- The Network of African Freedom of Expression Organisations [NAFEO] is deeply concerned about the repression of freedom of expression, including artistic in Cameroon where two renowned musicians continued to linger in jail for singing songs criticising a recent constitutional amendment that allowed President Paul Biya unlimited terms of office.
Joe La Conscience and Lapiro de Mbanga were arrested respectively 20 March and April 9, 2008.
Mbanga, a known member of the opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) party, was summoned and subsequently arrested by the gendarmerie of Mbanga City. He was reportedly accused of instigating the mass demonstrations against high cost of living in February.
Most people linked his arrest to a song he had composed entitled "Constipated Constitution", warning President Biya of the dangers the amendments could create.
Joe La Conscience, who also composed a song condemning the constitutional amendments, was convicted to six months imprisonment for staging an illegal demonstration.
After he had been prevented from marching against the amendment, Conscience decided to effect a sit-in strike at the US Embassy in the capital Yaoundé. Blamed for the unlawful act, the musician was arrested before he had been prosecuted.
On April 10, Cameroon's national assembly approved the Constitutional Amendment Bill, allowing Mr Biya not only unlimited terms of office, but also granted him immunity for any acts he had committed while in office. When his current term expires in 2011, Biya would have ruled Cameroon for 28 years.
"We urge the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Lapiro de Mbanga and Joe La Conscience," NAFEO officials write, encouraging defenders of free express to send letters of protest to the nearest Cameroon embassy, demanding the release of the renowned musicians.
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