation announced that it has updated its website to include a clause that it does not accept donations from "advocates, believers in, and/or practitioners of same sex marriage and/or homosexuality."


First of all, it is worth stating that the line between the personal Facebook page of the President of AIF and the association's is blurred and posts by the president of the association are in my view attributable to the association.

Non-discrimination constitutes the core of international human rights law, and discrimination on all grounds, including sexual orientation, race, sex, gender, nationality, political or other opinion, religion, color, disability, language and other grounds is prohibited in all key international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child. Regional human rights instrument, including the African Charter on Human and People's Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights

Drawing from the aforementioned Facebook posts, it is plausible to conclude that the Ayah International Foundation is blatantly homophobic and discriminates based on sexual orientation. A catalogue of Facebook posts from December 2019 into January 2020, as examined above, strongly support this assertion.

Some might argue that the Facebook posts in question are not attributable to the Ayah Foundation because there were posted by the president of the Foundation. Those who hold this school of thought are wrong. The words of the president of the Foundation are attributable to the Foundation because the president speaks for the Foundation, and the Foundation acted on the utterances of the president by updating its website to reflect the homophobic views expressed by its president. In addition, there seems to be, in fact, no distinction between the Facebook page of the President of the Foundation and the Foundation's because all the Foundations activities, including press statements are posted on the Facebook page in question. Above all, the Foundation has not disavowed or condemned the Facebook posts. It follows that the views expressed are representative of the views of the Foundation.

By not accepting donations from advocates and so-called "practitioners of same-sex marriages and/or homosexuality" the Ayah Foundation essentially does not accept donations from human rights advocates. This is the case because all human rights advocates worth their salt adhere to the principle of non-discrimination and oppose discrimination on all grounds, including sexual orientation.

A Foundation that discriminates should not be in the business of humanitarian work because humanitarianism is about humanity, and, according to teaching resources by the British Red Cross, the principle of humanitarianism "promotes mutual understanding, friendship, co-operation and lasting peace amongst all peoples." It follows that discrimination of any kind has no place in humanitarianism.

Impartiality and unity are among fundamental principles of the Red Cross, according to The International Committee of the Red Cross. 

The Red Cross, for example, which to me is the standard bearer of humanitarian action, "makes no discrimination" and "must be open to all".

While it is clear that the Ayah Foundation is homophobic and discriminates on grounds of sexual orientation against donors and humanitarians who seek to take humanitarian action through the Foundation, it remains unclear whether or not the Foundation discriminates in provision of assistance. However, the foundation certainly cannot be trusted to provide assistance to everyone, without discrimination of any kind.

The Ayah Foundation prides itself on its website as having no religious affiliations. That might be true but the Foundation is certainly influenced by the religious views of its president, who on January 5, 2020 posted a video preaching about tithing, on the same Facebook page that promulgated homophobia and discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. In the video, he raises questions, including "who is the Lord addressing in Malachi 3:10?" The video, it is worth mentioning, includes a link to the Foundation's website. The debunks the association's "no religious affiliations" claims. 

By refusing to accept donations from members of the LGBTQ community and advocates, the Ayah Foundation, a humanitarian association violates the principle of non-discrimination, which according to the International Committee of the Red Cross is a basic tenet of international humanitarian law. Violating a basic tenet of humanitarianism, in my view, is enough to disqualify an association or individual that calls itself humanitarian.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

A racist president of the United States? The case of Donald J. Trump

Since Donald J. Trump came down the escalator at Trump Tower in New York on June 14, 2015 and announced his run for the presidency of the United States there have been questions and debates whether or not the real estate businessman and reality television celebrity is a racist. The jury has been out for more than three years but the verdict finally came in on July 14, 2019 by way of a series of tweets by the controversial U.S. president.

On Sunday July 14, 2019 Donald J. Trump, president of the United States, directed a series of tweets at four Democratic congresswomen: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts - saying the four women of color should "go back" to the countries they "originally came from".

The Trump tweets prompted widespread condemnation - and rightly so - mostly from Democrats, and led to a vote on a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives to condemn the tweets. The resolution, according to the BBC, denounced the president's "racist comments that have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color." The resolution passed by 240 votes to 187 - with four Republicans, one Independent and all Democrats who voted supporting it, according to CNN.

Screenshot of Trump presidential bid announcement, June 2015

Meanwhile on Twitter #RacistPresident was trending.

I even weighed in with a tweet of my own.
The backlash was strong - with media outlets and numerous politicians, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi referring to the Trump tweets as "racist" and "xenophobic". In a tweet on July 14, the Speaker of House stated that when Donald Trump tells four congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to "Make America Great Again" has always been about making America white again. The Speaker said on the House floor that "every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president's racist tweets".

Across the Atlantic, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, condemned the Trump tweets as "blatant unashamed racism". The mayor was among British politicians who signed an open letter of solidarity with the attacked U.S. congresswomen along with almost 14,000 other signatories. British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn referred to the Trump tweets as "racist".

My Take

For many, the racist tweets attacking four congresswomen of color seem to have been the wake-up call that Donald J. Trump harbors racist white nationalist views but for me alarm bells went off way back in 2015 when he came down that escalator in Trump Tower and announced his presidential bid. Some of the things he said on that fateful day were, in my view, plainly racist. He said, for example, that "when Mexico sends its people they are not sending their best… they are sending people that have lots of problems and they are bringing those problems with us. They are bringing drugs, they are bringing crime, they are rapists..."

That was racist - and of course xenophobic.

Trump essentially launched his presidential campaign on a racist platform, and months later he called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on." That again was racist, xenophobic and, yes, Islamophobic. Needless to say, he went on to secure the 2016 Republican party presidential nomination and eventually became the 45th president of the United States. He was not done yet.

Remember Charlottesville?

Following a deadly clash between white supremacists and anti-racism protesters during a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017, Donald Trump said during a press briefing that there were "very fine people, on both sides" -- essentially drawing false equivalence between racist white supremacists on the one hand and anti-racism activists on the other.

Long before running for president the Department of Justice filed a housing discrimination lawsuit against Trump and his father. That was in 1973. According to an article on The New York Times titled "No Vacancies" for Blacks: How Donald Trump Got His Start, and Was First Accused of Bias, the Justice Department sued Trump Management for discriminating against blacks after an investigation into housing discrimination against blacks at Trump properties. Both Fred Trump, the Company's chairman, and his son Donald Trump, its president, were named as defendants. The lawsuit was settled in 1975. The New York Times reportedly carried out its own investigation and uncovered "a long history of racial bias" at Trump's family properties in New York and beyond.

Then there is the story of the "Central Park Five" - four blacks and one Latino young teens who were accused in 1989 of beating an raping a white girl in Central Park. The boys were interrogated under duress, according to Vox, and they offered a coerced confession. Trump took out full-paged front page ads in a number of newspapers calling for their execution. DNA evidence exonerated the boys thirteen years later and a serial rapist confessed to the murder -- but Trump refuses to apologize to the Central Park Five, even though they were exonerated and agreed to a $4.1 million settlement with the city of New York. Reading one of the Trump ads in relation to the Central Park Five titled "BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY! BRING BACK OUR POLICE!" it is easy to see that Trump attempted to paint a typical white nationalist picture of "us" against "them" in the ad: "I no longer want to understand their anger", he wrote. "I want them to understand our anger". That he refuses to apologize as of the time of this writing compounds his racial bias. It is hard to believe that Trump would have stuck to his guns if five white teenage boys accused of rape were exonerated by DNA evidence.

When it comes to Trump and racism the so-called "birther movement" that questioned President Barack Obama's place of birth and citizenship deserves an honorary mention. Donald Trump led the racist birther movement that spread the conspiracy theory that America's first black president was born in Kenya hence is not an American citizen and by extension cannot be a legitimate president of the United States. The movement, in my view, was based on the color of Obama's skin. It was racist. If Obama were a white U.S. politician - from say Mississippi - there would have been no question about his place of birth or eligibility for the presidency. According to an article on Fortune, Trump began echoing the birther conspiracy theory as far back as 2011.

Drawing from the afore, there is ample reason to believe that the 45th president of the United States is, well, racist.

"Go back to your country" - as Trump told the four congresswomen of color - is a statement straight out of the racist, xenophobic white nationalist handbook. It is a classic hate crime trope, according to NowThis News. Almost every person of color or person of African descent living in the United States (and/or Europe) and has had the misfortune of being confronted by a White nationalist or neo-Nazis must have probably heard it at least once. As an immigrant myself living in Finland I have heard the phrase from people I would aptly describe as racist. I have, for example, heard it uttered by a member of a Finnish neo-Nazi group during one of the group's demonstrations next to s shopping mall in the East of Helsinki. A member of the neo-Nazi group, it is worth mentioning, was later involved in the killing of 28-year-old man during a demonstration by the group in the heart of Helsinki - sparking debate whether or not the group should be banned.

I welcome the backlash directed at Trump for the racist tweets, and the resolution by the House of Representatives condemning the tweets but I am somewhat disappointed that it took so long for Americans, including the media to wake up - if they have woken up at all - to the fact that, as stated by George Conway, a New York lawyer and husband to Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, in an opinion piece in The Washington Post: "Trump is a racist president".

That statement by Mr. Conway encapsulates my take.

Come November 2020 Americans have an opportunity at the ballot box to fix the problem by rejecting racism and all the baggage that comes with having a racist president who puts cruel immigration policies in place such as family separations and putting migrants, including children seeking asylum in cages at the border because he views migrants and asylum seekers as "rapists" bringing nothing but "drugs" and "crime".

Friday, April 5, 2019

It's official: Cameroon is a dictatorship

The Republic of Cameroon has been ruled by one man, Paul Biya, since November 1982. By virtue of the president's longivity at the helm alone- and the fact that in 2008 the 86-year-old eliminated presidential term limits from the Constitution of the Republic - Cameroon has been tagged a dictatorship by many analysts. But recent, more disturbing events, including the arrest and imprisonment of a political party leader and presidential election candidate and his supporters have added weight to the assertion that Cameroon is, in fact, a dictatorship.

On January 28, 2019 Maurice Kamto, leader of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement - a party that contested the results of the 2018 presidential election, was arrested in Douala along other political activists, including one who was pulled out of his hospital bed where he was recovering from a gunshot wound sustained during a peaceful protest, according to The Guardian. Kamto was arrested after his opposition party organized several peaceful protests in towns across the country, including one in the economic capital Douala on January 26, 2019 during which police opened fire on protesters - wounding two prominent figures of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, namely Michelle Ndoki and Celestin Djamen. Human rights group Amnesty International condemned the violent crackdown and called for the release of more than a hundred peaceful protesters arrested for exercising their right to peaceful protests. The rights group also expressed concern that Maurice Kamto and more that a hundred supporters face the death penalty as Cameroonian authorities intensify crackdown of critics.

Screenshot: The Guardian
One month after the arrest of Kamto, Michele Ndoki, a lawyer and political activist of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement was arrested. Prior to her arrest, she was among those shot and wounded by police during a peaceful protest in Douala. She is one of the lawyers who argued before the Constitutional Council for the annulment of the 2018 presidential election. Amnesty International launched a petition calling for her release. According to the human rights group, she was arrested on February 25, 2019 while trying to cross the border to Nigeria. She faces charges of rebellion, hostility against the homeland, incitement of insurrection, offence against the president of the republic and destruction of public buildings and goods. She faces the death penalty, according to Amnesty International.

Earlier this week, a popular Cameroonian musician popularly known as Longue Longue was reportedly arrested in Douala in relation to a video he posted on social media criticizing the government and results of the disputed 2018 presidential election. He was reportedly released later.


Cameroon is a dictatorship. It has always been under 86-year-old president Paul Biya who has been in power for almost four decades -- but the arrest of opposition leader Maurice Kamto and his supporters on trumped up politically motivate charges solidifies Cameroon's place on the global list of dictatorships where authoritarian regimes crackdown of political dissent using riot police in the streets and judges in politicized courts, including military tribunals.

By arresting a political party leader and members of his party for protesting, Cameroon has now checked all the boxes of what makes a dictatorship:
  • Crackdown on peaceful protesters
  • Killing of protesters by riot police
  • Presidential elections marred by allegations of massive systematic fraud
  • Arbitrary arrests, torture and incommunicado detentions
  • Eliminations of presidential term limits
  • Arrest of opposition political party leaders and political activists
  • Stifling of free press through arrest and imprisonment of journalists
  • Prosecuting civilians before military courts
If you ever doubted whether or not Cameroon, under the Biya regime, is a dictatorship where human rights and fundamental freedoms are assaulted -- doubt no more. With an aggregate score of 19 out of 100 (19/100), the country is classified "Not Free" in the Freedom in the World 2019 report published by Freedom House

Dictatorships can always claim elections were free and fair, especially when, in some cases, bogus international observers like those uncovered during the 2018 presidential elections in Cameroon endorse the results. But dictatorships cannot deny the arrest and persecution of opposition political party leaders, political activists and journalists before military courts. According to Amnesty International in its 2017/18 annual report, human rights defenders, including civil society activists, trade unionists and journalists in Cameroon "continued  to be intimidated, harassed and threatened", and unfair trials continued before military courts, which are often "marred by irregularities". The report documents military court trials against journalists like Radio France Internationale correspondent Ahmed Abba.

Cameroon has always been a dictatorship. A country where the Head of State has absolute control over all branches of government, including the judiciary which is routinely being used to silence political dissent with the help of a sweeping anti-terrorism law -- a law that severely restricts freedom of expression and freedom of the press, and has landed several journalists, political activists and peaceful protesters before military courts on trumped up charges.

The mere fact that the Head of State, 86-year-old Paul Biya, Africa's oldest president who will be 92 when his new term ends, according to The Associated Press, recently won a seventh consecutive term in office - all disputed - after eliminating presidential term limits from the Constitution of the Republic in 2008 - points to a dictatorship but sometimes more evidence is needed to prove a case. Recent events in Cameroon over the past couple of months, including the arrest of political party leader Maurice Kamto and political activists of his party, Cameroon Renaissance Movement, have provided plenty of supporting evidence -- evidence that adds weight to the long-standing assertion that Cameroon under the Paul Biya regime is a dictatorship. 

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