A total of 5,533 prisoners have been pardoned in Tanzania as the country marks its 58th anniversary of independence.
The president of the East African country John Magufuli has ordered authorities to free the inmates from Tuesday as part of moves to decongest the prisons.
There are about 35,803 inmates in Tanzania prisons, according to official records. More than half of the numbers are still awaiting trial.
According to reports, it will be the highest number of prisoners to be released through such process, accounting for about 15% of all prisoners in the country.
“Some of these prisoners have been jailed over minor offences: stealing chickens, insulting his friend, having an argument with a lover,” the president explained.
“But some were detained because they lacked lawyers to defend them well in their cases, while others for a failure to pay fines,” he added.
Among those who are set to be pardoned include those given a one-year jail term and those with only one year left on their sentence.
The current development is in sharp contrast with the president’s stance back in 2018. During a public event, he was reported to have said he wants prisoners in his country to live in harsher conditions.
“It is a shame for the country to continue to feed prisoners. All the prisons have fields, inmates must cultivate them,” Magufuli was quoted as saying then.
Magufuli wonders why prison staff allowed prisoners to receive conjugal visits.
“A man is in prison, leaving his wife outside, and a prison official receives this woman and authorises the prisoner to do things he is not supposed to do during his detention. I don’t want to hear talk of that anymore,” he said.
Tanzania is the largest country in eastern Africa. It is known as the highest point in Africa with the Kilimanjaro and its beautiful islands such as Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia.
The country which was formed by merging Tanganyika and Zanzibar became independent in 1964.