By Daniel Gwarbarah
The case of ace musician, Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo aka Lapiro de Mbanga, serving a three-year prison term at the New Bell Prison in Douala, will soon be tabled to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
Rapid Action Network, a human rights pressure group, announced the initiative in a release dated April 21.The group recalls that Lapiro de Mbanga was detained on April 9, 2008 and sentenced to a three-year jail term in September of the same year for allegedly taking part in anti-government riots.
It observes that the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) is continuously protesting the imprisonment of the songwriter and singer "whose final appeal has still not been heard despite having served more than two years in jail…" "WiPC believes that Lapiro de Mbanga, an outspoken critic of the regime both as a musician and an opposition party member, is being punished for his critical views, in violation of his right to freedom of expression," the release states.
Calling on the authorities to release Lapiro, WiPC reiterated that the musician's appeal is pending before the Supreme Court in Yaounde following numerous delays. It states that in March, the Independent Commission against Corruption and Discrimination, COMICODI, reportedly wrote to President Paul Biya asking for a pardon for Lapiro, anchoring their plea on the numerous irregularities in his trial.
Lapiro is, however, quoted as having rejected such pleas for a presidential pardon, preferring to wait for his appeal to be heard by the Supreme Court. "A group of US lawyers working with Freedom are now preparing to submit Lapiro de Mbanga's case to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention," the Rapid Action Network release declares.
It highlights Lapiro's detention at the New Bell Pprison under very appalling conditions.
"The songwriter is housed in a cell with 36 other inmates. Among those sharing the cell is Lewis Medjo, a journalist and publisher of Détente Libre, who was jailed in September 2008 and sentenced to three years in prison for "publishing false news" about President Biya.
Both Lapiro de Mbanga and Medjo have suffered from ill health since their imprisonment and have unsuccessfully sought release on humanitarian grounds. Medjo is said to have numerous health problems and has lost a significant amount of weight, yet has limited access to medical attention," the release partly reads.
WiPC strongly believes that Lapiro's immediate woes stemmed from a song he wrote criticising the controversial constitutional amendment that guaranteed Biya life presidency, while Medjo is suffering because of his critical writings.