Lapiro de Mbanga honoured at Cameroon Music Awards
|Organisers of the Cameroon music and cultural awards, Canal D’Or, have honoured jailed singer Lapiro de Mbanga with a Life Time Achievement Award.
The special tribute was presented in Douala to Lapiro’s wife, Louisette Lambo Sandjo, on 9 April 2010 in recognition of the artist’s work, especially his engaging lyrics on the social, political and economic situation of his countrymen, often delivered in the mboko variant of the country’s lingua franca, Pidgin-English.
“I dedicate this award to my husband and to all who are with him in cell number 18,” the emotional Louisette told the audience made up of politicians, senior civil servants, top class businessmen, musicians, comedians and journalists. “It is hard to hand-over such a prize to someone who is not free but it is a sign of recognition,” said Rabier Bindzi, one of the directors of the private television channel, Canal 2 International,which organises the awards.
The wife of the musician who was a candidate for the opposition SDF party during the 2007 Council elections said the tribute would be a sign of encouragement for Lapiro and his family.
Politically motivated imprisonment
In the beginning of April 2010, Shanda Tomne, a lecturer at the Yaounde Institute of International Relations, IRIC, did something exceptional. He wrote to President Biya appealing to him to pardon jailed musician, Lapiro de Mbanga. The eminent academic who is a writer, explained to the Head of State that Lapiro’s imprisonment was the outcome of a conspiracy by the musician’s enemies to victimise him.
A similar appeal was also made to the President by Paul Eric Kingue, Mayor of Njombe- Penja, jailed at the same time with Lapiro.
The Mayor explained that he was victimised for pressing on banana companies operating in his municipality to pay the required taxes. Lapiro had aligned with him to make the request which the companies were obliged to comply with. The response of the President to the Mayor’s plea is still awaited.
Lapiro is quite unlike the Njombe-Penja Mayor. The musician has rejected the presidential clemency idea preferring a Supreme Court ruling. Lapiro’s position is unmistakably the most rational under the circumstances. The musician has repeatedly declared that he is innocent of the charges leveled against him. The majority of those who followed the trial would agree with him that sentencing him was one of the greatest travesties of justice in legal history.
Witnesses were allegedly hired to testify against him and the DO of Mbanga who had persuaded him to calm agitating youth during the February uprising later burdened his conscience with a blatant lie that the destruction of property owned by a French banana company in Mbanga was instigated by the musician.
That Lapiro’s imprisonment was politically motivated is evident from the fact that he declared his intentions to become SDF Council list leader with the prospects of contesting for the position of Mbanga Mayor in the 2007 Municipal Election. CPDM authorities were almost certain that he could grab that coveted position given his soaring popularity.
At the peak of the constitutional amendment controversy, Lapiro also composed a hit single titled “Contitution Constipée”, condemning the amendment intended to make Biya life President. A similar request was made on behalf of Pius Njawe, founder of Le Messager Newspaper, after one of his numerous arrests for very critical reports and commentaries published by his newspaper.
The logic of the rejections lies in the fact that a presidential clemency is a way of silencing its critics because whoever benefits from it would be eternally grateful to the President. That Lapiro’s imprisonment has done a lot of damage to the image of the regime is discernable from the fact that the musician has received a number of prestigious awards since he was sentenced to the controversial three-year jail term and to pay FCFA 280 million.
The latest of them is Canal D’OR award, a world class award. The awards are clear messages to the Biya Regime that Cameroonians and the international communities are in solidarity with the jailed artist. Such recognition is a bad omen for the regime as it confirms its dismal, unfaltering human rights record.
Lapiro de Mbanga
George Esunge Fominyen’s Outlook (blog) – 11 April 2010:
‘Lapiro Honoured at Cameroon Music Awards’
The Post – official website:
International PEN – 21 April 2010:
‘Cameroon: Two years on, songwriter remains imprisoned’
About Peterkins Manyong
Peterkins Manyong was born in 1959 in Baba 1, Ngoketunjia Division in the Northwest Province of Cameroon. He has a BA in English Modern Letters from the University of Yaoundé. He taught in several secondary schools before embracing journalism. He is currently a leading political analyst, with regular features in The Post newspaper. He has won several prestigious awards in investigative journalism and political reporting.
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