Cameroon: Lapiro appears at the Supreme Court




Lapiro appears at the Supreme Court

On Thursday 17 March 2011, just three weeks before the musician’s planned release from prison, Lapiro’s case was called to the Cameroon Supreme Court for what appeared to be superflous technicalities.

Lapiro wtih his lawyers in front of the Supreme Court in Yaounde

By Jen Bell

The appearance at the Supreme Court concerned Lapiro de Mbanga’s case against the Public Ministry and others for “instigating looting and the destruction of property” during the February 2008 riots. For that, the Littoral Court condemned him in 2008 to three years of imprisonment with a 200 million CFA fine (approximately 300,000 euros) to be paid to SPM, the Mbanga Plantation Company and a 80 million CFA fine (approximately 120,000 euros) to be paid to the Ministry of Finance.

On 14 August 2009 one of his lawyers, Barrister Augustin Mbami, made a demand for bail. The appeal for bail was the matter that necessitated the recent court holding. The lawyers, Barrister Manfo and Ndefo, who were present in court declared that they wanted to withdraw the demand for bail. But not before the President of Tribunal announced that the argument was inadmissible. The judgment lasted for about 20 minutes.

After that first call to the Supreme Court in Yaounde, Lapiro de Mbanga and Barrister Manfo were interviewed by Freemuse’s correspondent in Cameroon, Jen Bell.

Lapiro de Mbanga:
»I will be stronger to keep on the battle«

Freemuse: What are your impressions following today’s judgement?

Lapiro de Mbanga: It is only the beginning. The battle has just started. There is a lot to do. The call was about the bail. We have heard that SPM to whom I have to pay 200 million CFA [300,000 euros] was not notified. When it will be done, if SPM does not react, the court can judge on the appeal. I mostly count on the procedures I have intended for myself against the SPM. The SPM has given false accusations and a false testimony about me in this matter meanwhile within the SPM eight staff witnessed on my behalf.

The judge of Mbanga has found means to hide their declarations, but thank God, I am today in possession of these declarations, where some of SPM’s staff have testified in my favor. For my sentence, the Mbanga tribunal was obliged to withdraw this evidence from the file. But one thing is sure: On the 9th of April 2011, I will be released from prison. I will have a strong back up and will be morally fine with my wife and children around me. I will be stronger to keep on the battle.

Are you going to put an end to your musical career or continue?

I cannot live without singing.

Are you confident of the case?

Yes! Times change. People and things change too. It will take two, five or even ten years, but you know that for the truth to be known, you need not to hurry. The truth will always triumph.

Three years of imprisonment is that not too much?

Three years is nothing. Imagine that I am in prison with people condemned to 15, 25 years or for life. Three years is nothing, except for the fact that it is three years of innocence.

Are your spirits high?

Yes! My spirit is high because of the 9th of April. I know am not in prison because of the February 2008 riots, but for my song ‘Constitution Constipée’. This time spent in prison gave me the time to prepare another song that will be more critical than ‘Constitution Constipée’ — ‘A word to the wise is sufficient’.

Are musicians free in Cameroon?

I don’t think Cameroonian musicians have problems because they sing sex, love… and they cannot be pursued for that. Rather, such musicians are always called to perform in the Presidency and other big places. Never will you hear that musicians like Valsero, Longue Longue or Lapiro de Mbanga are called, even though we are not the enemies of our country. One has to know that there are problems in our country and people like us are there to talk and to denounce without being jailed.

Me Manfo, Lawyer and Barrister at Law:
»We are saying it is a political trial«

Freemuse: Why this call a few days before the release of Lapiro?

Me Manfo: This is a normal procedure of the Supreme Court. They have a lot of files. I don’t want to imagine something else is behind this decision. They have called us today to say that our demand on the bail of Lapiro is inadmissible. I understand they have studied the file. I don’t want to make any comments between the release of my client who now has only 22 days before his release and the appeal of this morning. Logically on the date of 9th April, he will be outside the prison. What was interesting today is the opening of the case and that they explained to us what they reproach to our client. We were here today to withdraw the demand for bail we tendered in August 2009 because it is late now.

When is the case to appear in court again?

We are waiting for the summons of the Supreme Court. While waiting, we, Lapiro’s lawyers, are going to meet to see what we are going to do as we prepare for the next case.

But is Lapiro going to be released on 9th of April?

Normally yes, because he has already paid for the fine levied by the Public Ministry that is 540,693 CFA [approximately 800 euros]. He will have to spend 18 months more in jail if he had not paid. You can see the receipt.

What about the others fines Lapiro has to pay?

For now, the fine of 280 million CFA is not obligatory because the judgment of the Littoral Court in Douala is not yet over.

All along the procedure, the Lapiro’s defense complained about the trial saying that it was a political one. Is it still the case now?

Yes. We still talk about a political trial because when we look through his case, we see that all those who have to testify against him are his political opponents, and that the decision was not fair. That is why till now we are saying it is a political trial.


Read more
about Freemuse’s visit to Cameroon:

‘Freemuse visits Lapiro in prison’
‘Lapiro receives award on Music Freedom Day’

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