Cameroon: Imprisoned for singing ‘Constipated Constitution’

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Cameroon:
Imprisoned for singing ‘Constipated Constitution’

Two musicians have been arrested for criticizing constitutional amendments which allows the president unlimited terms of office, reported Media Foundation for West Africa

Two renowned musicians, Lapiro de Mbanga and Joe La Conscience, have been arrested and detained by the authorities in Cameroon for singing songs in which they criticized the recent controversial constitutional amendments, which allows the president unlimited terms of office.

The two were arrested respectively on 9 April and 20 March 2008.

The award-winning singer Lapiro de Mbanga (real name: Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo), who is also a known member of the opposition party Social Democratic Front (SDF), was summoned and subsequently arrested by the gendarmerie of Mbanga City. According to sources in Cameroon the 51-year-old Makossa singer was accused of instigating the mass demonstrations against high cost of living which took place at the end of February.

The sources report that Mbanga’s arrest was linked to a song he wrote entitled ‘Constipated Constitution’ which warns president Paul Biya of the dangers the amendments could create.

Six months in prison
Joe La Conscience, who also wrote a song condemning the amendments of the constitution, was convicted to six months imprisonment for an alleged illegal demonstration.

When prevented to carry through a march he had planned against the amendments, Joe La Conscience arranged a sit-in at the US Embassy in the capital Yaoundé. This was deemed unlawful by the Cameroon authorities who subsequently arrested Joe La Conscience.

Immunity to the president
The Constitutional Amendment Bill was adopted by the National Assembly in Cameroon on 10 April 2008. The amendment allows an unlimited number of presidential mandates, which according to critics empowers president Paul Biya to continue to rule for life.

The amendments also grant immunity to the president for any acts committed by him during his time in office. The Network of African Freedom of Expression Organizations (NAFEO) is deeply concerned about the repression of artistic expression in particular and free expression generally in Cameroon. The network urges the Cameroon authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Lapiro de Mbanga and Joe La Conscience.

Professor Kwame Karikari, who is executive director of Media Foundation for West Africa (Fondation des Médias pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest), encourages supporters of free expression to send letters of protest and demands of the release of the two musicians to the nearest Cameroonian embassy.

    Embassy of Cameroon in USA:
    Fax (202)387-3826
    E-mail: cdm [AT] ambacam-usa.org

    Embassy of Cameroon in France:
    Fax : +33 1 46 51 24 52

    Embassy of Cameroon in Belgium:
    Fax: +32 (0) 2 345 18 70
    E-mail: embassy [AT] cameroon.be

Professor Kwame Karikari, executive director of Media Foundation for West Africa, can be reached at tel: 233 21 242470 – fax: 233 21 221084
E-mail : mfwa [AT] africaonline.com.gh

For further information, contact Jeannette Quarcoopome, Media Foundation for West Africa, 30 Duade Street, Kokomlemle, P.O. Box LG 730, Legon, Ghana, tel: +233 21 2424 70, fax: +233 21 2210 84, e-mail: events [AT] mediafound.org, Internet: mediafound.org

The information contained in this news article is the sole responsibility of Media Foundation for West Africa. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit Media Foundation for West Africa.

This text has been distributed globally in a news alert e-mail by the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) clearing house
555 Richmond St. West, # 1101, PO Box 407 Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5V 3B1
Tel: +1 416 515 9622   fax: +1 416 515 7879
alerts e-mail: alerts [AT] ifex.org
general e-mail: ifex [AT] ifex.org
Internet site: ifex.org


Article en fran
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Related reading on the internet

AfricanPath.com – 26 April 2008:

‘Cameroon: Joe la Conscience — Forgotten Prisoner of Conscience’

AllAfrica.com – 18 April 2008:

‘Cameroon: I’m Prisoner Without a Crime – Lapiro De Mbanga’


Freemuse sent the follwing letter by fax to

          Embassy of Cameroon in USA
          Fax 001 (202)387-3826

          Copenhagen, 25-04-2008

Excellencies,
We are writing to express our concern over the arrest of two of your country’s renowned musicians Piere Roger Lambo Sandjo – also known as Lapiro de Mbanga and Joe La Conscience.
According to our information they were arrested and detained by the authorities in Cameroon for singing songs in which they criticized the recent controversial constitutional amendments.

The two were arrested respectively on 9 April and 20 March 2008.
Freemuse is an international organization advocating freedom of expression for musicians and composers. We wish to remind your government of the principles of Article 19 and Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20: Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

We urge your government to immediately release the two musicians.

Yours sincerely

Marie Korpe
Executive Director


Click to read more Read more:
Freemuse joins campaign in support of the two musicians


 

Video clip on YouTube

Lapiro de Mbanga: ‘Prison’



Lapiro calls all embezzlers of state funds to be sent to prison:

“Send them to Kondengui Prison. Everybody to Kondengui…
ministers, directors send them to Kondengui,”
his lyrics go.

About Lapiro de Mbanga

Lapiro de Mbanga – also known as Ndinga Man [‘guitar man’] – is known for his satiric and critical lyrics. Since the 1980s, he has often criticised politicians and addressed social and economical injustice in Cameroun.

Lapiro de Mbanga’s biggest success came with his album ‘No Make Erreur’ which features Naimro from Kassav, Toto Guillaume and Jimmy Cliff. Singing mainly in pidgin, a West African creol language, he was able to reach a broad audience in all social layers of society, especially the young urban unemployed: the street sellers and taxi drivers.

At the culmination of Cameroun’s political crisis in 1991, Lapiro de Mbanga’s was accused of being “bought” by the ruling party. His club in the town of Mbanga and his car were put into fire, and a concert turned into a riot. He suddenly lost his support from his fans. In 1993, he returned with a new album, ‘Ndinga Man contre-attaque’ [‘The guitar man strikes back’].



Lapiro de Mbanga’s album ‘Ndinga Man contre-attaque’


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