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Over 100 Women Accuse Cameroonian Millionaire Of Sexual Violence

Hundreds of Cameroonians have accused one Hervé Bopda, a millionaire businessman in the country, of kidnap, rape and physical abuse with the use of firearms in Douala. 

The accusations poured in following the anonymous testimonies posted on X by a Cameroonian whistleblower with the username N’zui Manto. After the initial claim was posted on January 19, multiple testimonies were published under the hashtag #StopBopda. 

The testimonies, primarily written in French, revealed that the accused often approached his victims, both men and women, at restaurants or on the streets in his vehicle, forcing them to go with him or to share their phone numbers.

According to some of the victims’ testimonies, “He is ruthless. He brutalised me one evening because I refused to sleep with him.” 

“He confined my girlfriend for several months in her apartment, confiscated her phone and abused her for several days,” another victim wrote.  

Another victim said, “He took out his gun and started insulting me; he said that if he kills me, no one will do anything to him. When he finished raping me, he asked his driver to take me home, saying that he knew my house and if I spoke, he would kill me.” 

According to reports, Rose Villa in Bali is one of the spots where Bopda targeted some of his victims, which also included teenagers, and he was often accompanied by men in military uniforms, one of the victims revealed. “He works with certain men in high-ranking uniforms and has military uniforms at home and weapons.”

Following the revelation of his atrocities, Cameroonian citizens called for the arrest and prosecution of the accused and a petition was written and has been signed by over 20,000 people.

Responding to the allegations, the Cameroon Human Rights Commission, in a statement, said it could not deal with the allegations because anonymous persons reported them. It said the commission must interview the victims and examine the evidence before confronting the accused.

“However, since the initial denunciations are anonymous, it is objectively a leaflet which does not allow the Commission to deal with these allegations of human rights violations as it should, i.e. say, receive the applicants and interview them, examine the evidence placed in the file, listen to the alleged victims and the accused, hear the ETFMA witnesses, then confront the parties,” it said.

Cameroon’s Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Family, Madam Abena Ondoa, in a statement, expressed her support for the victims and encouraged them to approach the ministry for counselling and psychosocial support while she encouraged other victims to speak and break the chain of violence on women.   

Meanwhile, women and civil society organisations have called on the country’s government to act on the Bopda affair. In a letter addressed to the Attorney General of Cameroon, the Director of National Security, the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Territorial Administration on Thursday, a group of 22 women expressed concerns over the silence around violence women suffer. 

They charged the government to open an investigation into the allegations against Bopda and safeguard the identity of the victims. Also, following a complaint filed by a human rights lawyer, Dominique Fousse, through her firm, Universal Lawyers and Human Rights Defense, at the Douala Military Court, victims have been encouraged to contact the firm and its pool of lawyers.       

Cameroon Social issues

According to reports, 39% of women in Cameroon between 15-49 years have been physically abused since the age of 15, usually by someone close to them and the law of silence has prevailed for years.

Speaking in 2022 to UN Women, the Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Family was optimistic about change. She said, “Despite the law of silence, the percentage of reported cases is increasingly high, with a prevalence of over 40%. One woman in three has been a victim of physical, sexual, or psychological violence in her lifetime”.

A women’s organisation, Organisation Women in Entrepreneurship (WETECH), in 2023 created an application, AlertGBV, to help gender-based violence survivors.

Although Bopda has since filed a lawsuit for defamation of character by electronic communication, complicity and simple threat, testimonies against him have continued to pile up. 

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