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Tanzania: Strongman Magufuli pardons thousands of prisoners, sets free those on death row

This year’s 56th independence anniversary in Tanzania is branded as historic given the fact that in the recent country’s history this is the first time a Commander-in- Chief pardons prisoners on death row. The President said he was granting presidential pardon to 61 prisoners on death row having most of them spent more than 45 years in jail.
The National Newspaper Daily News of Tanzania explains that the death row inmates who received presidential amnesty yesterday were from the following prisons with number of inmates in brackets: Uyui Prison (2), Butimba (5), Ruanda (4), Isanga (15), Maweni (11) Kingoruwila (5) and Ukonga (19).
“These prisoners have shown remorse and repented repeatedly for their offences they committed,” the President said. He cautioned, however, that the Independence Day would surely not be a holiday for criminals facing armed robbery and murder charges against people with albinism.
During the epic event held for the first time at Jamhuri Stadium in Dodoma, the President also pardoned prominent musicians Nguza Viking alias ‘Babu Seya,’ and his son Johnson alias Papii Nguza, who were serving life sentences.
Announcing the presidential pardon after going through various laws bestowed upon him to grant presidential amnesty, President Magufuli received accolades from the crowd immediately after pronouncing the release of the Congolese musicians.
Mr Viking and his son, Mr Nguza, were sentenced to life imprisonment on the 25th of June 2004, after they were found guilty of raping and defiling Mashujaa Primary School pupils aged between six and ten years in Sinza area, Kinondoni District.
The offence was committed in 2003. The announcement by President Magufuli to grant presidential pardon to the two musicians sent almost the whole crowd that attended the independence celebrations in Dodoma into frenzy.
The two musicians filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal in 2013 through advocates Mabere Marando and Gabriel Mnyelle, asking the highest court to revisit their sentence, but in November, 2013 the judgement was upheld.
President Magufuli said “at least 1,828 prisoners are to be released today (yesterday)” and additional 6,329 prisoners are to be set free at different intervals. “These are not murderers or armed robbers. One of the prisoners was sentenced at the age of 18 and today is 65 years,” the President said, adding that others who were facing long prison sentences were as old as 85 years.
The United Republic of Tanzania Constitution of 1976 section 45 and the Presidential Affairs Act of 1962 entitles the Head of State to grant pardon to prisoners or reducing their prison sentence. According to records adduced by the President, yesterday, Tanzania had 39,000 prisoners serving various sentences in various prisons.
The breakdown showed that out of 39,000 prisoners, 37,000 are men while 2,000 are women. The records further indicate that there are 522 prisoners on death row of whom 503 are men and only 19 women. At least 666 prisoners are serving life sentences where 655 are men and the remaining 11 are women.
On another note and in line with President Magufuli’s order, the popular musician and his son were released out of Ukonga Prison, around 6pm yesterday. A sizeable crowd of people could be seen celebrating and jostling to have a glimpse of the two. The duo was, however, whisked away by a waiting vehicle without giving interviews to the media.

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