Cameroon's president's daughter comes out as lesbian; this is a punishable offence in her home country. A brave step towards emancipation?

Two women kiss.

Brenda Biya (left) and her new friend Layyons Valença Screenshot: instagram kingnasty

What kind of country is this where the sex life of the daughter of the Head of State is extremely explosive? It is Cameroon. There homosexuality is not only frowned upon and punished, as in many African countries. The mere suspicion of it is a career killer who serves as blackmail.

“In Cameroon, we are on a different level, the lowest. Homosexuality does not officially exist,” said human rights lawyer Alice Nkom, who was forced into exile and founded the association ADEFHO (Association pour la Défense des Droits des Homosexuals), in an interview with taz in 2013: “It can no longer be the case that someone says publicly that homosexuals are more useless than any animal. “So homosexuals must first be brought into the circle of the people.”

Alice Nkom now has a late satisfaction: Brenda Biya, the daughter of the president, is out! The 27-year-old posted intimate photos of herself with Brazilian model Layyons Valença on her Instagram account on June 30. “I’m crazy about you and I want everyone to know it,” she wrote to her 323,000 followers. “Bravo Brenda!” Alice Nkom replied.

Brenda Biya is not just any president's daughter. Her father, Paul Biya, is the world's oldest sitting president. He has been oppressing Cameroon since 1982 and is now 91 years old. He rarely appears in public; he apparently lives more in Swiss sanatoriums than in the presidential palace in Yaoundé, if he is still alive at all.

Full-time person with a rap career.

Her daughter Brenda also lives in Switzerland, as a rapper called King Nasty, which can only be seen with a lot of imagination as an allusion to her origins. “Hi, my name is Brenda Biya, I am the first daughter of Cameroon and I am a part-time artist and a full-time person,” she writes in case anyone didn’t understand.

She was probably only able to become a “full-time person” abroad. When the First Daughter wanted to discover the Yaoundé club scene as a child at home, it proved difficult because as soon as she went outside, the club was turned into a high-security wing and those present were thrown out by security, making the evening rather pointless. She then built her rap career in Los Angeles.

When her mother Chantal brought her home, they argued so much that they both ended up in hospital during a stopover in Switzerland, it is reported. Otherwise, Brenda has been seen in luxury hotels in Paris, where room rates start at 5,000 euros. When a fan once asked her to tell her father to “unblock” Cameroon, she replied: “It's not my problem.”

Number One Gossip Topic

So no one knows what is fake and what is real when it comes to this luxury brat, maybe not even herself. And she is not in danger: firstly, she lives abroad and secondly, she is the daughter of the president. But her coming out is now the number one topic of gossip in Cameroon. Some believe she wants to expose her parents. In a patriarchal society like Cameroon, children's bad behaviour falls on their parents.

“You are a real person. What you are and what you do is the fruit of what you have been given. “Dogs do not breed cats,” an “open letter” from Cameroon ironically defends her, but also complains that while she shows her bare bottom on the Internet, Cameroonian schoolchildren sit with their bare bottoms on the ground.

Particularly targeted is Chantal, President Paul's second wife after the death of his first wife Irène in 1992. Irène enjoyed respect because she raised without complaint the son Franck, whom her husband had fathered with his sister in 1971; Chantal, on the other hand, is considered a greedy usurper.

Disturbing look behind the facade

Franck Biya, 53, Brenda's half-brother, is now considered a presidential candidate; Brenda, on the other hand, is considered a failure. Both are attributed to the mothers. A malicious rumour is that mother Chantal is also in love with Brenda's new girlfriend.

All this suggests that the House of Biya is crumbling and Cameroon's 30 million people are watching. At 92, will Paul stand again in the next elections in 2025, the outcome of which will be clearer than ever? Will he hand over his seat to Franck? What will the powerful Chantal do then? Or will he simply die and Cameroon will then descend into chaos?

When rumours spread in 2004 that Paul Biya was dead, he flew home from Switzerland and said: “There are people who are interested in my funeral. We will see each other in twenty years.” He then had his rivals eliminated with a wave of arrests: in Cameroon there is a kind of corruption charge against all politicians and, if necessary, of homosexuality.

Twenty years have passed since June. Cameroon can tremble. In the land of organised opacity, even the briefest look behind the facade can have a disturbing effect.