6, October 2019
Cameroonian rapper Gaston Philippe Abe Abe, better known by his stage name, Valsero, was freed this morning after almost nine months of detention. His release is a moment of celebration for Valsero and his family and a triumph for all those who have fought for his freedom and the freedom of other imprisoned artists, PEN America said today.
On October 5, Cameroon’s president announced through a tweet that he would end the proceedings against “some” opposition leaders, including those from the Cameroon Renaissance Movement. A military court in the capital Yaoundé this morning ordered the release of over 90 people, among them Valsero, as well as opposition leader Maurice Kamto, former economic adviser to the president Christian Penda Ekoka, and Cameroonian lawyer Michèle Ndoki.
“We are overjoyed that Valsero is finally free to reunite with his family and make music in peace,” said Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “The fallacious charges against him, which included rebellion against the state, terrorism, insurrection, inciting public disorder, and propagating false information, are emblematic of the lengths authoritarian rulers will go to suppress dissenting voices and restrict artistic freedom of expression. The international mobilization for his release and demonstrations of solidarity, from artists and musicians to human rights groups and activists, demonstrate the ongoing strength of music and art to unite people around a common cause and inspire social change.”
Valsero was arrested on January 26 in Yaoundé on the margins of a peaceful demonstration protesting last year’s national elections, which many deemed to be rigged in support of the current president, Paul Biya. Maurice Kamto, the opposition leader, had organized marches all over the country on that day, but the protestors were met with widespread police suppression, and both Kamto and Valsero were detained. Valsero is not a member of the opposition party.