Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika has released 403 prisoners to mark 50 years of independence from Britain, but left hard core criminals to remain behind bars.
The inmates released had “served at least half of their prison sentences, with good behaviour and were not convicted of serious crimes”, the home affairs ministry said in statement.
“The pardon of the 403 prisoners is a symbol of forgiveness as the country commemorates its Golden Jubilee of Independence,” said the statement.
Malawi’s 23 prisons hold 12,000 inmates — double their capacity — and a former top judge described them as “hell on earth”.
Malawi will mark its independence anniversary without pomp and fanfare, because the former British colony is broke.
Foreign donors that contribute at least 40 percent to Malawi’s national budget had pulled the plug on aid first some three years ago in protest at the late president Bingu wa Mutharika’s autocratic tendencies and after remuning it during Joyce Banda rule, they also cut aid due to corruption cashgate scandal.
Mutharika, who was sworn in President last month after winning May 20 chaotic election, ordered low-key celebrations, saying there was no money for partying.
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe will attend the celebrations at Civo Stadium in the capital Lilongwe.
Mutharika promised in his first state of the nation address to change Malawi’s status as one of the least-developed countries.
He pledged to curb corruption and to reform agriculture, emphasizing irrigation farming and infrastructure development. He also said he would grow the economy by 7 percent in the next five years.