By Ange Ngu Thomas
Now on exile in the United States of America, Lambo Sandjo Pierre Roger, 56 (aka Lapiro de Mbanga) controversial Cameroonian Musician is one of the distinguished guests that will speak at the 3 day Freedom Forum conference that opens today in Oslo Norway.
The Oslo conference is organized by Freedom Forum, a global rights movement that highlights human rights violations across the world. The Organization was created among other things to bring humanitarian issues to the top of the global agenda and highlight the stories of human rights advocates.
During the Oslo conference, lapiro will deliver a paper titled “singing Truth to Power”
Lapiro de Mbanga re-located with his family to the United States of America last year after serving a three year prison term supposedly for organizing youths to burn down state property during nationwide strikes in February 2008.
Security forces killed more than 100 people during the riots that were caused by constitutional changes removing presidential term limits in Cameroon.
The changes enabled long serving president Paul Biya to stand for the 2011 presidential elections which he won easily. Lapiro and his supporters claim he was detained for releasing a highly critical song Constitution Constipe in which he criticized the constitutional changes.
Lapiro was only released following pressure from two international organizations, Pen International PEN and Freemuse.
Described as an “unceremonial sheriff of the backyards,” Lapiro has used the power of popular music, to campaign for social reforms in his native country for over two decades.
After leaving prison, a very angry Lapiro released another very critical song titled Demissionez in which he called on Mr Biya, president for the last 30 years to resign.
He fled with his wife and three children to America and has sued the Cameroon government for wrongful detention.
“I might be abroad, but I’m still committed to fighting against injustice in my country and would stop at nothing to do that” Lapiro said after he moved to the USA.
While in prison, Lapiro won the global “Freedom to Create Imprisoned Artist Prize” after he was nominated by Freemuse, a Danish-based international organisation advocates freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide.
According to the famous Isreali-Argentine born pianist and conductor, Daniel Barenboim, “ Lapiro’s music constitutes a cultural megaphone by which the disenfranchised and politically endangered can vicariously exercise free speech.”
The Fifth Freedom Forum in Oslo has been dubbed “Challenging power” and according to the organizers it will “feature leaders and innovators from academia, advocacy, media, politics, social entrepreneurship, technology, and the arts who are challenging the most repressive regimes and exchanging ideas on how best to tackle humanitarian crises”.
The 2013 program will center on a range of topics—the art of dissent, asymmetric activism, new tools for rights advocates, the power of media, women under Islamic law, and the threat of authoritarian capitalism”