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Tanzanian President Magufuli pardons over 5,000 prisoners

By East Africa correspondent , Garowe Online

TANZANIA - At least 5,000 prisoners would revert to civilian life from Tuesday, Tanzanian President John Magufuli ordered.

Facing limited spaces due to the increasing number of convicts and remandees, the East African nation had no choice but to rush to the president to invoke his decree.

While attending the country's 58th Independence Day on Monday, Magufuli said the decree will only apply to petty offenders.

In total, 5,533 prisoners will be released following the order. They are all spread quite evenly across all prisons in the country.

“Most prisoners are serving jail terms over minor offenses such as chicken theft, using abusive language against others, failure to hire good advocates and failure to pay fines,” he said.

“Therefore, I pardon a total of 5,533 prisoners," added Magufuli, insisting that beneficiaries must show outstanding character even as they revert to normal lives.

Before he issued the order, Tanzania had over 35, 000 prisoners. Of these, 17,000 are convicts while the other 18,000 are reminders, the authorities confirmed.

This is not the first time Magafuli is pardoning offenders. During the Union Day in March this year, another 3,500 prisoners were set free.

Cases of organized crimes are popular in Tanzania just like many African nations. Of the convicted, most of them are petty offenders.

Since taking over in 2015, Magufuli has been facing criticism from civil society groups and opposition for allegedly curtailing freedom of expression.

Known for his no-nonsense style of leadership, Magufuli has been often recorded firing government officials in road declarations.

Arrests and incarceration of journalists and opposition politicians are also common these days. Tundu Lissu, an opposition leader has been nursing bullet wounds.

Tanzania will return to polls next year when Magufuli will be defending his second and final term. Chadema party is the main opposition.

Magufuli also hit headlines recently when he banned young girls who give birth while in school from resuming their studies, a move that caused an uproar from the international community.


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