Cameroon: Interview with Lapiro de Mbanga



Interview with Lapiro de Mbanga

”This is the trial of the voiceless”

Lapiro de Mbanga was interviewed just a few hours before the verdict of three years imprisonment and a fine of FCFA 280 millions was confirmed at a court hearing on 24 June 2009 in Douala.

By Jen Bell, Freemuse’s correspondent in Cameroon
in the Appeal Court of Bonanjo in Douala

  Lapiro de Mbanga in court
  on 24 June 2009

Freemuse: How do you feel?

Lapiro de Mbanga: “I feel like I did on the first day. I continue to ask myself what I am doing here. I don’t know why they have caught me. I don’t know why I am condemned. I am an observer of my own story, to tell you the truth. I don’t reproach myself for anything. I am calm, I feel serene. I leave it up to Justice to do her job. That is all.”

What has these proceedings cost you since the beginning?

“Nothing! But these proceedings have a negative impact on the nation in the eyes of the international community. This is not Lapiro’s trial. It is the trial of the voiceless. Many people have been condemned for the February 2008 event, and their judgements have not been covered by media. These proceedings will set a precedent. Magistrates and students of law will use it as a study case in schools and in their works for obtaining Masters or Doctorate and any other diploma. It is God who is using me for the history of my country and I feel proud. I am happy for it. ”

Talking of God, in one of your hearings, some women came to the court saying that they were sent by God to free you. What is your relationship with them?

“I have no business with those women. After their first intrusion to the Court, I was obliged to hide myself inside the prison to avoid meeting them and allow people making any relationship with them. Because when you have an opponent who is a ghost, he can take all sizes. So, I have to hide in order to not become confused. Unfortunately, one day that I was outside to meet one of my visitors, somebody showed me the women, saying that “these are women in prison because of you”. It was that day I saw them for the first time, and it was that same day they were jailed. What I can say is that this is God’s works. Nobody can explain it. How many people have being jailed unanimously? You want me to talk about me? It is not possible. This is not Lapiro’s case. I am a spirit used by God and nothing else. Some people before me went till the supreme sacrifice. Maybe one day, there will be a monument in memory of Lapiro de Mbanga.”

Can we say that prison has weakened you?

“With what? (laughter). With what? (laughter). Prison had obliged me to rest. I am doing a liberal job where if I stop working, I will have nothing to eat and it will be difficult for me and my family. For that reason, I am obliged to run up and down, travel to United States of America, Europe… give concerts everywhere and do small jobs to feed my small family. Maybe you don’t know that I have started playing music in 1976. 33 years today that I did not rest. Am I looking like somebody who is weak? My wife finds me more charming (laughter). She is the one telling it to me.”

How about your musical inspiration? Can we say that you have become inspirited while in prison?

“Listen! Music is my job. I am a singer who develops thematics. Even if it is not in music, when I have some thing in mind, I write it somewhere and keep it. I am a creator of spirit work, and it comes from God. I can only accept what comes from him. Songs, we will have always. But I will not sing anything. I am talking about songs that will be forgotten very soon. I am a singer with his characteristics. A particular African singer. I am not a singer like Georges Brassen, the French singer. What I have to say to my fans is that they should be calm. Lapiro sings and he will always sing. Now, if I lost my voice because in prison I eat “contchaf” everyday, “contchaf” is maize and beans mixed with palm oil meal, I have children in this country and everybody knows they are growing. They will continue singing. Music is a job that one learns once in life. I know all my chords and for that reason, it is difficult for me to forget to sing and play.”

Does Lapiro continue to be popular even while in prison?

“I don’t see it like that. I condemn those who are proud on Gods gift. I did nothing to be popular. So I cannot be proud of it. It is a God-given gift. Who knows, maybe tomorrow I will not to be popular again. I give thanks to God and leave him continuing using me as he would like in order to increase this gift.
One can ask why I am talking a lot about God. Rest assured, I am not yet a pastor. What I say is that we have to praise he who gives the breath, he who gives life and who makes me do many things. I am not a member of any church, but I read a lot in the Bible. In the Gospels according to St John, St Matthew and others, it is about the relationship between God and those people. Lapiro also has his story with his God. I adore what God does for me. That is what I am trying to give as testimony to others. I am a happy man. Coming back to your question, my answer is what have I done to be popular? It is God’s gift. It comes and goes. I have nothing but to praise and thank Him. ”



Click to listen to Lapiro's song on

Click to listen to Lapiro’s song on

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