Police raided a popular gay bar in Yaoundé early this morning, surrounding the site with police vehicles and making arrests en masse.
The Mistral bar in the Essos neighborhood of Cameroon’s capital city had been a welcoming oasis where gay men could relax, but starting at around 3 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 9, it became a traumatic location that police ordered to be evacuated, carrying away all the patrons in trucks to area police stations.
About 30 minutes earlier, police blocked the entrance to Mistral and would not allow anyone to leave. Two police officer entered the bar. People became anxious as they began to think of themselves as hostages.
In a country where gay men are stigmatized, with a law against homosexual activity, people feared that being rounded up at a gay bar would have troubling consequences for their personal lives and their relationships with family members.
Police then ordered people to leave the bar and checked for identification cards at the exit. Outside, with or without ID cards, all the bar patrons were ordered onto police trucks.
Police patrols were stationed at every corner of the cabaret — in front, beside, inside, behind.
As if it were a commando operation, armed police searched inside the bar for people hiding there. Some bar-goers tried to escape out the back, but another police truck was parked there.
At the time of this writing, it’s unclear how many people were arrested and where they were taken — reportedly some to the 4th district station, some to the 14th, some to the 16th. Also unclear is whether charges will be filed against those who were arrested, such as for violations of loitering laws, and whether the raid was an anti-gay operation or merely an attempt to impose order on a rowdy part of the city’s nightlife.
The author of this article is a LGBTI rights activist in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym.