Two Years On, Songwriter Remains Imprisoned
International PEN protests the continued imprisonment of singer-songwriter Lapiro de Mbanga (Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo), whose final appeal has still not been heard despite having served more than two years in jail. Detained on April 9, 2008, Mbanga was sentenced to three years in prison in September 2008 for allegedly taking part in anti-government riots. However, PEN believes that Mbanga, who is known as an outspoken critic of the Cameroonian government both as a songwriter and an opposition party member, is being punished for his critical views, in violation of his right to freedom of expression. PEN calls on the Cameroonian authorities to release Mbanga and journalist Lewis Medjo, who is also serving a three-year prison sentence, immediately and unconditionally.
More than two years after his arrest and detention, Mbanga’s appeal is still pending before the Supreme Court in the capital Yaoundé, following numerous delays. In March, the Independent Commission Against Corruption and Discrimination reportedly wrote to President Biya asking for a pardon for Mbanga and another political prisoner on the basis of numerous irregularities in their trials. However, Mbanga said that he would reject a presidential pardon were it offered to him, preferring to wait for his appeal to be heard by the Supreme Court.
Mbanga is detained at New Bell prison, Douala, where conditions are reportedly very poor. The songwriter is housed in a cell with 36 other inmates. Among those sharing the cell is Lewis Medjo, journalist and publisher of the Douala weekly newspaper Détente Libre, who was jailed in September 2008 and sentenced to three years in prison for “publishing false news” about President Biya. Both Mbanga and Medjo have suffered from ill health since their imprisonment and have unsuccessfully sought release on humanitarian grounds. Medjo reportedly has numerous health problems and has lost a significant amount of weight, yet has limited access to medical attention.
In November 2009, Mbanga was one of five cases highlighted for International PEN's annual Day of the Imprisoned Writer. The same month, he was also awarded the "Freedom to Create" Imprisoned Artist Prize.
Write A Letter
- Protesting the continued imprisonment of the singer and songwriter Lapiro de Mbanga (Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo) and journalist Lewis Medjo, both detained in 2008 and serving three-year prison sentences for, respectively, taking part in anti-government riots and “publishing false news”;
- Expressing the belief that Mbanga and Medjo’s convictions stem from their critical writings—in Mbanga’s case from a song he wrote criticizing controversial constitutional amendments—in violation of their right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Cameroon is a signatory;
- Expressing concern that Mbanga’s Supreme Court appeal has been subjected to numerous delays and is still pending;
- Also expressing concern over reports that Mbanga and Medjo’s health have deteriorated due to poor prison conditions and that Medjo in particular has only limited access to medical treatment;
- Calling on the authorities to release both Mbanga and Medjo immediately and unconditionally.
Send Your Letter To
President President Paul Biya
Fax: +237 22 22 08 70
Mr. Philemon Yang
Fax: +237 22 23 57 35
Please send a copy of your appeals to the diplomatic representative for Cameroon in your country if possible.
Please check with PEN if sending appeals after June 21, 2010: ftw [at] pen.org