Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Cameroonian authorities on February 1 to ensure an open investigation and protection for the alleged victims of businessman Hervé Bopda. The call came a day after Bopda’s arrest on charges of rape, sexual violence, kidnapping, and firearm threats, which were widely circulated on social media.
“Authorities now need to deliver a fair and impartial judicial process that respects both Bopda's defense rights and the victims' rights. 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. Effective investigations into Bopda and better medical and psycho-social support for survivors would be a good start,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa Director at HRW.
The allegations against Bopda sparked public outrage and mobilization. An online petition demanding his arrest collected over 20,800 signatures. Hashtags #StopBopda and #ArrêtezBopda emerged on social media platforms, including X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook. Lawyers have offered their services to victims seeking legal action. HRW reports that at least three complaints against Bopda have been filed. Bopda denies these allegations and has filed a complaint for defamation and complicity in death threats.
Marie Thérèse Abena Ondoa, Minister of Women's Empowerment and the Family welcomed the case’s referral to the relevant judicial authorities for investigation. She highlighted the recurring issue of violence against women and children in Cameroon. While the case is pending, the ministry assures its support for the complainants and their families, offering assistance through its listening and psychosocial support structures.
Ondoa encouraged all victims to break their silence to end the cycle of violence and provide the necessary information for judicial proceedings. Meanwhile, Bopda’s family expressed hope for a thorough, impartial investigation by the competent judicial authorities.