Cameroon: United Nations secretary-general urged to speak up for Lapiro

9 June 2010
The secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, visits Cameroon on 10 June 2010. By sending a letter to him, the American legal advocacy organisation Freedom Now makes use of this opportunity to make a pressure to Cameroon’s president Biya, asking Ban Ki-moon to request that the president releases the imprisoned singer Lapiro de Mbanga.


June 7, 2010 Mr. Ban Ki-moon
United Nations
New York, NY 10017

Dear Mr. Secretary-General:

In preparation for your travel to Cameroon on June 10, 2010, I write to bring your attention to the case of Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo, a.k.a. Lapiro de Mbanga, who is unjustly imprisoned in Cameroon. I ask for your assistance in ensuring that Cameroon act in a manner consistent with its own legal obligations and those of international law and release Mr. Mbanga from his illegal and unjust detention.

Mr. Mbanga is a prominent Cameroonian singer-songwriter who uses his music to highlight political oppression in Cameroon while promoting democracy and human rights. As a consequence of his non-violent advocacy on behalf of the Cameroonian people, Mr. Mbanga is wrongfully detained in New Bell Prison, commonly referred to as “hell on earth.”

In 2008, Mr. Mbanga, who is a member of the opposition party, released a song expressing frustration with President Biya’s now-successful efforts to eliminate presidential term limits, titled “Constitution Constipée.” Following the release of this song, Mr. Mbanga was arrested and convicted of false charges stemming from his presence at a demonstration. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment and ordered to pay the exorbitant fine of XAF $280 million.

The Cameroonian government’s arbitrary detention of Mr. Mbanga for exercising his rights to freedom of expression, association, and right to participate in government violates Cameroon’s own constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Cameroon is a party. Further, Mr. Mbanga was not granted a fair trial as is required by Cameroon’s constitution and the ICCPR.

Mr. Mbanga’s incarceration conditions are inhumane and pose a serious, ongoing, and urgent threat to his life. He shares a cell with over 50 prisoners and suffers from typhoid and chronic respiratory infections, which the prison is not equipped to treat.

Given these serious flaws in relation to Mr. Mbanga’s detention, trial, and treatment; I urge you request that President Biya immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Mbanga.

Maran Turner
Executive Director

Click to see the letter in PDF format

Freedom Now soon finalizes a UN petition in support of Lapiro de Mbanga’s case.

“Musicians [such as Lapiro] that decide to become politically active and utilize their music as a tool to voice dissent are in my mind nothing short of magic and exceptionally powerful and more meaningful to the people in Cameroon, than, I think, anything else.”
Maran Turner, executive director of Freedom Now, in a Radio France International interview in 2009About Freedom Now
The mission of Freedom Now is “to free prisoners of conscience through focused legal, political, and public relations advocacy efforts.”

Václav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic and Desmond M. Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town are honorary co-chairs of Freedom Now.

  Click to read more about Lapiro de Mbanga's case

Click to read more about music censorship in Cameroon

Click to go to
 Maran Turner

Click to go to
Click to listen to Lapiro's banned song

14 June 2010
UN General Secretary asked Cameroon’s
president to consider Lapiro’s case
The South African newspaper Cape Argus reported on 14 June 2010 that UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon persuaded Cameroon’s President Pierre Biya to release journalist Lewis Medjo and to “favourably consider the case of prominent singer Lapiro de Mbanga”, both of whom had been sentenced to three years in prison for anti-government writing or activism. 


Cape Argus – 14 June 2010:
‘UN chief calls for reform of anti-gay laws’


Media coverage in Cameroon

Le Messager – 10 June 2010:

‘Assistance: Ban Ki-Moon interpell
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