PRESIDENT John Magufuli has secured his place in the “annals of our nation” for his humane decision to discharge 1,789 Ethiopian prisoners, local political commentators have said.
“This is a big lesson to other nations that value human rights,” the observers have said.
University of Dodoma (UDOM) lecturer Dr Paul Loisulie said in an interview that President Magufuli’s decision has set an example for other countries that justice is not always derived from the application of laws but rather on the understanding of humanity as a concept.
“These people fled their country over hardships and they were en-route to South Africa in seeking better life. So freeing them is to show humanity,” Dr Loisulie said in a telephone interview.
Dr Loisulie said President Magufuli has set the precedent that when the same situation occurs in other countries, leaders should consider looking on the matter through the eye of humanity rather than clinging to laws.
He further said that the move was good in strengthening diplomatic relations between the two countries.
His views were agreed by another UDOM academic, Dr Frank Tily, who said President has shown compassion to citizens from fellow African countries.
‘That was to show sympathy, after all keeping them in jail does not bring any benefit to our country because those people were just passing through Tanzania heading to another country.”
On Monday, President Magufuli held talks with his visiting Ethiopian counterpart President Sahle-Work Zewde on various issues touching on relations between the two countries, bilateral cooperation and Africa’s development path at large.
President Zewde arrived at Chato airport and was met by her host President Magufuli and other high-ranking government officials before they proceeded to the Chato State Lodge for talks.
The talks between the two leaders bore, among other issues, the unconditional release of the Ethiopian inmates who entered Tanzania illegally.
The release of the prisoners was Tanzania’s gesture to the existing long-standing brotherly relations between the two countries dating back to the 1960s.
A scholar, Mr Emmanual Mallya of the Open University of Tanzania (OUT), said Dr Magufuli has demonstrated high level cooperation by freeing the Ethiopian prisoners.
“This is good thing when it comes to cooperation between countries. I also believe that during their talks they did not only discuss about releasing the inmates but also how to control the flow of Ethiopian illegal immigrants,” he said.
President Magufuli on Monday said transporting those Ethiopians back to their home country was easy since the Ethiopian Airlines has big planes operating between Addis Ababa and Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro airport and Zanzibar.
“Some of these prisoners have stayed for seven years, let them go and participate in economic development activities for their country...this is a gesture for the good relations between the two countries,” the President said.
President Magufuli said his counterpart has promised him that she would work on the matter when she returns back to her country.
Tanzania and Ethiopia have had good relations since the formation of the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963. OAU is the forerunner of the current African Union (AU).