FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LAPIRO DE MBANGA STARTS NEW LIFE IN U.S.
November 7, 2012
Not everyone gets a second chance to make a new life, but on a crisp September day former Freedom Now client Lapiro de Mbanga, his wife Louisette, and three of their children landed in Buffalo, New York. Thousands of miles away from the life they left in Cameroon, they stepped onto United States’ soil and in Lapiro’s own words “tasted freedom for the first time”. The United States granted Lapiro and his family asylum after Lapiro was wrongly imprisoned in Cameroon and the family was subjected to repeated threats and harassment. I recently met Lapiro and sat down with him for a short interview. Watch a segment of the interview here:
Freedom Now championed Lapiro’s case over the course of three years, trying to secure his release from wrongful detention in Cameroon and helping to bring him to the United States. With the help of the law firm Wilmer Hale, we obtained a legal opinion from the United Nations finding Cameroon’s detention of Lapiro to be a violation of international law. We worked with the United States government and members of Congress to engage with the Government of Cameroon on his case. Senator Dick Durbin personally raised Lapiro’s case with the Cameroonian government, including directly with the Prime Minister. The case was even raised with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Lapiro was released in April 2011.
I myself had dozens of phone calls with Lapiro while he was imprisoned and video skype calls after he was released. But nothing compares to the moment I met him in person. After all the time spent working on his case, I finally had the chance to meet him and his wife Louisette in person for the first time. The meeting was an emotional one, the three of us embraced and cried, saying nothing at all for a long time. It was - and will be - one of the most treasured moments in my life, and an illustration of the very reason why I work with Freedom Now.
Lapiro suffered for nearly three years in prison in Cameroon. After releasing the song “Constipated Constitution,” in which he satirized Cameroonian President Paul Biya, Lapiro was arrested on fabricated charges relating to protests that swept Cameroon in 2008. He was held in New Bell Prison, known as “hell on earth,” as punishment for his vocal criticisms of the government. Lapiro’s case attracted worldwide attention and in 2009, following the advocacy of the Copenhagen-based organization Freemuse, he was awarded the Freedom to Create prize.
Lapiro is now safe and living in the United States. He will continue to record and perform music, and will advocate from abroad for change in Cameroon. As he said himself “I have no choice. I must speak out and sing.”
Our campaign on behalf of Lapiro de Mbanga – and indeed his safe resettlement in the United States - would not have been possible without individual donations. Please consider supporting Freedom Now and people like Lapiro de Mbanga. To donate, please click here.