By Amina Hilda
International non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Cameroonian authorities to provide medical and psychosocial support to victims of the alleged serial rapist, Herve Bopda.
In a publication on Thursday, February 1, the human rights NGO highlighted the need for a nuanced response to the Hervé Bopda case, which has sparked outrage and mounting calls for justice over the past 10 days.
“The ultimate goal though is to ensure zero tolerance for sexual violence in the future, including by strengthening the justice system to properly handle reports of sexual violence,” wrote Lewis Mudge, HRW’s Director for Central Africa.
“Effective investigations into Bopda and better medical and psycho-social support for survivors would be a good start,” he added.
The Herve Bopda affair was thrust into the public domain by Cameroonian whistle blower N’Zui Manto, who revealed disturbing details about a network of sexual predators allegedly operated by Bopda.
Manto claimed to have gathered over 1,000 testimonies from women and young girls who asserted that they were raped, abducted, and molested by Bopda and his associates.
Since the damning allegations emerged against the Douala-based businessman, both national and international platforms have called for a thorough investigation to bring justice to the victims.
An online petition, called #MeToo, aimed to bring justice to the victims of the Bopda affair, has garnered close to 28,000 signatures.
The Cameroon Government, through the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family earlier called for the judiciary to take action to see that justice is done.
Cameroonian activist and politician Edith Kah Walla has not been indifferent. She raised the broader concern of the Cameroon Government’s failure to protect women and girls from sexual abuses, which has been fueled by conflict, negligence and poverty.
“It is really a #MeToo moment as it is bringing to light a culture of powerful men preying on young people who are vulnerable because of their poverty and lack of social support,” she told HRW.
Reports say Bopda and his associates have been orchestrating a network of serial rapists in Yaoundé and Douala for about 20 years now.
The influential businessman is reported to have established close ties with government officials and influential people in the country who provided a cover for his alleged acts.
In response to the mounting pressure and public outcry for justice, Bopda was arrested on January 31 in Douala.
However, as the legal process unfolds, HRW has stressed the importance of ensuring a “fair and impartial judicial process” that respects both the rights of Bopda in his defense and the rights of the victims.