The world woke up to the sad and shocking news that one of Africa’s leading HIV and LGBTI activists had passed on. Joel Gustave Nana Ngongang’s human activism work was spread across Africa with emphasis on his native country Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa among others.
Joel Nana as he was better known among his peers is considered one of the people that opened the doors for MSM (Men who sleep with men) activism in Africa; he was the founding Executive Director of the African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) and led the coalition of LGBT/MSM organizations working to address the vulnerability of MSM to HIV.
At the time of his death, Nana was the Chief Executive Officer of Partners for Rights and Development (Paridev) a boutique consulting firm on human rights, development and health in Africa.
Nana’s career as an LGBT human rights advocate began with a Cameroonian gay association called AGALES, where he worked from from 1999 until 2001. He later spent time in Nigeria, where he founded an African LGBT advocacy web site, returning to his native Cameroon in part to organise communication and assistance for imprisoned men.
In the spring of 2005, he co-founded, together with two gay activist colleagues, Alternatives-Cameroun, a human rights organisation working to address homophobia and end discrimination against lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender persons.
Also in 2005 following a raid on a bar in the capital of Cameroon, eleven men were arrested and imprisoned on charges of suspected homosexuality. . Nana was been particularly engaged in this issue, dedicating much of his work to publicising the plight of the arrested men. As a result of his efforts, on October 10, 2006, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared that the detention of the 11 Cameroonian men on the basis of their presumed sexual orientation was a deprivation of liberty.
The human rights community has shown massive support towards the deceased family and it is clear that a very influential piece of this tightly knit community has been stripped away.
“It had never occurred to me that so much energy, so much power, so much hunger and so much zeal to make the world better would suddenly be taken away from us. Joel was that and more. He was an activist, a colleague, a friend and a brother. He is already dearly missed. Rest in POWER my dear friend,” Dennis, a human activist from Uganda, re-laid about Joel Nana.
“I met Joel in 2006 in Joburg when he was going to take up my place at behind the mask as an intern at the end of my time. Since then we have been together in many places advocating, the African Commission, UN and recently in the European Parliament in December 2014. He was a very intelligent and funny person. I like the way he packed for trips, lots of bags one for each accessory. I will surely miss him n the world has lost a great advocate, friend, husband and father. Rest in power dear brother n comrade,” a sad and broken Kasha Nabagesera who worked closely with the deceased said.
“Joel will be solely remembered for the role that he played in exposing the issues and activities of LGBTIs in Cameroon as an activist. He served initially as an intern at Behind the Mask and much later served as board member. His growth over the years was very inspirational to most of us. His spirit and energies will be truly missed. May his soul rest in eternal peace! Aluta Continua!,” his mentor and friend Thuli Madi told Kuchu Times.