Music careerFor several years, Lapiro lived in self-imposed exile in Nigeria and Gabon. He returned in 1985 to Cameroon, where he proceeded to compose and record what Index on Censorship has described as “a long list of biting texts on the socio-economic realities in his beleaguered country.”
Nicknamed “Djinga Man,” Lapiro became “the idol of the downtrodden and forgotten workers who people the slums and bus stations of Cameroon” and “the spokesman for the youth of his country.” His hits of that period included “No Make Erreur,” “Pas argent no love,” “Kop Nie,” “Mimba We,” and “Na You.” He was regularly censored by the Cameroonian government.
ImprisonmentIn 2008, Lapiro criticized Cameroon president Paul Biya in the song “Constitution constipée” (“Constipated Constitution”). The song denounced the proposed amendment of Cameroon's constitutional clause, which limited presidents to two seven-year terms. The Cameroonian government banned “Constitution constipée” from the airwaves, however thousands of Cameroonians students used the song as an anthem as they rallied and rioted in the streets in February 2008 in protest against the proposed constitutional change, which would allow Biya to run for a new term in 2011.
Lapiro was arrested on April 9, 2008, and charged with “complicity in looting, destruction of property, arson, obstructing streets, degrading public or classified property, and forming illegal gatherings.” Two days later, the Cameroonian parliament adopted the new constitution that Lapiro had attacked in “Constitution constipée.”
On September 24, 2008, Lapiro was sentenced by the Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI) to three years in the New Bell prison near Douala. In December 2009 he contracted typhoid fever and nearly died of that disorder and respiratory complications. When authorities refused to send him to a hospital, his wife brought medications that helped save his life. In an interview, Lapiro said that he and his fellow prisoners had “penal rations twice a day. At 1pm we are given boiled corn and at 5pm there’s rice in some warm water. It’s the same every day. It’s way below minimum requirements.”
Freemuse, a Danish-based NGO, mounted an international campaign for Lapiro's release. In a 2010 interview from prison, he said that “If my wife didn't travel four hours here and four hours back every day to give me food and if Freemuse hadn't publicised my case worldwide, I'd have been dead long ago.”
In addition to Freemuse's campaign, the U.S.-based lawyers' organization Freedom Now monitored Lapiro's case throughout his incarceration. In April 2010, the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN also launched a campaign to help win Lapiro's freedom. In 2011, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared that Lapiro's arrest was an infringement of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
During his detention, Lapiro repeatedly appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court. On March 17, 2011, he refused to take advantage of an offer from the Supreme Court to be released on bail.He was released from prison on April 8, 2011, one day before the official end of his sentence.
Post-imprisonmentIn a July 2011 interview, Lapiro described the prisons in which he had been incarcerated as “rotten” and insisted that he had never encouraged young people to damage and steal other people's property. “I've never done anything of the sort. Instead, I did everything to prevent that from happening.” He called his trial “Kafkaesque,” saying that his fate had been “decided in advance,” despite the utter lack of evidence against him.
On July 13, 2011, in Lille, France, Lapiro returned to the stage for the first time since his release from prison. During the summer of 2011 he also played in Lausanne, Brussels, Paris, Barcelona, and at various venues in the United States, Canada, and Britain.
On September 2, 2012, Mbanga, his wife, and five of their six children left Cameroon for the United States, where they had been granted asylum. They arrived in the U.S. on September 14.
In late 2012 it was reported that Lapiro was seeking a publisher for his book Cabale Politico-Judiciaire Ou La Mort Programmée D’Un Combatant De La Liberté (Politico-Judicial Cabal Or The Planned Death Of A Freedom Fighter).
In 2013 Mbanga's case was reopened before the Cameroonian Supreme Court.
Culled from WIKIPEDIA with News Watch Jottings